Trodigal Cottage: A song by Willie Mitchell

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Bobbins’s Cottage or Trodigal Cottage. The original cottage is the part on the left hand side of the photo.  Beyond that you can see, on the right, Trodigal Farm and beyond that the site where  Argyll Colliery once stood. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Trodigal Cottage, a song by Willie Mitchell was written about Bobbins’s Cottage (or Trodigal Cottage) situated on the Machrihanish – Drumlemble Road at Kilkivan, where the track leads uphill to Kilkivan Cemetery and to Kilkivan Quarry. The cottage took it’s name from Robert Hamilton, the father of three miners at Argyll Colliery, Bobby, Malcolm and Stewart. The house was well known as a great meeting place and somewhere to take a dram in good company. Bobbins and his house were immortalised in this song by Willie Mitchell, who was a great friend of Bobbins. Agnes Stewart, Willie’s daughter, remembers that her father used to say “The Queen has got four Marys but Bobbins has four Willies!” – they were Willie Colville, Willie Broon (Brown), Willie McArthur and Willie Mitchell.

Trodigal Cottage

It was down by Machrihanish
Some jovial friends and I did meet,
We called at Trodigal Cottage
A kind old cronie there to greet.

Oh the liquor it was plenty,
With foaming beads in every glass,
We joined in song and story,
And heeded not as time did pass.

Chorus

For it is not time to go, my boys,
To go my boys to go away.
It is not time to go my boys,
We will booze it out till break of day.

Good whisky gives us knowledge
To talk of matters deep and wise.
We took so much of learning,
That from our chairs we could not rise.

Chorus

It was early in the morning,
Kilkivan’s cock did loudly crow,
He sounded us a warning
That to our homes we then should go.

Chorus

Here’s a health to Trodigal Cottage
And the grand old man who long lived there,
We’ll ne’er forget the nights we met,
His hospitality to share.

Willlie Mitchell.

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Willie Mitchell, songwriter. Photo courtesy of Agnes Stewart ( née Mitchell) ©

Agnes Stewart relates that it was quite amazing the number of people that could be squeezed into the cottage during these sociable occasions. Willie Colville wrote a rhyming couplet about his friend, Willie Mitchell, heading home by bicycle to Campbeltown after a few drams at Bobbins’s Cottage:

Wi’ erse weel up and heid weel doon, He set his course for Cam’ltoon!

Willie Colville.

Collier, Robert Hamilton, known as Bobby, remembered by his daughter, Mary

My father Bobby Hamilton was born in 1919, he was a ‘middle ‘child in a family of twelve, six boys and six girls. Sadly my Aunt Agnes MacKenzie, 96 years old is the only remaining sibling. They were brought up at Trodigal Cottage or Bobbins’s Cottage at Kilvivan, between Machrihanish and Drumlemble, The cottage was so called because the my grandfather, Robert, was known as Bobbins.

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Four members of the Hamilton Family. L-R Bobby, Agnes, Stewart and Malcolm, Photograph courtesy of Mary Hamilton ©

My father joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1937, and when he was ‘demobbed’ he returned to Kintyre and began working in the Argyll Colliery at Machrihanish. He married Jean MacBrayne in 1948 and they had three children, Sheena, Mary (me) and Robert.

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Bobby with his daughter, Sheena. Photograph courtesy of Mary Hamilton. ©

My father had a few accidents whilst working in the Pit and I remember one time, 1960 (I think) that he had hurt his shoulder, back and his left foot. I think coal fell on him.  He could not wear a shoe or slipper and cut his sandal, put holes in the side and crisscrossed this with string and could get this on his foot to walk about in the house. I remember the noise the buckle made when he was walking about. 

My father left the Pit with some other miners from the area, in 1961 or 1962 to work in Corby in Stewart and Lloyds Steel Mills – the idea being that we would eventually move to Corby.

I can remember the Miners Gala days, going to the beach and the Christmas parties, and the old Rex Cinema to see a film.

My mother’s health was not good, however as a child I was unaware of how ill she really was and in March 1964 she was admitted to Campbeltown Hospital. My father came back from Corby.  My mother later transferred to the Western  Infirmary Glasgow and sadly, she died at the age of 46. My father was then a widow caring for three children, aged 13, 11 and 8 years old. He never returned to Corby.  

Not long after my mother died I walked with him to the cemetery and after visiting my mother’s grave, we walked to another gravestone. My father told me that this man had been  one of his closest friends and he had died in an accident in the Pit. This was of course Jimmy Woodcock.  My father had never mentioned this before,  and I never heard him talking about his ordeal being trapped under the coal. [Bobby had a narrow escape in February 1951 when Jimmy Woodcock was killed].

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Extract from the Campbeltown Courier, February 1951. Courtesy of Campbeltown Library.

My father had several labouring jobs after this, he worked when the Jetty was being built at the then NATO base down Kikerran Road, then when the oil tanks were being installed and then later as a storeman. This was the only job that he ever spoke about with disdain, as he felt there was not enough to do and he was indoors.  He then worked in the Shipyard and his last employment on retiring was with the local Council, cutting the grass, maintaining the plants.  He enjoyed this as he was outdoors and was a keen gardener.

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Mary Hamilton, far right. Photograph: Vicky Middleton ©

My father was a quiet man who loved reading books and poetry.  He never had a television, preferring to listen to the radio.  The poems I remember him reciting to us was Ogden Nash, the Camel, The Lama, etc – nonsense poems when we were young, and then later, some of his favourites, usually when he had a ‘wee dram’.  ‘The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God’ by J.Milton Hayes, ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’ by Robert Service and of course anything by Robert Burns.

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Bobby Hamilton, left, at Campbeltown Day Hospital. Photograph courtesy of Mary Hamilton ©

My father died in Campbeltown Hospital, aged 86 in 2006.  He is still missed.

Mary Hamilton

John Anderson, collier – Kynamp

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John Anderson, Kynamp worked at Argyll Colliery till it closed at the end of March 1967. Photo courtesy of Rena Anderson ©

John Anderson, also know by his nickname, Kynamp, was born in the Kirk Close, (which runs along the side of the Lorne and Lowland Church, off Long Row), Campbeltown, on 14th February 1933. One of  family of 13, he was brought up in Park Square by his parents, John Anderson and Marion (née McGeachy).

John’s daughter, Mari, who was named after her grandmother, says, “Dad’s nickname was Kynamp – we don’t know how it came about but his uncle, Paddy Anderson from Dublin, was called Kynamp and Dad just seemed to inherit the name”.

When John left school he did various labouring jobs in Campbeltown before he started work at Argyll Colliery around 1955. He was trained at the NCB’s Residential Training Centre Dungavel, South Lanarkshire. Dungavel was once the hunting lodge of the Dukes of Hamilton and was sold on to the National Coal Board in 1947. John returned to Campbeltown and continued his work at Argyll Colliery.

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the NCB’s Dungavel Residential Training Centre, South Lanarkshire. John Anderson middle row, left, sitting. Photo courtesy of Rena Anderson ©

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National Coal Board Residential Training Centre, Dungavel, South Lanarkshire – John Anderson’s Certificate of Training. Courtesy of John Anderson.

He met a Southend woman, Mary MacMillan, who everyone knows as Rena. She was the daughter of George and Mary MacMillan. At that time Rena was working as a waitress in locals hotels (The Ardsheil, The Argyll Arms and the Royal). John and she first met at a dance in the Victoria Hall in Campbeltown.

The couple married in April 1956. By May the same year they had been allocated a miners’ house in Davaar Avenue. They first lived at number 35 before moving to number 43. Amongst their mining neighbours were the McCaigs, the Wests, George McMillan, the Nimmo’s, Gus McDonald, the Brodies, the Armstrongs, Feenie (Charlie Farmer) and Braemar Charlie; Charlie Smith. Rena still lives in Davaar Avenue.

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John Anderson’s NUM card. Courtesy of John Anderson.

John and Rena had a family of three, Georgia (named after her maternal grandfather), Mari and Shaun. John worked at the mine as a face worker until it closed on the 27th March 1967. John loved working there and he and his late daughter, Georgia, enjoyed sharing his stories from his time working there. In a interview for the film, The Road to Drumleman he said,

“I would’na have changed it for anything. If it had’nae tae have closed I’d have still been in it till I retired, you know, and when I left the mine I did’na know hoot tae dae on the surface”.

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Note of Termination of Employment from Argyll Colliery signed by Mr Seaman, the manager at the time of the closure. Courtesy of Rena Anderson.

After the mine closed John worked as a labourer for various contractors in Campbeltown but his job at the mine was the one where he was at his happiest. He kept his union book, his training photo and his notice of termination of employment. He also kept something that he found down in the mine… he wasn’t sure what it was; a fossil maybe? – a curiosity, something reminiscent of an Aztec bird carved from pyrites’s – what ever it is, it remains with the family as a keepsake of John’s time working underground.

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One of John Anderson’s keepsakes of Argyll Colliery where he worked underground. No one is quite sure what it is but it’s clear that it’s birdlike form caught John’s imagination as it it’s still with the family. Courtesy of Rena Anderson. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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John Anderson Kyyamp. Video still from The Road to Drumleman.

John died in 2010 on the 13 of February, a day before his 78th birthday.

Mari again, “My brother Shaun has 5 children 3 boys and 2 girls and called his youngest who was born on the 15th April, Georgia, for my late sister, so that’s lovely… I have one son Campbell who is an electrician and has his own business, CR Electrical. He has a son, Josh, who is 5. Campbell enjoyed listening to all the stories my Dad told him about the mine and both were extremely close. Campbell misses my Dad”.

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John’s daughter, Mari, with a photo of her father. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Miners’ Welfare Junior League – Glenside Team, Campbeltown – 1959 Champions

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Miners’ Welfare Junior League: Glenside team – 1959 Champion Team Back row: L-R Charlie Duffy (Manager) R. Lafferty, S. McPherson, W. McCormack, Unidentified. Second row: L-R H. Colville, W. Hume, J. Cochrane, L. Gilchrist, D. Thomson. Third row: L-R Lindsay Brown and Davy Graham. Front row: M. McGougan, R. Campbell, D. McMillan, A. McEachran, R. McLean, D. Mclean. Photo courtesy of Calum McLean, Campbeltown.

Fatal Accident – Sad occurance at the Pit

Mr Neil McAllister – Darlochan, in the Cottage Hospital died this morning from injuries sustained whilst working on the surface at the pit at Trodigal [Machrihanish], Campbeltown Coal Company Ltd, Trodigal. Deceased was employed as a joiner and handyman and he was at his duties on Tuesday morning at the pithead. About ten o’clock he was found lying unconscious having apparently fallen from a height of ten feet. He was seriously injured about the head. Removed to the Cottage Hospital he never regained consciousness and passed away this morning. Coming so soon after the recent fatality at the pit this occurrence has created a feeling of profound sadness among the employees of the Coal Coy. and the whole company will deeply sympathise with the sudden and tragically bereaved.

Deceased, who was 43 years of age, leaves a widow and five of a family (2 sons and 3 daughters) to mourn him.

The funeral takes place on Saturday at 2pm from the Hospital to Kilkerran Cemetery. 

From the Campbeltown Courier, 18th December 1926 and the following is from the Births, deaths and marriages section, on the same page:

McALLISTER – Suddendly at the Cottage Hospital (as the result of an accident). on the 16th inst, Neil McAllister, Darlochan, beloved husband of Margaret McKay – Deeply regretted – Funeral on Saturday, at 2pm from the Cottage Hospital to Kilkerran Cemetery. – Friends please accept this intimation and invitation.

Thanks to Angus Martin.

John McSporran Durnan – “Troy”

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John McSporran Durnan and his wife, Margaret. Photo courtesy of Johnny Durnan ©

My name is Johnny Durnan. I was born in Campbeltown but have lived in Carradale for the last 43 years.

My late father, John McSporran Durnan, whose nickname was “Troy”, was an on-cost worker at Argyll Colliery around the time I was born and this is noted on my birth certificate. He was married to Margaret McGougan Harvey, my mother. I have three brothers and one sister.

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Johnny Durnan’s birth certificate which shows his father, John McSporran Durnan as an on-cost worker at Argyll Colliery – 1956. Courtesy of Johnny Durnan ©

I never really got much info. regarding his job there as sadly he died in 1974 at the age of 45 years, when we were just young. It would have been nice to sit down and have a chat with him about that part of his life but that is not to be; but maybe some others have more info and maybe a photo of him at work as we do not have more information that could shed some light on my father’s working life.

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John McSporran Durnan at Peninver c. 1967. Photo courtesy of Johnny Durnan @

We lived at 7 Mill Street, were I was born, but shortly after, we moved to 55 Davaar Ave, then 10 years later we moved to 128 Davaar Ave, to a bigger house, which my brother owns to this day.

As a young boy I remember very well our jaunts down to the quay to watch the puffers coming in to get loaded at the coal chute, many times we would hide in there/play about – things you would not get away with nowadays!

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Loading coal onto a boat at Campbeltown’s Old Quay. Still from Iain Donnachie’s 1955 film, Kintyre, courtesy of NLS/SCA

Johnny Durnan