Roselyn McLean tells a couple of stories about her dad, Charlie Farmer,”Feenie”

During one of our drop-in sessions at Campbeltown Library we had a visit from Roselyn McLean (neé Farmer). Roselyn is the daughter of  Charlie Farmer, who worked as a switchgear operator at Argyll Colliery and was better known by his nickname Feenie. He was a keen footballer and played for the colliery team. The family lived in the cul-de-sac on Davaar Avenue, Campbeltown, housing that was built for miners and their families in the 1950’s.

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Argyll Colliery FC,  Bottom row, far right – Charlie Farmer. Photo courtesy of Maggie Allen ©

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Roselyn McLean (neé Farmer), Campbeltown. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Charlie had a great sense of humour – he’d say to Roselyn “Do you know who got married today?” She’s reply “No” and Charlie world say “A man and a woman!”.  Here are a couple of anecdotes from Roselyn about her dad that we have transcribed:

Going on the backshift….

Aye, what I can remember is that he’d been out to the darts, he went to the darts night or something, and he had one too many and of course he came in and had his tea and he fell asleep and mum couldn’t get him up and the van was coming to pick him up, so mum ran up to the van and says “Look, I’m sorry I canna get him wakened”, and the man says, “We’ll sort him out” In these days money was short and to lose a day’s wages was horrendous – however the men came in, picked him up, took him out in the lorry, and when they got to the pit they put him under a cold shower and left him there and they says “Every time you do that, that’s where you’re going! (Laughs) – I don’t think he ever did it again! (Laughs again).

A heavy snowfall…

One day my dad was out there on one of his shifts and they were finishing and it started  to snow – heavy, heavy snow. Well, there was nothing out there for them, no luxuries, no beds or anything, so they thought, “Well we’ll just walk into the town”. So I can always mind that it took him hours and hours to walk in and he came in the door and his face was still black because he hadn’t been for a shower and my young sister, Fiona, she was terrified, you know, – the coalman used to come in with the coal bags and she used to go into hysterics when they would come with the coal, Of course Dad came in and he was black in the face and it took her a wee while to calm down and saying, “That’s your dad”!

Roselyn McLean

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Kenny McMillan

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Argyll Colliery F.C. card which belonged to the late Kenny McMillan. Courtesy of Morag McMillan

J.K.B. McMillan, known as Kenny, was born in 1926 in Campbeltown and as a young man was called up for the the army and served with the Royal Engineers. His first job after serving in the army was at the Argyll Colliery. In 1948 he went to be trained in Doncaster and returned to work at Argyll Colliery for the next 20 years, until the pit closure in 1967. In 1950 he married Agnes Girvan, whose father was one of the hall-keepers of the Miners’ Welfare in Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. They had five children and their lives were consumed by the various activities organised by the wider mining community.

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Kenny McMillan. Photo courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan)

Mum, Agnes, was the prompter for the successful miners’ drama group and Dad, Kenny, played and later managed the football teams. The miners’ football team was formed in July 1951 and according to records kept by my father, they were a fairly successful team playing in the Scottish Junior Cup. Dad was a Motherwill supporter which is why the Argyll Colliery Team played in “Amber and Claret”.

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Argyll Colliery F.C. This photo was first published in Coal Magazine and was taken at the back of the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Campbeltown. This is where the team held their tactical meetings. Kenny is pictured here at the far right. Photo Courtesy of  Morag McLean (Nee McMillan).

Kenny became the union steward for the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and was very involved in settling disputes and ensuring his colleagues were treated fairly. He eventually went on to serve as a local Labour councillor in South Kintyre.

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Photos of a group of Argyll Colliery workers which was taken in 1965.  Top row L-R: Unidentified, Archie McKerral, Robert Brown, Neil Munro, Angus McKinlay, Sandy Smith, Unidentified, David Mitchell, Robert Martin, ? Livingston, Tommy Woodford. Bottom row: L-R: Hamish McNeil, John Kerr, Jackie Galbraith, Malcolm Milloy, Kenny McMillan, Jock McGeachy. Photo: Courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan).

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Labour Party Councillors, Campbeltown. Top L-R: Duncan McMillan, Alistair McKinlay, Kenny McMillan. Bottom L-R: Neil McCallum, unidentified,  John B. Anderson. Photo courtesy of Morag Mclean (nee McMillan) and thanks to Hamish McMillan for providing the other names.

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Leaver’s certificate from 1966, which belonged to the late Kenny McMillan. Courtesy of Morag McLean (nee McMillan).

Unfortunately in the latter stages of the pit before its closure  he was unwell and died in 1970 of kidney disease. He left behind a number of diaries which sometimes detailed the dangers the miners encountered in their daily lives. That said, Kenny enjoyed the camaraderie of his colleagues and the everyday challenges.

Here are some excerpts  from Kenny’s diary which relate to the time running up to the closure of Argyll Colliery:

15/2/1967

Pit flooded. Manager, Mr Welsh, arrives to discuss closure.

3/3/67

Given one month’s notice 

8/3/67

Discussed cases with manager and arranged the withdrawal of welfare fund

24/3/67

Majority of  miners left the pit today

25/3/67

Divided benevolent and welfare fund to contributors

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Drawing girders in the mine.

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Last day of work at Argyll Colliery. 

and going back to the fire of at Argyll Colliery 1958:

Production was halted because of the fire for nine weeks and T McFarlane was gassed.

Morag McLean (nee McMillan) ©

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We are currently trying to identify the men in this photo so will update this caption when we have some verification… Photo courtesy of Morag McLean (Nee McMillan).

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Morag McLean (nee McMillan) and her granddaughter, Hollie and Kenny McMillan’s Argyll Colliery diaries. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©