Trodigal Cottage: A song by Willie Mitchell


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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].


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.


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.


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

The Argyll Colliery Team of 1952/53


Maggie Allen with her late father’s photo of the Argyll Colliery Football team of 1952/53 Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Maggie Allan brought this photo from her late father’s collection along to our first drop-in session at Campbeltown Library. Her father was Coventry Paton (Top, second left).  Alex McKinven (author of Kit and Caboodle: The Story of Football in Campbeltown) kindly gave us information about the team in this photo. This is the Argyll Colliery team c. 1952 /53. The colours the team played in were Claret and Amber (Motherwell colours).

Back row – from left to right: ‘Donnie’ Paterson, Coventry Paton, ‘Chas’ McKechnie, David Anderson, Malcolm Hamilton and James /Jimmy Thompson.

Front row – Right to left: Neil McLaughlan, Willie Colville, Sam Batey, Stewart Hamilton Charlie Farmer.


Argyll Colliery football team, Campbeltown 1952/53. Photo courtesy of Maggie Allen ©



Jimmy Woodcock: “Pinned by Fall at the Working Face”.

Shortly after completing what I thought was the final edit of my film about Argyll Colliery, The Road to Drumleman, a missing piece of the jigsaw fell into place for me when I read a letter in the Campbeltown Courier – it was from Ronnie Gay, the nephew of James Woodcock, one of two fatalities Argyll Colliery (the other was Duncan McKinven, who was killed in an accident on the surface). Jimmy, aged 22, was killed on the 12th February, 1951, when a lump of coal weighing a ton, fell on top of him. Another collier, Bobby Hamilton, had a very narrow escape, and although hospitalised, made a full recovery. The accident, which killed Jimmy instantly, was described to me in interviews with Willie McKinlay and Davy Anderson, both now deceased. Both men still had vivid memories of the day of the accident and were still clearly emotionally affected by the experience, all those years before. Willie was one of the men who carried Jimmy to the surface. When I was making the film, I was led to understand that at the time he was killed young Jimmy Woodcock had been married but that he had no children. Jimmy’s father, originally from Yorkshire, had been one of the first to be employed at the colliery, where he started work in 1946. The family lived in the “miners’ houses” in Crosshill Avenue, Campbeltown.


Jimmy Woodcock during his National Service. Photo courtesy of Ron Gay ©

I wasn’t able to find a photo of Jimmy for the film and it bothered me not being able to put a face to the name of that tragic story – when I was researching the film there was often a scarcity of information and sometimes the trails simply went cold.

We screened the film at the Picture House in Campbeltown in 2008 and thanks to subsequent publicity in the local paper, The Campbltown Courier, Ronnie Gay, Jimmy’s nephew, wrote a letter to the newspaper. I talked to Ronnie and he explained that his Auntie Cathy, Jimmy’s wife, had been 7 months pregnant at the time when his Uncle Jimmy was killed and that that she had had a son, also called Jim.


Ronnie Gay with a photo of his Uncle and and Aunt, Jimmy and Cathy Woodcock. Photo courtesy of Ronnie Gay ©

During my visit to see Ronnie in Dunoon and I scanned some scan family photos. I edited two of them into the film – one of them was a lovely photo of Jimmy with his young wife, Cathy. Once they had been included in the edit we sent a copy to Jimmy’s son, Jim, in Australia – here is his response:


Jimmy Woodcock and his wife, Cathy. Photo: Courtesy of Ronnie Gay ©

Hi Jan,

I’m writing to thank you very much for sending me a copy of the Road to Drumleman DVD, received via my cousin in Scotland.

A short history:

My Dad was Jim Woodcock who was killed in the Machrihanish mining disaster in 1951. My mum, Cathy, was 7 months pregnant with me when my Dad was killed and so I never knew my Dad. I’ve always had an interest in finding out more about what actually happened. My grandfather, James Woodcock died when I was 5 and I can remember him quite vividly.

He was one of the first to be employed at the mine. His wife, my Gran, Isabel Woodcock, lived until the 1990’s and as she got older she gave me all the newspaper cuttings, death certificate and a few photos. After my Dad died, my mother moved back to Paisley to be with her own mother, however we always kept in touch with Campbeltown through Gran. My cousin, Ron Gay, lived in Campbeltown until a few years ago when he moved to Dunoon and we’ve always kept in touch.

After 7 years my mother re-married and moved to South Africa with me and my step-brother, Mitchell. We lived there for 9 years, before returning to Paisley. In 1980 my wife, Anne and I moved to Australia. We’ve now got two daughters and two granddaughters who live close by. In December/January 2001/2 we went home to Scotland for a holiday and drove down to Campbeltown to visit some of the Woodcock family. We actually went to Janey and Peter Hall who still live in Davaar Avenue (mentioned in your DVD) and my Dad’s cousins, Sheena and Lachie, took us into the Campbeltown Historical Museum. (Campbeltown Heritage Centre). They had a little information on the mine and when we got back to Australia, we copied the information Gran had given us and sent it to Sheena to be used in the Museum as she thought fit. 

My cousin hadn’t mentioned his contact with you and so the DVD arrived quite unexpectedly. I got home from work and put it on. It brought back some memories from the Campbeltown I remember (late 1950’s/60’s) I was quite taken with the history, of which I knew a little, but the pictures and interviews really meant something. When Willie McKinley started talking about ‘young Jimmy Woodcock’, I really sat up and then saw the picture of my parents and my Dad’s grave which I’ve visited several times. I was quite taken aback and promised myself to try and get in touch with Willie until the end when I read he had since died. I really did appreciate hearing from someone who knew my Dad and was in the mine at the time of the accident, and wanted you to know how much that meant. For your information I received £700 and my mother received £2,000 in compensation from the Coal Board. They then asked my mother to recompense them for the back-pay of rent. 

My Mum died at the beginning of 2009, however I know she would have been appy to think that something had actually been recorded. I’ve already shown the DVD to both my daughters and granddaughters and it’s given them some insight to their background. The DVD will become part of the Woodcock ancestry. Here in Australia, it’s quite the ‘in thing’ to research the family and I want to thank you sincerely for taking the time to research the Argyll Mine. I will turn 60 in April next year and had a major heart attack in 2001, so take each day at a time but am absolutely delighted to think that my ‘heritage’ has been so well documented. I’ve attached a couple of newspaper cuttings which might interest you.

Thank you very much – your work has meant a lot to me.

Kind regards,

Jim Woodcock

Australia (2007).


Extract from the Campbeltown Courier (?) 1951. Courtesy of Jim Woodcock Jnr.


Extract from the Campbeltown Courier courtesy of Ronnie Gay

I was able to put Jim in contact with Davy Anderson in Campbeltown and the two corresponded and spoke on the phone. I know that this was something which meant a lot to Jim.


The late Davy Anderson with a photo of Jimmy Woodcock and a letter from Jimmy Wooodcock’s son, Jim. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The whole process of making The Road to Drumleman was an emotional one – I was grieving for my father, Neil, who had once worked at Argyll Colliery. I was also moved by meeting all the people who contributed to the film. The documentary also stirred up a lot of memories and emotions for other families both in South Kintyre and in the wider diaspora. It’s important that we keep making connections like the one between Jim and Davy. This current project is an opportunity to mark mining as a significant part of the popular cultural identity of the area. We will remember and document the lives of the men and women who worked at the mine, even if it’s only by naming them, but hopefully we can build on the information gathered for the documentary and find more stories and images which will help us preserve Kintyre’s mining heritage and serve as a legacy for those to come.

Jan Nimmo ©