SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition at Glen Scotia Distillery

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Alex McKinven, former Argyll Colliery worker. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The Road to Drumleman, an exhibition celebrating Kintyre’s coal Mining Heritage  was held at Glen Scotia Distillery in April 2017. This year is the 50th anniversary of Argyll Colliery, Kintyre’s last coal mine.

The exhibition was the gathering together of information and images, which started in October 2016 with drop-in sessions at Campbeltown Library. The information here on the archive/blog was digested into a slideshow of almost 400 slides which can be seen here as a PDF – it may take a wee while to load so please be patient.

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Robert Martin. Cross stitch embroidery portrait by Karen Forbes (née Hunter). Courtesy of Nanette Campbell ©

The project took former miners and coal mining into locals schools and the result of these creative workshops with artist, Jan Nimmo, at Dalintober and Drumlemble primary schools was shown at the exhibition in the form of colourful mining-themed bunting which was reminiscent of Miners’ Gala Days in Kintyre. Campbeltown Grammar School also worked with Jan to recreate a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery which was also prominently displayed at the exhibition.

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Argyll Colliery Trade Union banner recreated by 3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School, with artist, Jan Nimmo. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The final component to the exhibition was a series of large framed pencil drawings made by Jan Nimmo. Jan’s father, Neil, was a shot-firer at Argyll Colliery and it was he that inspired her to make the documentary The Road to Drumleman and to continue to explore Kintyre’s coal mining past through this current project with SKDT.

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Portrait of Neil Nimmo, shot-firer at Argyll Colliery. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Part of the project was to give a framed print of the drawings to either the subjects or their families. You can view photos of the exhibition and some of those who attended here.

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Willie McMillan, former Argyll Colliery worker with artist, Jan Nimmo. Photo: Paul Barham ©

We would like to thank everyone who has supported to the project to date and to all of you who came along. A special thanks also to our hosts at Glen Scotia Distillery who worked hard to make the Kiln Room an excellent venue.

Here is an article published about the exhibition and project in the Sunday Herald

There is a forthcoming opportunity to view the trade union banner and the slideshow presentation, including the drawings, at Campbeltown Museum, who will set this up alongside a related display of their own artefacts. This will run from mid-May till the end of August.

The project will end with a community celebration/screening at the beginning of September at Machrihanish so look out for further information here on the blog or the Facebook page for details of that.

In the meantime we are still looking for any information, photos or stories you may have for the archive/blog so please feel free to contact us.

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Jim Kelly, and Margaret Kelly (née Morans) – both their fathers, Jim Kelly and Cawford Morans, worked at Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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A trade union banner for Argyll Colliery

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The sign for Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, Kintyre. A still from the film “Kintyre” by Iain Dunnachie c 1955 (National Library of Scotland).

On the 21/22 November 2016 I spent two days working with third year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School. As part of SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman project. We felt it was important to work with local schools to raise awareness of Kintyre’s coal mining history, and especially the existence of the last mine, Argyll Colliery. I realised when I made the documentary, The Road to Drumleman, that younger generations in the area knew little or nothing about Argyll Colliery or South Kintyre’s mining past. This project aims to go some way to changing that.

With the pupils of Campbeltown Grammar School, my idea was to recreate a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery, which could be exhibited at the TRTD exhibition in April 2017 and go on to be publicly displayed at other venues in the town and in Machrihanish. Through this the pupils would learn about the mine at Machrihanish and also the important role that the National Union of Mineworkers played in improving health and safety and working conditions throughout coal mines in Britain.

We started our first session with a presentation by former Argyll Colliery electrician, Willie Durance, who spoke to the pupils about his working life at the mine, conditions underground and about how he lost his eye in an accident at the loading plant at the Old Quay in Campbeltown, where the coal was transported by sea to Northern Ireland, to Ballylumford’s coal fired power station. Only one pupil knew that there had been a mine at Machrihanish.

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Willie Durance, former mine electrician at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish talks to the 3 rd year art class at Campbeltown Grammar, about his experiences working at the mine. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

I followed Willie’s talk with a slide show of trade union banners from the Woodhorn Mining Museum at Ashington, Northumberland, and images from the collection at the Peoples’ History MuseumPeoples’ History Museum, Manchester. It was interesting to note that none of the pupils knew what a trade union was when we started the session. We also looked at a series of images of Argyll Colliery and mining artefacts.

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Seghill Branch banner, 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: jan Nimmo ©

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NUM banner celebrating the nationalisation of the British coal mining industry in 1947, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum, Northumberland. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Woodhorn Branch Banner, ” A Century of Coal – 1925 – 1975″, from the collection at Woodhorn Mining Museum. Photo: Jan Nimmo © 

After discussing the components of the banner we were going to make, the pupils were divided into small groups and pairs. The pupils worked on paper and then used the paper designs as templates from which they constructed fabric collages which were applied to the banner. Some of the students worked on the lettering, some on creating mining related images, and a small group worked with acrylic paints on canvas to create images of Machrihanish and of Argyll Colliery.

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School plan a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3rd year art pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School working in fabric to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Artist, Jan Nimmo, working with the 3rd year Art Class at Campbeltown Grammar School to make a trade union banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Peter Lewis ©

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Some of the 3rd year girls at Campbeltown Grammar School worked with acrylic paints on canvas for the banner for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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Some of the fabric images created by 3rd year pupils at Campbeltown Grammar School for the Argyll Colliery trade union banner. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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3 year pupils and art teacher, Peter Lewis, Campbeltown Grammar School reviewing the progress of the banner they were making for Argyll Colliery. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

In addition to the banner we also made 10 metres of bunting for the exhibition.

As the banner was double sided I took it to my studio to sew up and finish but I visited the school the following month to show the pupils the finished banner.

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner and bunting they made for the SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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The 3rd year art class, Campbeltown Grammar School, with the banner they made for SKDT’s The Road to Drumleman Community Exhibition – April 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

SKDT’s TRDT project would like to thank the pupils and staff of Campbeltown Grammar School for all the hard work. We hope, that after the exhibition, we will be able to display the banner at other venues in South Kintyre.

Jan Nimmo