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

P1330355

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.

JimMartinCrossStitch

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.

P1340323

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.

NeilNimmo

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.

P1330463

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.

P1330876.JPG

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

FinalLogo_May17

Nannette Campbell (née Martin) remembers her father, Robert Bell Martin

JimMartinCrossStitch.jpg

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

I remember Dad going away early in the morning to his work at the mine.  He seemed to enjoy his work and got on well with the men he worked with. He was a coalface worker at Argyll Colliery and worked there until it closed. His employee number was 65.

I remember that in the winter of 1963 he had to walk in from the pit with lots of other miners, because the Machrihanish road was blocked after a heavy snowfall. When he came home he was was still black as he hadn’t had a shower and there were icicles in his hair.

My Dad met my Mum, Mary Scott, at Crossiebeg Farm, near Campbeltown, on the east coast of Kintyre. Dad was a farm labourer at that time and Mum was a dairy maid.

They married and had six of a family: Margaret, Charles, Katrina, Nanette, Douglas and Patricia. My Mum and Dad also had a wee baby girl who was still born after Charles, but she was a big part of our family and Mum and Dad often talked about her. We just knew her as Baby Martin.

We lived in Davaar Avenue, Campbeltown, in one of the miners’ houses, and had lots of neighbours who were also miners; George McMillan, Neil Nimmo, Kynamp – John Anderson, Gus McDonald, Mucca’phee – Donald McPhee.

We had good times at Miners’ Gala Days… good times – I went to two or three.  We went on the bus to Southend – there were races, and rounders and we played games on the beach and had a picnic.

Nannette Campbell

P1340394

Nannette with Robert’s great grandsons, Alexander, Robert, Kelvin and Riley with a portrait of Robert Martin. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

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.

bobbyagnesstuartmalcolm_vers2

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.

Hamilon_Bobby_sheena.jpg

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].

jimwoodcockdeatharticle

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.

dsc02529

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.

MaryKelly_BobbyLHS

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

JA_Detail

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.

Dungavel

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

DSC05475

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.

DSC05469

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”.

Notice of Termination

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.

weeburd

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 ©

John Anderson 3

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”.

P1330096

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

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”

John Margaret Durnan wedding

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.

my birth certificate

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.

dad peninver

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!

loading-boat

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

Johnny Durnan

The Campbeltown to Machrihanish Light Railway.

Machrihanish Express

The Machrihanish Express. Postcard courtesy of Charlie McMillan.

When the Campbeltown – Machrihanish coal canal eventually fell into disrepair in 1856, the Argyll Coal and Canal Co., who took over in 1875, decided to transport the coal from Machrihanish to Campbeltown by train. The construction of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway began in November 1905 and the line was built by the Association of Argyll Railway Co. Ltd. The track was completed the following year and mainly followed the route of the old coal canal.  It was a narrow gauge railway – 2 ft 3 in (686 mm). The line was used to transport both passengers and coal. The last train ran in 1934.

For more on the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway visit Machrihanish Online.

train.jpg

“Chevalier” working at the Colliery. Image courtesy of Will Ross, Campbeltown.

On the Opening of the “Kintyre Railway”

Like voice of springtime to the glen,
Like summer to the vale,
So is the news to Campbeltown
That I’m just gaun to tell;
For gloomy winter, bleak and cold,
Nae mair we’ll need to fear;
We’ll get our fuel cheap and good,
Brought by the “Pioneer”.

Hark! there’s she’s coming down the brae,
Along by Crossel Hill,
A train o’ wagons close behind –
I hear the whistle shrill;
Go spread the news a through the town,
Wi’ joy and news they’ll hear;
Our Heilan’ line is open now –
There comes the “Pioneer”.

Her coals will bless the poorest home,
And cheer the humblest hearth,
Although in other parts they’re dear,
No more we’ll dread their dearth.
The coals that come frae other lands
Let them be cheap or dear,
We’ll rather hae our Heilan’ coals,
Brought by the “Pioneer”.

The Frenchman and the Prussian too
Will smile when they are told
As soon’s their cargo they discharge
Wi’ coals we’ll stow the hold.
And when they reach their native hame,
And friends begin to speer
Where did they get their coals, they’ll say –
“Twas by the Pioneer”.

The coals that come frae “Auld Coalhill”
Are cheap as coals can be,
They’re just eight shillings for the ton,
When left in at the ree.
Twill make the Laggan flourish yet,
We’ll gie a hearty cheer –
Success attend our Heilan’ line.
Good speed the “Pioneer”.

James MacMurchy

pithead-machrihanish

The Wimbledon Pit at Machrihanish. (Campbeltown Coal Company). The coal was transported by train from Machrihanish to Campbeltown. Image courtesy of Campbeltown Heritage Centre.