Tag Archives: colliers
A photo from Davina Sandler
Many thanks to Andrina Sandler for letting us publish this photo on the blog… It’s a fantastic image. There has been a lot of toing and froing about who the men in the photo are so I’d welcome any clarification on the identity of these men… Are they in the right order? Can you help? If so let me know.
Coventry Paton – Oncost worker at Argyll Colliery
I was given the following information by Maggie Allen, daughter of Argyll Colliery on-cost worker, Coventry Paton. It was written by Maggie’s brother, Archie Paton.
Hi – My name is Archie Paton. My father, Coventry Paton, worked at Argyll Colliery but left Campbeltown with his wife, Anne Jane McArthur, and their two young children, to work in mines around Wakefield, West Yorkshire. They had three more children. I was born in 1957 and followed my father into mining and enjoyed a good few years in the job with him. Mum and Dad retired back to Campbeltown where my sister Maggie married a local man, Dave Allen. My parents enjoyed their retirement there.
Archie’s sister, Maggie adds:
“Sadly my brother, Archie, passed away last year. Father and son are back together again in the Miners’ Memorial Garden in Wakefield – once a miner, always a miner. Hardy men at rest”.
After working at Wakefied with his father, Archie went on to work at the New Selby coalfield at Wistow Mine and then at Whitemoor Mine. Archie died on the 11th Sept 2016. He was well loved and known in mining circles as a passionate campaigner for miners’ welfare and rights. Archie was a keen follower of the TRTD Facebook page and his contributions will be missed.
Charles Armour – Fatal Accident at the Coalpit
On browsing through the Scottish Mining Website I came across the following extract relating to the death of Charles Armour, who was killed on 10th November 1875, at the Drumlemble pit, aged 30.
“Fatal Coal Pit Accident At Campbeltown – Charles Armour, a collier, residing at Macarananish [sic], died on Wednesday from injuries received in Trodigall [sic] Coal Pit, Campbeltown, the day previous. It appeared that while at work a mass of coal became detached above him, which crushed him against the edge of a hutch before he could get out of the way. His injuries were very severe. Dr Cunningham attended him, but he never rallied. [The Dundee Courier & Argus and Northern Warder 12 November 1875]”.
Here follows a report from the Argyllshire Herald relating to the same accident.
FATAL ACCIDENT AT THE COALPIT
A pitman named Charles Armour, Employed by the Argyll Coal and canal Company, Drumlemble, sustained an injury on last Tuesday, which resulted in his death the next day. He was engaged in the pit on Tuesday, and was standing before a hitch when a heavy piece of coal fell from one of the supports upon his back, crushing him against the hitch. When found he was in a very weakly condition, an’ was immediately removed to his home when medical aid was procured. Little, however, could be done for the sufferer and he expired on Wednesday. Curiously enough there were no external marks of injury on the body. The deceased leaves a wife and a family.
There are still Armours living in the area so I’d be interested to know if any of them were relations of Charles and if so, if they could shed any light on Charles and the family he left behind.
Kilkivan – Inundation from an old abandoned working – July 1878
The following information is from the Scottish Mining website and regards the deaths of Neil Smith (collier), Daniel McPhail, (collier) and James Todd (bottomer) at the Kilkivan Pit, Drumlemble, near Campbeltown. We previously published a blog entry about this incident, Lines on an Accident at Coalhill. (It seems that the names Donald/Daniel and James/John were interchangeable). According to the information on the Scottish Mining website, James/John Todd was 64 when he was killed. There isn’t an age given for either Daniel or Neil – we will add these when we have that information.
The report makes for chilling reading…
Inundation from an old abandoned working
Argyle Coal & Cannel Co.
From Main body of report:
The pit at which the irruption took place is 27 fathoms deep, and was suddenly filled to within 12 fathoms of the surface. The old workings, from which the water flowed, are of considerable extent, but have been abandoned for upwards of 50 years. Referring to plan which exhibits the workings of two seams of coal, the first six-feet seam lies at 18 fathoms from the surface, and the lower or nine-feet seam, at 27 fathoms. At the time of the accident the working was confined to the lower seam. The depth of surface overlying the stratified rocks, lying not far above the sea level, averages 54 feet, of which 40 is principally composed of sand. Several dislocations traverse this part of the coalfield, and the fracture, or ”veise” is generally found filled with sand. In mining up to these fractures, or barring them, there is frequently a partial discharge of water, which is looked upon as quite an ordinary, occurrence. In May last the place marked x on plan, when extended to the dislocation a a, relieved some pent-up water, to check which supports were immediately put to the roof, and a rough darn constructed, backed by a loose building. This had the desired effect of shutting off the water, and the place was supposed to be left in a secure state. Nothing further was done until the 5th of July, when the manager had occasion to be in or to pass near to the mine x, when he discovered water and sand passing from the front of the dam. On observing this, precautionary measures were taken, which were completed before night. No further discharge was observed up to the time of the disaster, which happened on the afternoon of the following day, 6th, when the water which lay in the six feet seam found its way into the mine x by the “veise” of the dislocation a a. The pressure of the water, probably equal to 100 feet or thereby, forced away the , obstruction at X , and made an opening down the veise of the dislocation 25 feet and 4′ X 10′, in which it must have rushed with considerable force. The bottomer, who was employed at the bottom, was so suddenly overtaken that he did not escape, and two of the miners, working at B, the dipmost part of the mine were, I presume, instantly closed in, their bodies being afterwards found near to their working-place. Fortunately the work was nearly over for the day, and five workman, engaged at different parts of the mine escaped by the “blind” pit.
The appliances for pumping, the water and unwatering the mine were kept in constant operation, but the bottom was not reached until the 2nd of September when the body of the bottomer was found, and nearly four weeks elapsed before the bodies of the others were reached. The works were conducted or guided by an old plan, which is now found to be in error at least 46 fathoms, or rather the workings have been extended 46 fathoms beyond the limit shown upon the plan.
The existence of water in the old workings was well known, but it was equally well known that it lay from 25 to 30 feet above the seam being worked. Since the accident a mine has been driven to prove the actual position of the old waste. This is a very unusual accident, the displacement of at least 25 feet of material, 4′ x 10′, more or less consolidated, and could only have happened under special conditions. The salutary provisions contained in section 42 of the statute, which provided that plans of abandoned mines shall be be lodged with the Secretary of State within three months after the abandonment will in future tend to prevent such misfortunes.
And there is another entry regarding the deaths – an article from the Scotsman…
Campbeltown – Colliery Accident – Three Men Drowned – Shortly after three o’clock on Saturday afternoon a mining accident occurred at the Drumlembie Colliery, belonging to the Argyle Coal and canal Company Ltd, situated on the estate Kilkevin, in the parish of Campbeltown, by which three of the miners lost their lives. It appear that the water broke into the mine in some unexplained way from an old disused working. There were a number of men in different parts of the pit at the time, but on water being discovered to be flooding the workings they rushed to the bottom of the shaft, and succeeded in getting safely to the top, with the exception of three men named John Todd, Daniel McPhail and Neil Smith, who were unable to escape from the pit in time and were drowned. Todd and McPhail were both married, but Smith was unmarried. The bodies have not been recovered. The pit, which was flooded within about 100 feet of the surface, is being pumped as fast as possible, but it will take some time before it is cleared. One of the miners named Munro, who was among the last to leave the pit, states that he remained with Todd, one of the drowned men, waiting for the cage to descend, and that he (Munro) jumped and caught the rope as soon as the cage came down, expecting Todd to follow, but he heard the latter calling out, “Jamie, I am done; I can’t get on.” Todd was about 60 years of age. The others were young men. [Scotsman 8 July 1878]
From Scottish Mining
A history of coal mining in Kintyre
When I was researching the film, The Road to Drumleman, about Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, both George McMillan, Campbeltown, a former collier at Argyll Colliery and Donald Irwin, Drumlemble, the son of a collier, gave me copies of a document which traced the history of coal mining in South Kintyre. It was put together by former Argyll Colliery manager, David Seaman M.I.M.E. C.ENG. In his introduction, Seaman names the Rev. Father Webb, Campbeltown and Duncan Colville, Machrihanish, as important contributors to the this document.
The history begins in 1494 when King James IV visited his castles in Tarbert, Dunaverty and Kilkerran and ends with the closure of Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish in 1967. It contains often detailed information which helps bring alive Kintyre’s industrial past.
For instance instance in 1879…
“A cargo of Drumlemble coals was shipped this week by the schooner ‘Julie’ for Denmark; several cargoes have been shipped this season for Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Prussia”.
This document will be useful to anyone with an interest in coal mining in South Kintyre. It has been typed up from a poor quality, photocopied version and so we now have the electronic version online which can viewed publicly. Many thanks to Morag McMillan of SKDT and Elizabeth McTaggart for their time and effort in typing this up for the project. Thanks also to George and Donald for making this important historical record available to us all. To view the full document
Hugh Sinclair, Surface Foreman.
I received the following information, photo and painting from Hugh Sinclair, about his grandfather, whom Hugh is named after. It’s great to see the painting of Hugh’s grandfather by the well known landscape artist, Maude Parker and to know a bit about his connection with mining in Drumlemble and Machrihanish.
My grandfather, Hugh Sinclair, lived all his life in Drumlemble, a near neighbour of your great uncle Neily Brown and your grandmother Bella. When he left school in the early 1900’s I believe he worked at Coalhill mine above Drumlemble until he served in the Argyll’s during World War I and beyond. When he retired from the army he worked as golf professional and Greenkeeper at Machrihanish Ladies Golf Club. He and my grandmother, Elizabeth (nee Thomson) had five daughters: Margaret, Jean, Betty Maureen and Elsie (my mother).
When the Argyll Colliery opened in the late 40’s he worked there as Surface Foreman until he retired in 1963. Times must have been good working at Machrihanish Colliery as he was 69 years old when he retired. He died in 1971 aged 77 years and 7 months.
Hugh Sinclair, standing, top left. This photo is was taken at “Lone Creek’ High Tirfergus Farm, Drumlemble. Photo courtesy of Helen Babty (neé Hamilton) ©
More photos from Kenny McMillan’s family.
Here are some more photos Kenny McMillan’s photographic collection. Kenny worked at Argyll Colliery from 1947 until the mine closed in 1967. There are a couple that need some names putting to faces so we’d really appreciate you help. Following on from Angus Martin’s article about Inneans Bay it’s especially nice to see the photo below of a visit to the Sailor’s Grave. It’s also good to see some images from the gala days beginning to surface at last.
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.
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”.
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.
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:
Pit flooded. Manager, Mr Welsh, arrives to discuss closure.
Given one month’s notice
Discussed cases with manager and arranged the withdrawal of welfare fund
Majority of miners left the pit today
Divided benevolent and welfare fund to contributors
Drawing girders in the mine.
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) ©
Letter to Argyll Colliery from Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.
The following letter was shared by Morag McLean (nee McMillan) whose father, Kenny McMillan, received it in 1951 from the then Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee.
Attlee’s government was responsible for the nationalisation of the coal industry in Britain in 1947. The newly established body for the nationalised industry, the National Coal Board, offered sick pay and holiday pay to miners and there were health and safety improvements as well as a better working relationship with the unions. Hours were reduced, wages rose and pithead baths became standard at collieries around Britain.