Roberta Lafferty remembers her father, Willie Mitchell.

My father, Willie Mitchell, who was a painter, decorator and sign writer was employed by the N.C.B. as a painter and sign writer at Argyll Colliery. I believe it would be in the 1950s and 60s. The family joke, when he would tell us he was going down the pit, was that he was painting the coal black. My father left the pit when it closed in 1967 and went to work for the M.O.D. at RAF Machrihanish until he retired in 1972.

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Willie Mitchell, left, worked as a painter at Argyll Collier, Machrihanish. Photo courtesy of Roberta Lafferty (née Mitchell) ©

When the coal was being delivered to my mother, Agnes, she always had the delivery men in for a cup of tea; Alex Mason, Neil McIvor – the other person’s name escapes me.

At one point my father was asked to go to the Sailors Grave at Inneans Bay, to paint the cross and I remember him saying it had been a great day out and that he had been privileged.

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L-R: Douglas McMillan, Malcolm McMillan, Kenny McMillan, Charlie Morrison, Donald McPhee and John McPhee, Inneans Bay (South West coast of Kintyre), at the Sailor’s Grave. Photo courtesy of the McMillan family. ©

My brother, who was also called William Mitchell, was employed by the N.C.B. at Argyll Colliery from 1953 to 1956, when he left to join the RAF. While with the N.C.B. he attended various classes at Dungavel, in South Lanarkshire, gaining qualifications which were to his advantage.

I attended picnics and parties, all courtesy of the miners, and I was allowed to bring a friend along. It seems tame in comparison to things they do today but they were really wonderful days out for all who were involved.

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Roberta Lafferty, Pat McIntyre, Jeanette ?, Alison Kelly, Janet McShannon. c.1955. Photo courtesy of Roberta Lafferty (née Michell) ©

Roberta Lafferty, April 2017

 

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Neil Munro at the Backs Water

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Neil Munro, miner at Argyll Colliery, fishing at the Backs Water (Machrihanish Water), a burn that runs along the north march of where the mine was once situated – now the Machrihanish Holiday Park. Photo courtesy of Dianne Brodie (née Munro) ©

An angling story from 1959

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Angling competition at the Lussa Loch, Near Campbeltown. Second from the left: Willie McKinlay. Photo courtesy of the late Willie McKinlay.

Oor angling lads, they aw’ went fishing
Tae hae their annual competition
Some took hook and bait and line
But Wullie Kinla’ took VP wine
Without delay they set their task
But Wullie lay upon the grass.

He had a swim and then his tea
But aw’ the while he drank VP
As time went by, he heard a shout
When every expert caught a trout
But treated this with sheer contempt
Until his VP wine was spent.

The keenest man was Hugie Lee
Although he’s only five foot three
To get first prize wis his ambition
He spent his whole life at Crosshill fishing
Wi’ expert hand he cast his line
he knew that it was nearly time.

When all at once he got a bite
His reel began to take its flight
Wi’ skill and brawn he fought this bout
No doubt this was the heaviest trout
He’d show them all, he’d stop their bounces
He landed it, it weighed twelve ounces.

Then Wullie staggered tae’ his feet
This canny lot his he’d hae tae to beat
As time was short, he’d really try
And tak’ the auld wife hame a fry
He staggered in and cast in line
Ow’ bleary eyed and foo’ o’ wine.

The trout then queued up for his bait
They knew that he had left it late
He took eight fish and left the rest
The prize was his, he’d done the best
Still Hughie Lee runs round and bounces
I wis only beaten by fifty four ounces!

Many miners who worked at the Argyll Colliery were keen anglers and fished the lochs, reservoirs and burns around South Kintyre; The Lussa, Crosshill Loch, Aucha Lochy, The Backs Water and the Machrihanish Water. Some, according to John McNaughton, a former oncost worker at Argyll Colliery, also did some sea fishing. I imagine that it must have been an enjoyable pastime where miners, who were stuck down the mine all week, were able to enjoy fresh air and relaxation.  The above poem is thought to have been written by Sandy Smith, who worked in the winding house at the Argyll Colliery. Sandy wrote various poems which we hope to be able to publish here on the blog.  This humorous poem was written about an angling competition in 1959 and relates the story of coalface worker, Willie McKinlay, who won the competition that year.

Listen to the late Willie McKinlay read the poem…

Jan Nimmo

You can read another poem by Sandy here.

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