Remembering Argyll Colliery in Machrihanish

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Members of the public, former mine workers and Ewen and Ian from Machrihanish Holiday Park, Machrihanish on 2nd Sept 2017, 50 years after the closure of Argyll Colliery. The banner was made by 3rd year art pupils from Campbeltown Grammar School. Photo Mark Davey ©

On the 2nd of September the current phase of The Road to Drumlemen project came to a close with an event at Machrihanish. Members of the public visited the former site of Argyll Colliery, now the Machrihanish Holiday Park, to hear former mine employees explain what used to be on the site. We are very grateful to Ewen and Ian of Machrihanish Holiday Park for allowing us to visit the site. Those attending met with others afterwards in Machrihanish Village Hall for refreshments and then watched the documentary film about Argyll Colliery, The Road to Drumleman, and this was followed with an opportunity to share stories from back in the days when the coal mine was functioning. It was a lovely evening, and at times quite an emotional one.

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Screening of the documentary, The Road to Drumleman, at Machrihanish Village Hall, 2nd September 2017. Photo: Jan Nimmo

We’d like to thank the funders, all those who hosted us, who participated in the sessions and who volunteered throughout the project. Whilst this marks the end of the current phase of the project Jan Nimmo will be continuing to update the archive blog so feel free to contact her with your stories and images.

More photos here

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Photograph of the late Willie McKinven brought to the event by his widow, Jenny McKinven. Photo: Jan Nimmo

 

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John Owen Lamb (J.O.L.) Henderson – Baths Manager, Argyll Colliery

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J.O.L. Henderson, or Jack to his friends. Photo courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

J.O.L. Henderson, my Dad, was known as Jack to everyone. He was born on the 30th June 1905 in Shotts, Lanarkshire. Shotts was a mining community and he worked in coal mines all over Lanarkshire, only moving to Campbeltown around 1952 with his new wife, Mima, to a new, cleaner life at the foot of Bengullion and a new job as baths manager at Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish.

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Jack Henderson with his baby daughter, Kay. Photo courtesy of Kay Cowan ©

Kay, that’s me, was born in 1954 and so I was not part of his industrial past in Shotts, yet he was incredibly proud of his heritage. He made many friends in the town, both through work and his many other interests. His lifelong knowledge of first aid meant he was part of many mine rescue teams and first aid attendant at Machrihanish.

Here is Jack with  John McCaig, friend and work colleague.

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John McCaig with Jack Henderson. Photo courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

Jack was a musician, playing bagpipes since the age of 9 and was with his brothers in the world famous Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band. In Campbeltown he continued to play and write tunes, often, in the summer months, playing for the crowds coming off the “steamer” at the Quay.

I’m sure this helped him to survive a few more years as he suffered from the lung disease, pneumoconiosis, as many miners did. He maintained that piping was good for his health when my mum asked him to “pipe down a bit!”

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Jack Henderson, second from the right. Photo courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

Jack’s love of amateur dramatics was also driven by his mining life, as dramatic groups in mining towns were prolific all over Scotland. As actor, stage manager and producer he was thoroughly involved with the Argyll Miners’ Welfare Drama Group from 1954 until the colliery closed in 1967.

There were many people involved in the production of plays over the years; names I recall include John M.B. Anderson, Bobby Martin, John McCaig, Ian McKinven, Grace Fowler, Beryl McInness and Annie Hamilton Many others were involved including my Mum occasionally as prompter or setting stage.

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Programme for Scottish Community Drama Association, Kintyre Drama Festival 1962. Courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

I loved watching from the side at rehearsals and longed to be involved, which I did later. As part of the Scottish Community Drama Association the group competed in many drama festivals, often with great success and going on to higher levels at the festival.

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Programme for the Scottish Community Drama Association, One Act Playwriting Festival. Courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

One part of mining life that involved children was the annual Gala Day. Most of the miners’ children had a day out to the shore or countryside on a bus, with games, sports, treats of ice cream and sweets, fun in the fresh air. I think it was in June, but just remember the sunshine and lots of noise and running around.

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Jack Henderson, kneeling, on the right. Photo courtesy of Kay Cowan (nee Henderson) ©

The coal miner’s life was one of the hardest I can imagine, yet produced many strong and proud men. My Dad was still at the “pit” when it closed but took early retirement rather than move to Cumnock or further afield.

He spent his last working years at the airport, still Machrihanish.

One of my clearest memories is of looking out the bedroom window on dark mornings to see my Dad, lit up by the streetlamp, giving me a wave before he boarded the bus for work at the colliery.

I was just 19 when he died.

He loved life and lived it to the full. Campbeltown and Machrihanish were where he chose to be.

I miss him.

Kay Cowan (nee Henderson).

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.

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Back row kneeling Joe Barr, Malcolm Milloy, standing – Gus Morrison, John Girvan, kneeling Jock Givan and Charlie Smith. Front row. Andrew Caisley?, Danny Mitchell, John Brown, Unknown, Stuart Hamilton, Coventry Paton and Kenny McMillan. Argyll Colliery Machrihanish. Photo courtesy of Andrina Sandler ©

Coventry Paton – Oncost worker at Argyll Colliery

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Back row kneeling Joe Barr, Malcolm Milloy, standing – Gus Morrison, John Girvan, kneeling Jock Givan and Charlie Smith. Front row. unknown, Danny Michell,  John Brown, , unknown, Stuart Hamilton, Coventry Paton and Kenny McMillan. Photo courtesy of Andrina Sandler ©

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.

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Miners football team, Argyll Colliery at Kintyre Park – Coventry Paton, top, second right. Photo courtesy of Maggie Allen (nee 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. 

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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”.

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Coventry  and Archie Paton’s memorial discs at the Miners’ Memorial Garden, The National Mining Museum of England, Wakefield. Photo: Maggie Allen ©

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Archie Paton, miner and campaigner for miners’ welfare and rights. Photo courtesy of his sister, Maggie Allen ©

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.

Jan Nimmo

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Maggie Allen (nee Paton) with a photo of her father, Coventry Paton. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

 

The Miners’ Boys Team, 1959

Whilst we await an article by author of Kit and Caboodle: The Story of Football in Campbeltown, Alex McKinven, about the story the Argyll Colliery miners’ teams I’ll post this photo from Calum McLean, Campbeltown. There have been quite a few football related photos submitted to the project so I’ll add them when and as we can.

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The Miners’ Boys Team, 1959 (Argyll Colliery). Photo courtesy of Callum McLean, Campbeltown ©

Miners’ Boys Team, Glenside 1959 – Champions.

Back row
Charles Duffy (Manager) R. Rafferty, Sandy McPherson, W. McCormack ?

2nd Row
H. Colville, W. Hume, J Cochrane, L. Gilchrist, D. Thomson.

3rd Row
Lindsey Brown and davy Graham

Front Row
M. Mc Gougan, R Campbell, D. McMillan, A.M.  McEachran, R MacLean, D. McLean.

Argyll Colliery – Grand Dance and Challenge Match

These announcements from Campbeltown Courier, which date back to 19th of March 1953, give us an insight into the important role that Argyll Colliery, Machrihanish, once played in everyday Campbeltown life. Miners contributed hugely to the community in the 1950’s and 1960’s and here we see how they organised children’s Gala Days each year for not just miners’ but for all local children. Dances were held at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Bolgam Street (formerly the Old Courthouse), at the Victoria Hall, The White Hart Hotel and the Templar Hall.  Football matches, like this one, where the Argyll Colliery team played against Shotts Bon Accord, Lanarkshire, were used as opportunities to raise funds for local good causes, in this instance for the Cottage Hospital  TV Scheme. Football was an integral part of miners’ leisure time, whether as a spectator or as a player.

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Argyll Colliery and Children’s Gala Day Association Grand Dance at the Templar Hall. Challenge Match – Argyll Colliery F.C. versus Shotts Bon Accord. Campbeltown Courier, 19th March 1953. Courtesy of the Campbeltown Library collection.

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The former Miners’ Welfare Hall, Bolgam Street, Campbeltown. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©