Drumlemble excavations – 1982

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Article in the Campbeltown Courier, 2nd April 1982. Courtesy of Campbeltown Library.

Following on from the article by Elizabeth McTaggart about the Drumlemble Diaspora  here is an extract from a conversation I had with someone who was involved in the excavations.

Jan Nimmo

“I was involved in the NCB (National Coal Board) investigation of the old mine workings at Coalhill, Drumlemble, in I think it was in the early eighties.

“I was employed at that time with McFadyen’s Contractors, and was tasked with excavating an area of ground in the gardens of number 19 Rhudal Cottages, and 30 Rhudal Cottages. Mr and Mrs Beattie (nee Flo Brown) lived at number 19, and Flo’s mother Mrs Mary Brown occupied number 30. So, mother and daughter lived directly across from each other. 

“Two representatives from the NCB were present and explained to me what the excavation entailed: I was to dig down until I hit rock, which they expected to be fairly deep below the surface.

“I started digging roughly midway between the two houses, and there was a huge heap of spoil by the time I actually reached the predicted rock. At one point, I was beginning to doubt whether or not I would have enough reach with the digger to actually hit rock. It was eventually exposed, and after a good deal of measuring the depth, it was located. The men from the NCB had maps and documents that they were checking and, after some deliberation, I was instructed to burst a hole through the rock, as they were certain that the area I had exposed was the roof of one of the old mines said to be in that area; so off with the digging bucket, and on with the rock breaking attachment. The first few thumps from that brought Mrs. Brown running from her home in fright! She said the banging from the breaker made her house shake, and she was scared it would fall around her. After some banging away at the rock, I managed to break through. The hole was made large enough for one of the men to go down into with, if I remember correctly, a ladder. I had lowered him into the excavation with the digger. He took some photographs down there, and said that it was indeed an old mine working. It wasn’t all that deep or wide, and the direction it seemed to go in was roughly between 22 and 23 Rhudal Cottages, and across the road and under 8 or maybe 9 Rhudal Cottages.

“The hole in the roof of the shaft was covered over, and the entire area was filled and levelled. In a matter of weeks there was very little sign that anything had been done there”.

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Looking north towards Drumlemble. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

 

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John Anderson, collier – Kynamp

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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.

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

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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 ©

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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”.

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