An angling story from 1959


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.


Colliers at Drumlemble in the Old Parishioners Registers (1802 -1815)

EPSON scanner Image

Colliers, South Kintyre. Photo courtesy of the late Willie McKinlay of Campbeltown ©

I am at present engaged in a project which involves going through the Old Parish Registers for Campbeltown entry by entry.  The specification of occupations began in these records in 1802, and it seems a worthwhile exercise to note all those births/baptisms which mention the colliery then at Drumlemble.  Not all mine-workers are identified as such, but most are, and from these records it will be possible to form an idea of the families at Drumlemble and nearby Coalhill which were involved in the industry.

Coalhill, which was a settlement up the brae from the present village of Drumlemble, at about NR 662 192, is hardly mentioned in these records, but I suspect that many, if not most, of the entries relate to Coalhill.  Certainly, in the ‘List of Inhabitants upon the Duke of Argyle’s Property in Kintyre’ of 1792, Coalhill is the larger community, with 144 occupants, against 86 in Drumlemble, with a number of these latter employed and living on the farm there.

The following list of the heads of households at Coalhill in 1792 will demonstrate that ‘Coalhill’ in the Old Parish Registers is lumped in with Drumlemble: John McDonald, Archibald Crawford, Samuel Biggam, John Omay, Duncan McPhaddan, Norman Currie, David Watson, Hugh McKenzie, Samuel McArthur, Ronald Johnston, Thomas McKendrick, William Campbell, Malcolm Kerr, Donald McCallum, Donald MacNeill, Lachlan Omay, Peter Smith, Alexander McPhaddan, Hugh Kelly, Donald McKenzie, Donald Sinclair, John McKillop, Malcolm McKillop, James McNeill, John Sinclair, Archibald McArthur, Alexander McKillop, John Leckie, Dugald Martine, and Torquill McNeill.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, Drumlemble/Coalhill, with its coal mine, was the largest settlement in Campbeltown Parish outwith the town itself and its satellite villages, Dalintober, Lochend and Dalaruan.  The village now known as Machrihanish was, in the early 19th century, a small fishing community, variously known as ‘Mary Pans’, ‘Salt Pans’ or simply ‘Pans’, and Stewarton did not come into existence until about 1804 and did not expand significantly until the 20th century.

The project will end with the year 1854, after which the recording of births and marriages – and additionally deaths – was taken out of the hands of the churches and became the responsibility of parish registrars. This list will be supplemented periodically as I work my way through the registers.  Spellings are – or should be – as written in the records.

Angus Martin ©


1802:  Malcolm Kerr, ‘coalier’, & Catharine Watson, ‘Drumlemble’, son John born 12/9.


1803: Alexander McKillop, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Catharine MacPhail, daughter Effy born 23/3.

1803: John McKillop, ‘coalier at Drumlemble’, & Margaret Leckie, son Alexander born 4/6.

1803: Donald Sinclair, ‘Coalier at Coalhill’, & Anne Elder, son Donald born 12/8.

1803: Archibald MacGrigor, ‘Workman at Drumlemble Coal Works’, & Isobell Johnston, son Ronald born 18/8.

1803: Neill Thomson, ‘Workman Drumlemble Coalwork’, & Jean Armour, son Neill born 7/10.

1803: John MacCallum, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Curry, son Neil born 22/11.

1803: William Kerr, ‘overseer of Drumlemble Coalworks’, & Margaret MacNeill, son David born 10/12.


1804: John Miller, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Florence Leckie, daughter Isobell born 8/4.

1804: Archibald MacArthur, ‘coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Watson, daughter Margaret born 8/4.

1804: Neill MacNeill, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Flory MacNeill, daughter Christian born 3/5.

1804: Hugh McEacharn, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Jane Armour, daughter Mary born 22/8.

1804: John Campbell, ‘collier Coalhill’, & Margaret MacGeachy, son William born 22/10.


1805: John Gribbon, ‘coalier at Drumlemble Coalwork’, & Rose MacCall, daughter Janet born 11/1.

1805: James McPhadan, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble Coalworks’, & Catharine Campbell, son Michael born 1/2.

1805: Malcom Kerr, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble Coalwork’, & Catharine Watson, daughter Janet born 6/3.

1805: David Watson, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble Coalworks’, & Janet Kerr, daughter Margaret born 2/4.

1805: John Omay, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Effy Henderson, twins More & Alexander born two days apart according to entry, More on 9/5 & Alexander on 11/5.

1805: Archibald MacGregor, ‘Collier at Drumlemble’, & Isobell Johnston, son Archibald born 18/5.

1805: Peter Hunter, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Jean Bruce, son Duncan born 18/5.

1805: Hugh MacPhail, ‘Weaver and Collier at Drumlemble’, & Mary McLean, son John born 23/5.

1805: Alexander MacKillop, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Catharine MacPhail, son Archibald born 27/8.

1805: John MacLauchlin, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Janet MacFie, son Angus born 10/9.

1805: John MacKillop, ‘Coalier Drimlemble’, & Margaret Leckie, daughter Florence born 27/11.


1806: Samuel MacArthur, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Janet Watson, daughter Janet born 4/1.

1806: John MacCallum, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Catherine Currie, daughter Margaret born 22/1.

1806: Lauchlin MacNeill, ‘Engineer Drumlemble’, & Isobell MacCallum, son James born 17/6.

1806: John Thomson, ‘Coalier at Drimlemble’, & Margaret MacNeill, son Neill born 3/7.

1806: John Campbell, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret MacGeachy, daughter Mary born 19/8.

1806: Donald Sinclair, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Anne Elder, son Duncan born 6/9.

1806: Archibald MacArthur, ‘Coalier in Drumlemble’, & Margaret Watson, son David born 7/9.

1806: Robert Summervile, ‘Grive [grieve or overseer] at Drumlemble’, & Agnes Craig, son Robert born 16/9

1806: John Miller, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Florence Leaky, son John born 4/10.


1807: James McPhadan, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Campbell, son William born 26/1.

1807: John MacKillop Junr., ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Margaret Kelly, daughter Margaret born 30/5.

1807: Robert Peden, ‘Coalier at Drumlemble’, & Mary MacGilvray, son James born 4/7.

1807: John MacCallum, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Curry, daughter Isobell born 14/7.

1807: Hugh MacDonald, ‘Engineer Drumlemble Coalwork’, & Mary MacMillan, son John born 18/7.

1807: Alexander MacKillop, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine MacPhail, daughter Margaret born 31/12.


1808: John MacKillop, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Lakie, son Andrew born 24/2.

1808: Hugh MacPhail, ‘Weaver & Collier Drumlemble’, & Mary MacLean, son Hugh born 29/3.

1808: Hugh MacDonald, ‘Engineer Drumlemble’, & Mary MacDonald [for MacCallum], daughter Janet born 2/7.

1808: Malcom Kerr, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Watson, daughter Florence born 13/7.

1808:  John Campbell, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret MacGeachy, daughter Janet born 20/7.

1808: John MacLachlin, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Janet MacFie, son Daniel born 29/8.


1809: John Gribbon, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Rose MacCulloch, daughter Rose born 20/4.

1809: James MacPhaden, ‘Collier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Campbell, daughter Margaret born 17/5.

1809: John MacKillop, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Kelly, daughter Mary born 19/5.

1809: Dugall MacTaggart, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & More MacAlester, son John born 27/6.

1809: Archibald MacArthur, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Watson, daughter Mary born 29/6.

1809: John Sinclair, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary Smith, daughter Anne born 12/9.

1809: John Miller, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Flory Lecky, daughter Mary born 13/9.


1810: Robert Peden, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary Bryan, daughter Minie born 17/1.

1810: John MacKillop, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Leaky, daughter Margaret born 27/1.

1810/23/4: John McCallum, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Curry, son Donald.

1810/24/10: David Watson, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Janet Kerr, daughter Anne.


1811/16/5: James Anderson, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary MacLeonan, son William.

1811/15/8: John Gribbon, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Rose MacCullach, daughter Catharine.

1811/7/11: John Sinclair, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary Smith, son Donald.


1812/29/1: John Miller, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Flora Lacky, daughter Flora.

1812/23/3: Robert Peden, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary Bryan, son John.

1812/18/5: John MacKillop, ‘Coalier in Drumlemble’, & Margaret Leakey, daughter Mary.

1812/23/5: John MacLachlin, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Janet MacFie, son Archibald.


1813/12/1: Hugh MacDonald, ‘Engineer Drumlemble’, & Mary MacDonald, daughter Isobell.

1813/16/1: John MacCallum, ‘Collier Drumlemble’, & Catharine Currie, son John.

1813/5/2: Hugh MacPhail, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary MacLean, daughter Mary.

1813/17/2: James Kerr, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Elizabeth OMay, son Malcom.

1813/28/3: Duncan Sinclair, ‘Coalier Newton Ayr’, & Margaret Sinclair, daughter Catharine.

1813/22/7: James Mains, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Wylee, son Robert.

1813/4/8: John Sinclair, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Mary Smith, son Hugh.

1813/25/9: James Anderson, ‘Engineer Drumlemble’, & Mary MacLeonan, daughter Anne.

1813/9/12: Archd MacArthur, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Watson, daughter Flora.


1814/9/4: John Campbell, ‘Collier Drumlemble’, & Margaret MacGeachy, daughter Catharine.

1814/20/9: James Kerr, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Elizabeth O’May, daughter Effy.

1814/20/9: Duncan Sinclair, ‘Coalier Drumlemble’, & Margaret Sinclair, son Neill.


1815/20/1: Dugald Campbell, ‘Collier Drumlemble’, & Mary MacMath, daughter Mary.

Jimmy Woodcock: “Pinned by Fall at the Working Face”.

Shortly after completing what I thought was the final edit of my film about Argyll Colliery, The Road to Drumleman, a missing piece of the jigsaw fell into place for me when I read a letter in the Campbeltown Courier – it was from Ronnie Gay, the nephew of James Woodcock, one of two fatalities Argyll Colliery (the other was Duncan McKinven, who was killed in an accident on the surface). Jimmy, aged 22, was killed on the 12th February, 1951, when a lump of coal weighing a ton, fell on top of him. Another collier, Bobby Hamilton, had a very narrow escape, and although hospitalised, made a full recovery. The accident, which killed Jimmy instantly, was described to me in interviews with Willie McKinlay and Davy Anderson, both now deceased. Both men still had vivid memories of the day of the accident and were still clearly emotionally affected by the experience, all those years before. Willie was one of the men who carried Jimmy to the surface. When I was making the film, I was led to understand that at the time he was killed young Jimmy Woodcock had been married but that he had no children. Jimmy’s father, originally from Yorkshire, had been one of the first to be employed at the colliery, where he started work in 1946. The family lived in the “miners’ houses” in Crosshill Avenue, Campbeltown.


Jimmy Woodcock during his National Service. Photo courtesy of Ron Gay ©

I wasn’t able to find a photo of Jimmy for the film and it bothered me not being able to put a face to the name of that tragic story – when I was researching the film there was often a scarcity of information and sometimes the trails simply went cold.

We screened the film at the Picture House in Campbeltown in 2008 and thanks to subsequent publicity in the local paper, The Campbltown Courier, Ronnie Gay, Jimmy’s nephew, wrote a letter to the newspaper. I talked to Ronnie and he explained that his Auntie Cathy, Jimmy’s wife, had been 7 months pregnant at the time when his Uncle Jimmy was killed and that that she had had a son, also called Jim.


Ronnie Gay with a photo of his Uncle and and Aunt, Jimmy and Cathy Woodcock. Photo courtesy of Ronnie Gay ©

During my visit to see Ronnie in Dunoon and I scanned some scan family photos. I edited two of them into the film – one of them was a lovely photo of Jimmy with his young wife, Cathy. Once they had been included in the edit we sent a copy to Jimmy’s son, Jim, in Australia – here is his response:


Jimmy Woodcock and his wife, Cathy. Photo: Courtesy of Ronnie Gay ©

Hi Jan,

I’m writing to thank you very much for sending me a copy of the Road to Drumleman DVD, received via my cousin in Scotland.

A short history:

My Dad was Jim Woodcock who was killed in the Machrihanish mining disaster in 1951. My mum, Cathy, was 7 months pregnant with me when my Dad was killed and so I never knew my Dad. I’ve always had an interest in finding out more about what actually happened. My grandfather, James Woodcock died when I was 5 and I can remember him quite vividly.

He was one of the first to be employed at the mine. His wife, my Gran, Isabel Woodcock, lived until the 1990’s and as she got older she gave me all the newspaper cuttings, death certificate and a few photos. After my Dad died, my mother moved back to Paisley to be with her own mother, however we always kept in touch with Campbeltown through Gran. My cousin, Ron Gay, lived in Campbeltown until a few years ago when he moved to Dunoon and we’ve always kept in touch.

After 7 years my mother re-married and moved to South Africa with me and my step-brother, Mitchell. We lived there for 9 years, before returning to Paisley. In 1980 my wife, Anne and I moved to Australia. We’ve now got two daughters and two granddaughters who live close by. In December/January 2001/2 we went home to Scotland for a holiday and drove down to Campbeltown to visit some of the Woodcock family. We actually went to Janey and Peter Hall who still live in Davaar Avenue (mentioned in your DVD) and my Dad’s cousins, Sheena and Lachie, took us into the Campbeltown Historical Museum. (Campbeltown Heritage Centre). They had a little information on the mine and when we got back to Australia, we copied the information Gran had given us and sent it to Sheena to be used in the Museum as she thought fit. 

My cousin hadn’t mentioned his contact with you and so the DVD arrived quite unexpectedly. I got home from work and put it on. It brought back some memories from the Campbeltown I remember (late 1950’s/60’s) I was quite taken with the history, of which I knew a little, but the pictures and interviews really meant something. When Willie McKinley started talking about ‘young Jimmy Woodcock’, I really sat up and then saw the picture of my parents and my Dad’s grave which I’ve visited several times. I was quite taken aback and promised myself to try and get in touch with Willie until the end when I read he had since died. I really did appreciate hearing from someone who knew my Dad and was in the mine at the time of the accident, and wanted you to know how much that meant. For your information I received £700 and my mother received £2,000 in compensation from the Coal Board. They then asked my mother to recompense them for the back-pay of rent. 

My Mum died at the beginning of 2009, however I know she would have been appy to think that something had actually been recorded. I’ve already shown the DVD to both my daughters and granddaughters and it’s given them some insight to their background. The DVD will become part of the Woodcock ancestry. Here in Australia, it’s quite the ‘in thing’ to research the family and I want to thank you sincerely for taking the time to research the Argyll Mine. I will turn 60 in April next year and had a major heart attack in 2001, so take each day at a time but am absolutely delighted to think that my ‘heritage’ has been so well documented. I’ve attached a couple of newspaper cuttings which might interest you.

Thank you very much – your work has meant a lot to me.

Kind regards,

Jim Woodcock

Australia (2007).


Extract from the Campbeltown Courier (?) 1951. Courtesy of Jim Woodcock Jnr.


Extract from the Campbeltown Courier courtesy of Ronnie Gay

I was able to put Jim in contact with Davy Anderson in Campbeltown and the two corresponded and spoke on the phone. I know that this was something which meant a lot to Jim.


The late Davy Anderson with a photo of Jimmy Woodcock and a letter from Jimmy Wooodcock’s son, Jim. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The whole process of making The Road to Drumleman was an emotional one – I was grieving for my father, Neil, who had once worked at Argyll Colliery. I was also moved by meeting all the people who contributed to the film. The documentary also stirred up a lot of memories and emotions for other families both in South Kintyre and in the wider diaspora. It’s important that we keep making connections like the one between Jim and Davy. This current project is an opportunity to mark mining as a significant part of the popular cultural identity of the area. We will remember and document the lives of the men and women who worked at the mine, even if it’s only by naming them, but hopefully we can build on the information gathered for the documentary and find more stories and images which will help us preserve Kintyre’s mining heritage and serve as a legacy for those to come.

Jan Nimmo ©