Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Black Diamonds:My Ancestor was a Coal Miner

Looking through the 19th century censuses for the central belt of Scotland,one can't help noticing the number of coal mining communities stretching from Ayrshire to Fife.Numerous towns and villages were built on the proceeds of the black diamonds that helped to fuel the expansion of the industrial revolution and the British empire.


By the 1880's,there were more than 500 pits throughout Scotland.Production reached its peak in 1913 when the industry north of the border carved out 41m tons of coal and mining families made up 10% of the Scottish population.Only 50 years ago, the Scottish coal industry still employed 85,500 miners at 166 collieries across the country. But by the early 1970s, pit after pit had been forced to close until the miner's strike of 1984 changed the industry for good and forced a period of mass redundancies.Finally the last deep mine closed in 2002.
Extensive records survive from before the formation of the National Coal Board in 1947. Coal company accounts; the earliest from 1752 for Lothian,and estate records are deposited in the National Records of Scotland referenced under CB or GD.The NRS www.nas.gov.uk/guides/coalmining.asp have produced a leaflet 'The Coalminers' and the excellent Scottish Mining Website http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/ is a must for anyone with coal miner connections.Vintage film of working and living in the Scottish coal fields is captured in the remarkable collection of the Scottish Screen Archive http://ssa.nls.uk/film.cfm?fid=3942 

Other useful sites are the Coalmining History Resource Centre http://www.cmhrc.co.uk/ . Their online collection includes maps locating mines within the UK and the Isle of Man and a data base of over 164,000 accidents and fatalities since 1700. Coal Collections http://www.coalcollections.org/  helps to locate the numerous coal mining archives in Scotland. Another more personal reflection on the history of one coal mining family is http://www.hoodfamily.info/ .

The mines may have gone but the Scottish Coal Mining Museum : http://www.scottishminingmuseum.com/
 a Scottish Tourist Board five star attraction,is a great day out if visiting the Edinburgh area during the summer holidays.Guided tours by ex miners,who are great with the kids,recount tales of their proud of their heritage.

    
                 

For those keen on cycling or walking,a short Sustrans path along the former Edinburgh to Gifford railway line at Pencaitland has informative noticeboards and 'gravestones' marking sites of former pit heads along the route.





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