Occupations - Coal Mining
Canderrigg Colliery 1936-1939
Since the beginning of time the earth has consistently undergone change
by earthquakes, floods, ice ages and droughts. Whatever the change, the
earth records it. These records are there to read, if you know what to
If you want to know about the distant past, simply take a walk down by
the banks of the Avon. Here you will find an abundance of geological
evidence on the natural history of Stonehouse, including; sandstone,
limestone, ironstone, shale, slate, coal, even fossils. These materials
were important providing employment such as the sandstone quarries,
ironstone mines, oil shale works, lime works and coal collieries.
Many fossils can be found along the Avon and Cander; primarily plant
stems, leaves and shells. These dated from between 600 million and 800
million years old, some providing proof that Stonehouse once lay
beneath water. In the late 19th century, James Thomson (geologist from
Glasgow), discovered a piece of carboniferous shale containing several
bones of the head and teeth of ‘Diplodus Gibbosus’, an ancestor of the
present day Stingray.
The first railway lines in the village
were laid to transport coal from
the mines. The coal mines was the largest employer in Stonehouse after
the decline of the weaving industry with over 200 working at Canderrigg
colliery at its peak. This pit, like Broomfield, was situated just
outside Stonehouse, and their remains can still be seen today. In the
1950’s this pit was owned by John Mclean, closing in September 1958.
In 1842 the Government passed an Act preventing women and children
working in the mines. Prior to this many children, even women, would
have worked in mines throughout the parish.
Records show that the numbers of miners in the parish increased from 44
in 1861 to 139 in 1871. During the late 19th century there was a pit
known as the ‘Garibaldi Pit’ near to the Spion Kop Colliery,
immortalised in the line of an old poem dating to 1879.
Are ye aye working ower
at Garibaldi yet?
That’s a place no’ likely
ever I’ll forget
For I began tae work as
soon as I was fit
And I started first at
Despite extensive deep mining, the village has suffered no ill effects
of undermining or land disfigurement, unlike opencast mining which
destroys the environment and wildlife, not to mention associated health
problems. According to local newspapers many fatalities and injuries to
workers occurred in the collieries and indeed at Overwood sandstone
quarry. Poor lighting, ventilation, coal dust and safety measures
resulted in many minres dying at an early age. Explosions were common
place and rescues proved just as dangerous. In the late 19th century
around 800 miners were killed annually in Scotland. However innovations
by Watt, Davy, Faraday and Stephenson helped to improve working
In 1913 Scottish coal production peaked at 42 million tons with a
workforce of 148,000, thirty times greater than in 1750. When world war
one took place, coal mining lost a quarter of its export trade, which
it was never to regain. The fact that other energy sources were
emerging, such as, hydro power, gas and petroleum, did nothing to aid
the future of the coal industry. In an industry trying to cut costs,
the obvious choice was to cut wages and manpower, leading to conflict
in the labour force. The general strike of 1926 was followed by a
prolonged coal strike expressing the feelings in the country at the
time. Mining was never to recover from this period and many people
emigrated in the hope of a new and prosperous life in countries such as
the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1924 the Miners’ Welfare Institute was built for local miners,
incorporating five snooker tables, a library and a reading room. With
the loss of the mines in the late fifties the Institute was sold to the
District Council in
1956 for public use.
In 1947, the coal industry was nationalised by the Labour government.
In that year there were 190 pits of various sizes. By 1987 there were
only five working pits in Scotland producing 3.4 million tons of coal
and a further 2.5 million tons from opencast coal.
The earliest record of mining in the parish is in the 1790 Statistical
Account when it was noted that mining was taking place near Castlehill
owned by Mr Lockhart. In 1792 there were six mines in the parish of
The information below was supplied by the assistant cashier of
Canderrigg, Jimmy Leggate, and gives a detailed report on the job remit
of each employee and a breakdown of his wages. During this period, just
before the war, the owner of the colliery was James Nimmo and Co. Ltd.
Responsible for all aspects of work at the pit, both underground and on
Assistant manager responsible for compiling register showing number of
‘shifts’ worked during the week by underground workers and amount of
coal produced by each miner.
Responsible for the supervision of all sections of the pit, especially
safe working conditions.
In charge of all men in this section, Authorised in ‘shot fires’ and
handling of explosive materials.
The real coal miner at the coal face. Assisted by ‘drawer’ who pulled
loaded hutches for movement to coal bottom.
As the name suggests, not regarded as truly productive. Employed in
various ways to assist the efficient running of the pit. e.g. laying of
rails and repairs etc.
Regarded (themselves) as the ‘elite’ of underground workers.
Responsible for cleaning all dirt and stone from the coal face to allow
the coal to be ‘stripped’. Also cleaned ‘left coal’ which had not been
won by the miner.
THE RAILWAY MACHINEMAN
There were two machinemen on each coal cutting machine at Canderrigg.
These machines were either Anderson Boyes & Co. Ltd. or Mavor &
Coulson Ltd., all 10 inch or 12 inch machines. Some sections were about
18 inches high.
Bored holes in coal face to allow blowing down of coal. Before the
advent of machine boring equipment a hatchet hand borer was used,
requiring great strength.
One man was in charge of a small group, responsible for maintenance and
repairs of the haulage system, which conveyed coal from the pit bottom,
before being ‘caged’ to the surface. This group was adept at rope
splicing, which was a tricky operation.
The above were the main operators, although various others were
employed as non producers. Their duties were as important as the others
in ensuring an efficient production operation.
The wages and deductions are of great interest, as today’s generation
would probably find it unbelievable that a man could work in such poor
conditions for pay that today would be considered a pittance. These
wages were based on a six day week. The salaries of staff such as the
Manager, Undermanager and Oversmen were all processed by head office.
Welfare was the contribution for the upkeep of the Miners’ Institute in
the various villages in the area, such as in New Street. Ambulance was
a contribution for operating of ambulances which were unfortunately
required quite often at the colliery.
A miner at the coal face was paid 1/10 3/4 for every ton of coal dug
and hauled to the surface. He could earn more than the minimum if the
coal was ‘big’. Brushers were paid 3/0 1/4 for left coal which day
shift miners had not cleared. The brusher worked for a contractor, who
was contracted with management to ‘brush’ a section, at a cost per
fathom. This was calculated each week, and the men, sometimes as many
as 15 to 20 were each paid the rate as previously shown. The contractor
then retained what was left of the total which could be a rare sum in
As well as being paid, employees were allowed concessionary coal which
amounted to three tons of coal per year at concessionary prices i.e.
12/10 per ton and 2/6 cartage or 3/6 bagged. “Water money” was also
paid to the miners if they were working in a wet section of the pit.
This amounted to 6d per day if required to work in oil skins.
Working in the office, Jimmy Leggate was responsible for one of the
most important ‘employees’ at the colliery - the ‘Canary’; fed with
seed and water every day.
Born in Armadale, West Lothian in 1896, William Pearson started working
as a miner at the age of 14, only six years after the death of his
father in a mining accident. When he was 15 his family moved to
Coalburn, where he worked in Auchenbeg Colliery, where at the age of 19
he was elected to the Coalburn Miners District Committee. Only four
years later he was the colliery delegate to the Lanarkshire Miners
Council. William then married and moved to Kirk Street, Stonehouse
where he was elected to the Check Weighman’s post at Canderigg Colliery
(Broomfield). Whilst living in Stonehouse he soon progressed through
the ranks of the union becoming a member of the Scottish Miners
Executive and President of the Lanarkshire Miners County Union. He
later served as interim President of the NUSMW until Abe Moffat was
elected, before taking up the position of Secretary/Treasurer for the
A man of great character and respect, he represented the Scottish
miners on the General Council of the STUC from the 1940’s, of which he
was to become President in 1950. William Pearson was an outspoken
opponent of the ‘Atom Bomb’ and the American bases in Britain. He was
also greatly responsible for supporting and ensuring Devolution for
Scotland was kept on the political agenda, before Eric Clark of the
Labour Party had the Devolution Bill passed at Labour Conference. He
later moved to Edinburgh after the second world war.
Whilst not a Stonehousaian in the true sense of the word, his
achievements are worthy of inclusion for the part Stonehouse played in
his life and of the many men and women he influenced during his work
and political activities.
Another prominent Union official who today resides in our village is
Andrew Clark who through the 1950’s was Secretary of the Scottish
Miners’ Youth Committee. In 1953 Andrew was present at the miners gala
day in Edinburgh, where he was a speaker to an audience of over 100,000
people. Always an active member of the community Andrew like William
Pearson is a well respected resident who has influenced many others
during his long and distinguished career