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Occupations - Coal Mining
Coal Mining
Canderrigg Colliery 1936-1939
William Pearson

Coal Mining
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 look for.

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 Garibaldi Pit.

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 conditions.

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 Stonehouse.
Canderrigg Colliery 1936-1939.
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 the surface.
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.
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 these days.

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.
William Pearson
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 union.

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

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