Mining

The 1984–85 miners’ stike followed by a series of pit closures brought an end to the way of life in Fife mining communities.  In this section, people from mining families and communities share their memories and experiences. Some also relate family accounts of the 1926 strike and the Depression that lasted over a decade. They also recall the songs and poems that were composed by miners.

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01 Mining in Fife: Jim Douglas

01 Mining in Fife: Jim Douglas

Jim D: I was born in Kelty, Fife, which is a wee mining village.

MB: And were your people miners?

JD: Goin away back, my grandfather was a winding engineman at a wee place called Lassodie, which is about two miles from Kelty, an that’s the man that sits an works the levers an lowers the cages down to the bottom and brings them up again of course, an also bringin up coal, other stuff like that. ...  

02 Mining in Fife: Sheena Berry

02 Mining in Fife: Sheena Berry

Miners: A creative powerhouse

I have a book of poems my dad wrote which I published a few months before he died in 1998 and it contains some work related to his mining days which may illuminate his feelings about being a miner. I've also typed up some notes which may be useful - they will certainly help me to talk about things he related to me about his time working in the pits in Fife. Just a pity you couldn't meet the man himself as he was, like many of his mining colleagues, a creative powerhouseSheena Berry.

03 Mining in Fife: Lola Corrieri

03 Mining in Fife: Lola Corrieri

Lola C:  When I was young, everybody’s father worked in the mine and we were just different. My father had the shops, he had an ice-cream shop and he had a chip shop. He rented a field from the Fife Coal Company and we kept our horses, ponies, in it – they were pit ponies that were done by the time my father got them, but they’d be alright for an ice-cream cart once a week you know, they’d be living in luxury.

04 Mining in Fife: Marion Kelly

04 Mining in Fife: Marion Kelly

Track 2 
MB: Now Waverley Street, this is in? 
MK: Waverley Street is in Lochore and the poem is by Harry McGurk

WAVERLY STREET, by Harry McGurk

Way back in Nineteen-Thirty-seven 
Lochore looked more like Hell than Heaven
We would sit in the classroom so big and so bleak, 
Nae stockings or shoes on, just your bare feet,
Then after lessons, home we would run 
For tatties and mince made by our Mum. 
Waverley Street with its dirt and its grime 
Sticks out in my mind as the best of all time,
Poorly clad as we were, but always well fed,
A big army greatcoat on top of the bed.

05 Mining in Fife: Mary & William Hershaw

05 Mining in Fife: Mary & William Hershaw

Margaret B:  When you were at school you must have been surrounded folk from mining families?

Mary H:  Oh yes most of my friend’s dads or at least their Granddads were miners and a lot of them worked in the, either the workshops you know Cowdenbeath because even by the time I was young in the sixties most of the local pits were closed. ..

Wullie H: I think the first coal fields opened up in Ayrshire, and then they moved through to Lanarkshire and Midlothian, and the Fife ones, you’re talking about maybe the 1870s when the Fife Coal Company started up, or you know the Cowdenbeath  Company, they were localised to begin with, and they brought an influx of people in with them, that’s why if you listen to the west Fife, Fife accent it’s a lot more heavily inflected with west coast, you know… you’ll hear people talk about ‘weans’ in Valleyfield, where if you went up the East Neuk of Fife it’s ‘bairns’, you know.My Granddad he came through fae Lanarkshire, and that would be in the 1930s.

06 Julie Colville and Isa

06 Julie Colville and Isa

MB: So were the family miners when they lived there before that?
Julie C: I think at first Dad was on a farm, before, and then he went to the mines.
Isa: He had to cycle frae Kinross to Kelty They had to work doon the pit in the water and everything and in the wintertime all you could do was go on a bike. And their clothes was frozen on them by the time they got up to Kinross. And then they were ready for the next - by the time they got their clothes dried and that, it was time for the next shift. And my mother had - I had six sisters and four brothers, and she had a man on the day shift, the back shift - her sons - one was on the day shift, one was on the back shift and one was on the night shift.
MB: They had hard lives but so did she!
Isa: She was up at 4 o'clock in the morning, and the boiler in the wash hoose got filled wi' water the night before and she was roon at 4, - by the time she got they oot on the day shift, she was roon kindling the fire so that by the time she got us ready for the school her water was ready for starting the washing. And she was in the washing tub frae we went to the school till we come back frae it.