Misc. Hamilton History


The Cadzow Colliery Company's Pits
The process of " winning" or reaching the coal at two out of the three perpendicular shafts which hare been sunk by the Cadzow Colliery Company (Limited) at Lowwaters has been successfully accomplished. The mineral was first struck in No. 2 pit on the 3d ult, and at No. 3 pit on the 26th The coalfield, which covers an area of upwards of 500 acres, has been leased by the company from the Duke of Hamilton. [Scotsman 4 March 1876]


Robert M'Farlane, labourer, pleaded guilty before Sheriff Birnie at Hamilton, yesterday, of having smoked in No. 1 Pit, Cadzow Colliery, near a place where explosive gas was known to be issuing from the coal in great volume, thus endangering the lives of thirty persons employed in the mine. The Sheriff sentenced him to three months' imprisonment. [Scotsman 18 September 1880]


Peter Eadie Thomson, fireman, Cadzow Colliery , was in Hamilton Sheriff Court on Saturday, found guilty of having used an open lamp, and endangered the safety of sixty persons in the ell seam of the colliery. He was sentenced to fourteen days' imprisonment. [Scotsman 4 July 1881]


£10, 000 Fire At Burnbank – 24 Miners' Families Homeless
By a fire at Albany Buildings, Burnbank, on Saturday night, twenty-four -workmen's houses were destroyed and as many families rendered homeless. The building formed one of three blocks, each containing some 60 houses belonging to John Watson (Limited), in whose adjacent colliery at Earnock the workmen are employed. The fire originated in the centre of the block, and spread with great rapidity to one end, the other portion being saved by Hamilton firemen. Much of the household furniture was lost. The total damage is estimated at £10,000. The property was insured, but few of the household effects were so covered. Prompt arrangements were made yesterday by representatives of Hamilton Town Council and John Watson (Limited) for accommodating the homeless families, consisting of about 150 men, women, and children, and meantime all have been provided for. [Scotsman 12 August 1918]


Lanarkshire Pits Closed Down – 10,000 Men Idle
It was gathered at the Lanarkshire miners' headquarters last night that the situation in the coalfield is serious. Bent Colliery, Hamilton, oho of the largest in the county, booked off last night till further notice, and Hamilton Palace colliery, belonging to the same company, is practically in a similar position. Greenfield Colliery, Burnbank, will be idle today. Practically all the pits in the Larkhall district closed down last, night. John Watson's Earnock Colliery ceased work last night, and it is expected that their Neilsland colliery will follow today. In some cases efforts are being made to bing coal, and this may keep some collieries working. Meantime the above stoppages affect anything up to 10,000 men. [Scotsman 30 September 1919]


Hamilton Colliery Idle – For the first time in many years, Earnock Colliery, Burnbank, Hamilton, belonging to John Watson Ltd, was idle yesterday owing to bad trace. Over 300 men were thrown out of work by the cessation of operations. [Scotsman 27 May 1932]

More Work For Hamilton Miners - Notices were posted at Cadzow Colliery, Hamilton , on Saturday announcing that the colliery would commence operations today on full time. The colliery, which employs about 500 men, was placed on half time about two months before the beginning of the Fair holidays. [Scotsman 1 August 1932]

Hamilton Miners on Short Time
Miners employed at Cadzow Colliery, Hamilton, have again been placed on short time. After the Fair holidays they resumed on full time, but owing to lack of orders it has been found necessary to cut down the working hours again. The colliery supplies much coal to Ireland. [Scotsman 3 September 1932]


Miners On Short Time - Effect in Hamilton District - Nearly 4000 Men Affected
As a result of the decision of the colliery companies to introduce short time, a severe blow has been dealt to the mining communities in Hamilton and district. In some cases the miners have lost as many as three days a week, and in the Hamilton district, where two of the collieries affected Cadzow and Earnock - were the only remaining collieries of any magnitude, nearly 4000 miners have been placed on short time.

The collieries affected are:- Cadzow. Hamilton, 700; Hamilton Palace, Hamilton, 600; South Longrigg, Larkhall, 200; Ferniegair, Hamilton, 300; and Earnock, Hamilton, 600. At Earnock Colliery over 100 miners have been entirley suspended, and the remainder are on short time, while at South Longrigg the men, who had already lost three days' work last week, were only saved from a longer period of idleness by a last minute order which will provide work for only a few days. Many of the collieries which have been working six days, a week are now only working five days a week.

There is of course, a slackening off in the mining industry about this time every year, but the exceptionally fine weather has made matters worse, and orders are dropping off. At all the collieries waggons are lying full waiting disposal, while there are also hundreds of tons stacked at the surface.

In an interview, Mr Wm. B. Small, general secretary of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union, said they could hold out no hope for an improvement in the immediate future. [Scotsman 10 April 1933]


Colliery To Close - Last Hamilton Mine to be Worked
Hamilton's last colliery, Greenfield colliery, Burnbank, will close to-morrow. Over a hundred men will lose their employment.

The colliery was opened 72 years ago, and employed as many as 1100 men. Some time ago it was found that the workings were being rapidly exhausted, and last year No. 2 pit was abandoned. Work continued at No. 1 pit, but recently it was found that the only seams workable were approaching the foundations of the shaft. A. few men will be retained for surface work. Most of the men employed belong to outlying districts, and are not residents of Hamilton.

Fears were entertained that Whistleberry colliery, which is just outside the burgh colliery and belongs to the same company, Archibald Russell (Ltd.), would be affected. It was ascertained yesterday, however that Whistleberry colliery will continue to operate.

After tomorrow there will be no colliery working within the boundaries of Hamilton, while only three - Earnock, Cadzow, and Whistleberry - works on its borders. At one time there were seven collieries inside Hamilton, and eight on its outskirts. [Scotsman 31 January 1935]


Lanarkshire School Which May Be Closed - Decline of a Mining Village
The decline of one of Lanarkshire's former thriving villages is evidenced by the decision of Lanarkshire Education Committee to consider the question of closing Dykehead Primary School at Udston, near Burnbank Hamilton. At one time there were 200 children on the school roll, and now there are 4, one of whom is actually under school age. When Udston colliery was working, the little village, which lies on the minor road between Hamilton and East Kilbride, had 80 houses, and was one of the most prosperous mining villages in the West of Scotland. Following the General Strike in 1926, the colliery closed down, and gradually the miners moved to other districts. The majority of the houses were condemned about two years ago, and the inhabitants transferred to Eddlewood housing scheme. Now only three houses remain, and the tenants are likely to be soon accommodated elsewhere . A small Committee of the Education Committee has been appointed to report on the position, and it is understood the parents have been asked to decide which school they wish their children to attend. Glenlee School and Greenfield School at Burnbank are the nearest schools. Before the children can be transferred the sanction of the Education Department must be obtained. [Scotsman 14 February 1938]


Relics Found In Scottish Mine By J. C. Lumsden
Picks, scoops, iron rails and miners' shoes are among relics of the last century dis­covered at the reopening of an old mine near Quarter, in Lanarkshire.

Mining began in Quarter more than 300 years ago and, until the nineteenth century, was carried on by the Duke of Hamilton, owner of the land. A survey of the area showed that a great deal of coal was still left and, at the end of last year, N.C.B. permission was given for taking the remaining coal out of the Avonbraes mine. Large pillars of coal were left to prevent disfigurement of the Duke's land, and these are now being extracted at the rate of about 60 tons a day. It is expected that the mine will yield something like 200,000 tons of coal.

River-Bank Mines
- It was in this area that the relics were found. Mr. Alex Meikle, agent-manager for the Quarter Area, believes that the workers probably left their implements and shoes in fright, perhaps after an accident. The first explosion of which there is a record occurred in Quarter in 1841, when 13 men were killed. Old pit books showing that the men were paid from 2s. 3d. to 3s. 6d. per 12-hour shift have also been found. Mines like Avonbraes were entered almost straight from the river banks. Output per worker was about three tons a day and selling price of the coal was 2s. 6d. a ton or load.

Most interesting find, according to Mr. J. G. Scott, Curator of the Dept. of Archaeology and History at Glasgow Art Galleries, was the footwear. The man's shoes, he thinks, are unique. Studs similar to those in use today appeared to have been fitted at some time, but the lacing part of the shoes was separate from the toe-cap.

Among the other relics were some old Scots picks, a driving mell and wedges, and a rail on which a sledge for removing the coal was pushed. Some of these were found by William Bulloch, one of whose female ancestors, "Georgie" Bulloch, is known to have worked in the mines. [Coal, volume 5, September 1951]

Harry Lauder

Harry Lauder as Miner

Most people know that Harry Lauder started life as a collier in the black country of the west of Scotland. He has been telling the “New York World” some of his experiences in those early days. “I was entombed once for 6 long hours. It seemed like 6 years. There were no visible means of getting out either – we had just to wait. I was once right next to a cave-in when my fire boss was buried alive. As we were working and chatting a big stone twice as big as a trunk came tumbling down on my mate from overhead, doubling him like a jack-knife. It squeezed his face right down on the floor. God knows I wasn't strong enough to lift that rock alone, but by superhuman efforts I did. This gave him a chance to breathe and then I shouted. Some men 70 yards away heard me and came and got him out alive. A chap who worked beside me was killed along with 71 others at Udston, and all they could identify him with was his pin leg. I wasn't there that day. [Glasgow Evening Times January 8 1910]

PIT PONIES. HARRY LAUDER BEFRIENDS THEM. "The Daily Express" contains an interesting article by the well-known Scottish comedian, Harry Lauder, on "Pit Ponies," from which we make the following extracts : - I am proud of the fact that I am an old coal-miner. I said so in as many words to Mr. Winston Churchill when I was introduced to him the other day at the House of Commons, where, as many of your readers are aware, I was pleading the cause of the poor pit ponies. The subject is a big one, and I could talk for hours about my wee four-footed friends of the mine. But I think I convinced him that the time has now arrived when something should be done by the law of the land to improve the lot and working conditions of the patient, equine slaves who assist so materially in carrying on the great mining industry of this country.

BLACK MONOTONY. If the clause for which I and others have been working is inserted in the Mines Bill - the main provisions in the clause being for the appointment of Government inspectors to guard the interests of all ponies and horses working underground - and passed into law, it will be a great day for tens of thousands of animals which never have their eyes gladdened by the sight of daylight, whose existence is one weary round of black monotony and terribly hard labour, and, in too many cases, of misery and suffering.

I was once a pony driver myself. During the years I acted as driver I had a great many ponies through my hands, and at Eddlewood Colliery, Quarter Colliery, and elsewhere - m every pit I worked, either as man or boy - l took a great interest in the imprisoned horses. And I would like in common justice to my mining friends all over the west country of Scotland, to say right away that I very seldom came across cases of gross cruelty to any of the ponies in the mines where I was employed. Of course, life below the surface is far from being a bed of roses either for man or horse, and it would be ridiculous - and untruthful on my part to say that I had never seen a pony get roughly handled. As a matter of fact, many of these pit ponies are dour, "soor," stubborn little devils, and had to be rather forcefully dealt with from time to time. They seem to become preternaturally shrewd after they have been down the pit for some time, and if you give them too heavy a "rake" they very soon let you know that they object to it, and I have known them object in decidedly vicious fashion, too.

WILLING TO WORK. Of course, no pony, any more than the lad in charge of him, is in the mine for amusement. He is there to work. And Heaven knows he is made to do it. I have heard stories of shocking ill-treatment of ponies, and I have no reason to disbelieve them; but, as I have said before, I cannot at the moment personally recall many instances of downright cruelty.

As a rule the average pit pony is a lovable little fellow, very willing to work, and exceedingly responsive to kindness on the part of his driver. When I was a driver I was always good and kind to my sheltie. Of course, I can hear you say, it would not do for him to write down anything else. Honestly, though, I was fond of the ponies. I made pals of them, took a pleasure in them and I never met a pit pony yet that I could not manage better by kindness than by blows. There were many other boys like myself. But equally there were some who had hearts of stone, and who lost no chances of beating, aye, kicking their charges on the slightest provocation.

I once had a sweet wee pony called Captain. Standing about eleven hands high, he was the finest little fellow ever I saw "doon the dook." Everybody liked him, and I loved him. I taught him all sorts of tricks, and I verily believe that if I had him long enough I could have taught him to speak. He could tell by scratching his forefoot on the ground how often he had been at the "face" for loads, and no watch was necessary, with Captain as a companion, to know when "lowsin' time" had arrived.

He could steal, too, thanks to my training, and it was a source of endless amusement to some of the younger men to see me give Captain permission to go on a foraging expedition. He would trot into the little Cabin and extract from the jackets hanging there the bread-and-cheese which had been left over at piece-time. Then he would seize a flask containing tea - passing over all the empty ones - put it between his fore-hoofs and pull out the cork with his teeth. This done, it was a simple matter for him to raise the flask above his head and drink its contents. If Captain heard a strange step approaching he was out of the cabin like a shot and off to his corn-bin or his yoke of hutches. He was a "droll yin" and no mistake.

INSTINCT. Once wee Captain saved my life. We were going towards the coal face with a rake of empty hutches and had to pass a "drift" - an old working road that had fallen in and been cut through. It was a very wild looking chasm of twenty-five or thirty feet wide, and I always shuddered when I passed through it. On this occasion Captain stopped suddenly just as we were about to enter the drift. I did not know what was wrong with him, and shouted to him to "gee-up." But he would not stir a step. I then gave him a blow with my whip for his capers, but his answer was to turn sharply round and look in my face with a reproachful expression in his eyes. At that very moment the drift in front of us closed with a tremendous crash. Captain's instinct had told him that something was going to happen; his acute ears had heard warning sounds which to mine were quite unintelligible. When I realised what had taken place the tears came to my eyes. I threw my arms round wee Captain's neck and kissed and cuddled him again and again. He appreciated my gratitude and forgave me that unmerited blow. I have known ponies in the mine become so clever that they could do their work, and do it well, without ever a single word from their drivers. Had it been physically possible for them I do believe they would have "yoked" and "lowsed" themselves, and in this connection I may say I always noticed that the best ponies, from a working point of view, were those which were kindly treated by their drivers.

LIBERTY AT HAND. In the dull, flickering gleam of the miners' lamps horses and men assume, down below a ghostly, unnatural outline, but somehow 'or other the ponies' eyes always give out - at least, they always seemed to me to give out - a strange, weird radiance, and in that radiance I was never tired of reading this message : -
"I'm only a poor wee pit pownie - a miserable, wretched little creature, with nothing to live for at all. I would like to see the green fields and the sunlight and breathe the fresh air of the beautiful world above. But I don't suppose I ever shall. However, if you are good to me, speak kindly to me and don't beat me, I'll do my work as well as I can. And I'll love you. Yes, love you very much, because you're the only living thing I have to care for or to care for me."

The Home Secretary has promised to submit the new clause to me when it is drafted. He is to lose no time about the matter. Mrs. Churchill is interested in the pit ponies, and I suppose Winston is just like all the rest of us - takes special care of a job when he knows that the wife's eyes are upon him. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to think that the "emancipation," in a limited sense, of the pit "pownies" is so near at hand. Who knows but I may yet be able to arrange a day or two's holiday " up the shaft " every three months for them, with plenty of mashed oats, a green field to romp in, and a delightful, straw-strewn stall in a real stable. [Tamworth Herald 29 July 1911]