Chapter from “Auchterderran, A Parish History” by Rev Archibald McNeill Houston, Published 1924
The story of the Fife coalfields is one of the romances of the Scottish mining industry. Many names are household words - the Goodalls of Cluny; James Nasmyth of Dundonald and Donibristle; Henry Mungall of Cowdenbeath; Archibald Bowman of Silverside, Kirkcaldy; the Goodalls of Begg; and the Herds of Cluny; Charles Carlow, the architect of the great Fife Coal Company; Sir John Wilson of Glencraig; Thomas, James, John, and Alexander Goodall of Cluny,. Carden, and Denend - all business men of might and integrity and push.
It is impossible to give quite a detailed sketch of these men's enterprise. Nor can we suitably follow the wonder-workings of that fine company, so stable and reliable, the Lochgelly Iron & Coal Company. There is a good story related of some of the latter's ancient workings by the late Andrew Landale, one of its pioneers. It was about the "in-gaun-e'e" to the north of Lochgelly, which was said to stretch to the more modern, but at present disused, Melgund Pit. In the early workings of the seventeenth century, a man came out through the crop in front of a woman "thinning neeps" (turnips). She had newly come to the district. Seeing the dusky face, she fled in terror to Lochgelly, and announced she had seen "the Deevil," and, after inducing her neighbours to go back with her, armed with forks and graips, they met, for their, trouble, "Jen. Davidson's muckle man."
Dundonald, Cluny, and Lochgelly are very ancient coalfields. Reference is sometimes made to the kirk heughs - places in Carden and Dundonald Den where the monks used to gather their "black stanes," which they gave out as alms to the poor at their kirk doors on Sundays. These places when they changed hands in ancient times carried with them their colliers as serfs. Three classes of people were engaged in the specially; hateful drudgery of our early coal fields - colliers, coal-hewers, and bearers (mostly women). If a workman ran away, or disposed of his services to another coalmaster, the law declared him a thief. It is passing strange that any parents, knowing the hardships of such thraldom, should have allowed their children to continue in colliery serfdom. But this servitude soon branded them as an hereditary cast, aloof from the rest of the community. In his Institutes, Forbes writes: "Some servants are reckoned and punished as thieves for stealing themselves and their services from their masters as coal hewers and coal bearers receiving wages and fees who leave their master without a testimonial from him." There existed here a strange practice of binding over their very infants, often unborn, to the "Maister," and at the time of baptism, in presence of the minister and neighbours as witnesses. When thriftless ones were in straits for money to defray christening festivities and marriage feasts, they often sold the freedom of their son to their employer, who subscribed a "deed " to provide the child-serf at manhood with a garden and house, and protection in sickness and age. This "arled wane" was "thirled " for life to the pit, and whoever bought it bought him.
Some of the women coal bearers led an awful life. In the records of 1735, one of the elders, Robert Steedman, "reported to the Session that Margaret Watson, an unmarried woman, being at the Coalhill, brought forth twins, and gave Archibald Hodge, a married man, for their father, and that the said Margaret is coal bearer to the said Archibald, which the Session considering appoint a Committee to meet with the minister at the Coalhill (Dundonald), and examine them." As usual the woman suffered, and the man "blasphemed" his innocence: but in the end justice was done, and he had his " reward."
It can be gathered from an ancient lease that the monks worked coal in West Fife as early as 1291, fifty years after Bishop de Bernham visited the parish to consecrate the Roman Catholic kirk of Auchterderran. In 1582, King James VI. gave the lands of Cardoune, "with tour, manour (manor), milnes, woods, and coale" to George Martene, to whom it came by his mother, the Lady Durie, a name frequently mentioned in the banking deeds of our Session. Martene made use of the ancient "Kirke heughs," and worked only from the side of the Cardoun Burn, and at the " Monk heughs " of the South Dundonald strip, near the present Lady Helen Pit.
In 1583 the Earl of Wemyss had a fierce dispute with our patron, Balmuto, regarding the fishings, which was a blessing in disguise. One hundred Wemyss men were sent to guard their rights, and, whilst the King was busy intervening for peace, the Wemyss men were busy "howking coale" from the banks of Kynnynmond. But it was not till 1646 that any extensive good came of their "howking" operations and experiments. Earl David says in his book: "There is in my lands of Louchhead, Lochgellie, 4 coalls and a mynd wrought to them all be my Father in anno 1646. The first coall ye get in the mynd is a coall of 2 foots, nixt a coall of 3 foots, both thir goes away in the mynd. There is a five fitt coal and ane 8 foot coall, which mynd he 'levelled' or 'way-faired.' The 5 foot coall is above the 8 and is a harder coall nor the other; 8 foot is the drift all south east and crops south west. It is best to let them alone till coalls both be north and be south you be weasted, then they will give money. This is for these coalls. Ye will get the five foot coall on 6 faldoune in the sink fardest a cropping at the head of mynd, and the 8 foot coall is in 2 faths. of the 5 foot: this noted 8th July, 1659 by me, ' W.' "
He further proceeds: "I now believe it is expected that I should speak somewhat on my coals in my lands of Louchhead, 1677. All I can say of them is this: my father did dry by a mine as is to be seen in the ground there 2 coals (1642), one of the five feet, one good hard coal not yet fully discovered what it is, and one of ten feet thick, which two coals has been wrought many years ago by our predecessors, yet I have dight that mine and coals, but find not much haill wall by his Levell (onwrought). But I did trap the 10 feet coall and wrought a year on it. But it is good soft coal for lime. But not hard for land sale or sea (it cakes as New Castle coal). When coall becomes scant about Louchhead, it will sell better; then farder I went up that little burn at Louchhead, and found three more, one of 4 foot, one of 6 foot, and one of five foot. The 6 foot coal (as is in Scotland), and if ye please to dry these three coals do this. Begin at the 10 foot coal that stands dry and work a mind or levell off the pedment of that 10 ft coal, all up the burn on the South side only, it being only your own lands, for the burn is the march at the west, and on that levell ye will hitt I know not how many coals. But these three ye will dry als weel as my Father has dried the 5 foot and 10 feet coals. This I will assure you is very cheaply done, for £100 or £200 it will be done (when ye please). These coals is worth thrice the whole Lands, for with it ye may burn limestone in Little Raith: this noted by me at Wemyss, 1 Jany, 1677. W "
"I must say somewhat of Louchgellie coals that the Laird of Kynmoth (Kyninmond) and John Ciller (Collyer, collier) has working still 1677 tho the South side of the Hill be burning and all spent. Yet Kynmoth is working on the North side driftgeat N. East still keeping a S wall betwixt him and the fire or else he could not work it. I did find a coal just south from John Ciller's coal there of 4 feet thick, a good hard coal but mett with a Hich and so it stands.
"Now it is my advice yt ye try all the way up the Burn, from the Loch by boring wherever ye see any likely Rocks or Mettels at the South side of the March burn there and I am confident ye will find all the coals in Lochgellie bank on my south side in the lands of Louchhead. If I live some years, God willing, I shall put this to a tryall. This is noted by me at Wemyss on the pth Jany., 1677. ' Wemyss'”
Earl David, who was the second Earl of Wemyss, makes the following entries in his diary, which are prophetic of the great Lochgelly coalfield and its excellently managed company. "John, Erle of Wemyss, 1643, did work a levell to four colles in his lands of Louchhead, as the mind ther lyes still wrought, first meeting in yt mind with a good colle of 3 fitts thick, 2 next with a coll of four fittes thick, 3 with a colle of five fitts thick, 4 and last with a colle of eight fitts, all good burning colles ": but "to mine thir colles cause doune sinks on them, and so work them, for they are standing dry ther unwrought, only my father levelled them."
Coming to the north-east of the parish, we find an interesting report on the properties of Kinninmonth, Redwalls, and Strathruddie by the late eminent .engineer, Dr. Landale (of Landale, Frew & Gemmell, Edinburgh). On the 26th of March, 1838, he proceeded to examine the lands of Kinninmonth and Redwells for the purpose of ascertaining the mineral contents thereof, as far as could be ascertained by an inspection of all the open quarries and other places where the strata are exposed. He writes: "Having previously found out the grandson of the former tenant of the coal, Robert Ewan of Leslie, I took him with me in the hope of obtaining some information regarding the old workings, but I regret that he could tell me nothing definite as to the thickness of the seam or seams. The substance of his evidence is that his grandfather had a lease of the coal, and that, after working all the level free drift, he sunk a windmill pit, which was wrought for a few years, until the mill was driven down by a violent gale of wind, and, not being in a condition to replace it, he abandoned it, and the then proprietor allowed the pit to drown up: he has no papers nor records of any kind about it, but believes that there were two seams between 3 and 4 feet thick each, and is certain one of them was of good quality." After a few other remarks, Dr. Landale goes on to write: " I have endeavoured in vain to get accurate information as to the thickness of these coals; it is so very long since they were wrought. The brewer of Kinglassie recollects being in the old waste of one of them when he was a herd boy: it allowed him to stand upright, and, to the best of his recollection, it was about 3 1/2 feet high. I have also examined Andrew Wilkie, formerly beadle of Kinglassie, a man nearly eighty years of age. He recollects, when a mere boy, of a Gin (a horse windlass) standing on the Denburn Bridge Pit, and driving coal from it, which was very good, clean, and 'every bit as good as the Cluny Engine Pit seam, and out o' sight better than the Duddy Davie seam.' He further recollects that, long after the coal ceased to be wrought, there were various open holes in the 'Dean' (Den), and that he and other shearers went into the old workings with lights in search of a fox, that he had to stoop considerably, which confirms the other evidence that its thickness is about 3 1/2 feet. He said they could penetrate far into the waste, and the pillars and roof were standing with few interruptions, from all which we may infer that the roof was uncommonly good."
Coming south to the old Cluny coalfield, you pass, to the south of Cluny Bridge, the "old coal pit " by the roadside (Kinglassie Road); another in the plantation to your left before reaching the store (Cluny Store): and in the fields to the front of Coaldeane and Cluny Square there are sites of no less than eight (one of them being the Engine House Pit) in these three fields, all marked in the map as "old coal pits." In front of Sunnyside Wood we see the old waterless pit and waterless dub; and adjoining the Weather Brae there is the old quarry and another "old pit,'' in the same field. Whilst at Hindloup there is an old pit; and in the Den below it another; and between that and Carden Castle Tower another. Then there is the Dundonald group, "ye ancient collehill" mentioned in the discipline case of the Session records, three of which "old coal pits" are named, about which Dr. Murray tells us in 1791 there were, including those elsewhere employed as colliers, 31 families. At that time they earned 10s. a week, whilst in 1600 they had 1s. 1d. per day. According to our own Adam Smith (author of The Wealth of Nations), they had in 1763 2s. 6d. a day, when day labourers had from 8d to 10d., and the earnings of " free colliers " in Newcastle was only 10d. or 1s. per day. This had gone on since 1606. Till 1793 there was a duty of 3s. 6d. per ton (when the price of coal shipped on the Forth was 4s. 10d. a ton) on all coals carried east ways beyond the mouth of the Forth. This was owing to the carriage of coals in 1750 from Newcastle to the Cromarty Firth in competition with the Scotch masters.
One writer gives a pitiful description of the colliers in 1775, when this state of affairs prevailed: a weekly allowance to the collier of one or two pecks of meal when sick; at his marriage the payment of £5 16s. Scots, ten quarters of iron and deals, or a tree to make a bedstead; and at his death, deals sufficient to make his coffin. He writes concerning their attempted emancipation by the Act of 1775: "This measure, however, brought help to few: the men were deep in debt to their masters, they were too dull-witted to institute - to them, 'puzzling ' proceedings - before the Sheriff, and very many continued in slavery all their days, or, if they survived, till 1799, when a statute of tardy humanity gave unconditional freedom to all. But though the monstrous law of collier bondage was abolished, it was long before there passed away the baneful effects of the old life in a race of men and women having visages of savage type, with natures mentally stunted, morally degraded, and physically brutalised through long generations of miserable servitude and existence in hovels of dirt and wretchedness as vile as the pits in which they toiled." Hugh Miller, the geologist, describes the collier women of Niddry, the survivors of the servitude of old days, as "marked by a peculiar type of mouth, from which I learned to distinguish them from all other females of the country. It was wide open, thick-lipped, projecting equal above and below, and exactly resembled that which we find in prints of savages in their lowest and most brutalised state in such narratives of our modern voyager as, for instance, the narrative of Capt. Fitzroy's Second Voyage of the Beagle"
Thank God! these things are impossible now, and the glory of it is - the miners have accomplished by their Trades Union, and their hours- movement, their own emancipation. When you reflect upon it that today they are the friends of our Churches, in the ministry of the Eldership, in the service of our Public Boards, many of them cultured gentlemen., you feel the pulse of pride beat in your exclamation of thanksgiving. God bless our dear colliers, their comely wives, and bonny weans! They have been the helpers and friends of my ministry. By their fellowship they have given me confidence in my own public service, or, when sorrow fell heavily, they have comforted as counsellors, whose love is a stay and a help in times of stress or need. God bless them! At times they have been deceived and misled; but on the whole they are good.
Our colliers' uplift has had many stoops. Public opinion, Parliament, and the best managers and men have all had a laudable share in it. In 1840, improvement dawns. When Lochgelly Colliery was in the hands of John Henderson, much helpful evidence came therefrom. Henry Chisholm, the Manager, who appeared before the Royal Commission of 1841, says: “We have employed at present 94 males and 2 5 females, who are wrought below ground: 26 are under 18 years of age, and 10 under the age of 13. Our seams of coal being thick, 5 to 8 feet, very young children are not needed— - ndeed they are never required: and no children ought to be employed under 12 years of age in any mines, as they both lose education and strength by being underground so early. At some coal-workings, children commence as early as 6 years of age, and remain below as long as the adults. The time in the Lochgelly Colliery is limited to 9 hours, and no one is allowed to work at night except the engineman. No accidents here have ever taken place of a fatal nature. Carbonic acid gas exists, but we drive it out by superior ventilation. In rainy weather we suffer by water in the pit. Men are employed in our mines at the hewing only, and the females as putters: each is ranked distinct, and no married woman now works in our mines. The mines at Deanpit and Cuttlehill (also leased by Mr. Henderson) are at present stopped from working.
" Agnes Cook, 15 years old, putter, says: 'I have wrought at Lochgelly 12 months: I worked in the fields prior to coal-work. I have 4 brothers at coal-work: my father is a collier: my mother was a farm-servant. I make my own clothes and stockings.' She can read well, and is intelligent; but never was at writing.
" Eliza Dickson, 17 years old, putter: 'I began to work below 5 years syne. I work 9 hours a day: never been off work: was in the fields before at the coals: left there as more money is to be had than field-worker: could never earn more than 8d. per day above: I now get 15d. when working in the wet roads. I never got hurt. I was below when a young man (Joseph Harrower) was crushed to death by a fall of roof three years ago, and I remember one Andrew Berradge being killed in same manner two years ago. Reads: was a wee while at the writing, but not since down.' She reads badly: ignorant, but has a knowledge of the verses of many Psalms, which she learned at Sabbath School.
" Alexander Gillespie, 12 years old, hewer: 'Began to work at 8 years old: was born at Polmont. Father dead 8 years - died from dropsy, brought on by sitting in damp work: he was 28 years old. Can read a little, but am learning to write at night-school."
In giving evidence before the same Commission, Mr. Alexander Goodall spoke for the Cluny and Carden area: " I have been 19 years connected with the management of my colliery, during which period no fatal accident, nor has any of a serious kind, taken place. In this part, very little disease exists amongst the men, as their habits and mode of life differ from most colliers. In the first place, very young boys have never been allowed to go below ground, and no females whatever work in our pits. I consider the keeping females out of the mines one of the most important points towards the improvement .of the collier population, as it forces them to self-dependence, and as they .are obliged to send their daughters into the fields, or to service, so they are compelled to seek wives from other trades than their own: and it is a singular fact that scarcely anyone of our colliers have married upon colliers' daughters, as also a large number of the daughters of colliers are married to millers, ploughmen, and other people. There is a school (Cluny) attached to the colliery, at which the majority of male and female children attend. They enter as early as 5 and 6 years, and continue till 12, when the boys go down, as they are of no use before that age, although our seams are very thin, not exceeding 28 inches high, and our roads 42 inches. The number of men employed is 40 heads of families, 22 under 18 years of age, and 4 above 12 years. Few men marry about this quarter till 22 or 24 years of age.
"David Blair, 16 years old, putter: 'I have wrought between 3 and 4 years below. I am employed to putt and fill: have not yet been putting at the coal wall. (Does, not care about the work, though it is 'gey sair work.') I work 10 hours daily, sometimes more, and make 11 days out of 12. I earn 15 pence per day.' Reads and writes well: well informed: very musical: plays exceedingly well on the violin.
"Mrs. Blair, mother of the said David: 'I have been married 34 years, and have no recollection of any females, or young children, being employed to labour below ground. The guid wives have an objection to their children being wrought until they have strength: and when they are working, they require good wholesome food sent down. I have five sons working with my man, and they have the porridge and meat sent down, and get it as regular as when at home. My father was a miller, and my daughter is married to one. Ten children alive: all read and write.'
"William Herd, 12 years old, gin driver: 'I drive the horse round the gin: have done so 12 months. Could read and write before I was sent to work. My father is a collier: have 7 brothers and sisters: was 5 years at school. Father is an Episcopalian, and we go to Episcopalian Chapel. I knows the Church Catechism.'
"David Patterson, 15 years old, putter: 'I work 10 hours at wheeling the tubs: have done so 3 1/2 years: I works on another's account. Father died some years since at Perth.' Reads very well: writes badly: not very forward in Scripture knowledge.
"Isobel Henderson, wife of J. Henderson, collier: ' I have lived at Clunie all my life. I have several daughters, who work in the fields: they get 1s. 6d. a week. We are very healthy, and can get work full 7 out of 12 months.' "
When the Commission was sitting, there were employed at Dundownate (Dundonald) 47 males, 12 females. The Manager, Mr. Andrew Adamson, for Messrs. Grieve & Nasmyth, deponed: "Children and young persons are not directly employed by the proprietors, as a contract is taken by the men to do their own putting, and they generally employ those who do it quickest. Part of the work is done by winding coals from the workings by incline wheels; the winding is generally performed by strong females. As boys are of little use before 12 years of age, none ought to be allowed to descend until arrived at it. We have no school or sick-fund belonging to this work.
"James Mitchell, coal grieve, Dundonald: 'We have few colliers here who get the length of 50 years: more die off near 40. From the bad breath those who go earliest in life get touched with it soonest. We have had no accidents at this pit, but some people suffer from Rheumatism, as much water is below at times, and they get it from damp work. Very young children are of little use, but the contractors take down who they like.'
"Thomas Campbell, 10 years old, hewer: 'Am learning to hew coal at Dundonald, with father: went down first with him: goes down now with brother who is 18, and been 10 years below, and two sisters. Father is 46 years of age: he has long been gone in the breath; he has been idle three months with it, and no able to work at all. Brothers and sisters all read a little, and so do I: am wrought at the reading by John Ewan, at Shaw's Mill, about a mile away.'
"Mary M'Kinlay, 12 years old, putter: 'I work for Andrew Nichole, who contracts for our work. I make a shilling a day, and work 11 days in the fortnight. We are sorely worked by contractors, but obliged to do so, as work is uncertain hereabouts. Has a rest of half an hour at porridge time.' "
The Dundonald Collieries were managed under the name of Nasmyth for many years, until the retirement of the senior partner to Edinburgh, when Messrs, Fleming, Meikle & Thomson acquired his lease. They worked the pits for a few years, when they were taken over by the Lochgelly Iron & Coal Company. Dundonald Den houses were built in lieu of the old stone rows which stood at Spittal Road and Knowehead. To these were added 52 by the County Council. The old " stone " biggings are now in ruins. Three seams have been "wrocht" at this coalfield - the Lochgelly Splint, the Glasee, and the Mynheer, though it is generally known that the Five Feet and the Dunfermline Splint are workable under the Mynheer. One mine and one vertical pit are still in operation - the West and Lady Helen. Since acquiring this field, there has been considerable increase in the output by the vigorous and active management of the Lochgelly Company, whose reputation stands high in the mining world. Mr. John Thomson, late -Manager, used an air-pressure engine for the first time, and introduced coal-cutting machines, with considerable increase in his output. This machine holes the face of the coal to a depth of 3 or 4 feet, and when the hewers and their drawers finish up, the results of their efforts beget some energetic hutch-filling, giving as much as 200 tons of an increase where formerly it was 50.
The name of Goodall was one to conjure with in the early days at Cluny. About a hundred years ago, the Raith Estate Office held Cluny Colliery, and had as Manager Alexander Goodall, whose grieve was Jas. Walker. Alexander was the father of Thomas Goodall, who built Craigderran and Derran's Vale, Cluny Road. James, along with his father, afterwards held a lease of Cluny Coal Work. Thomas Goodall afterwards became Manager of Capledrae Cannel Coal Work, now defunct. It is about 2 miles from the Westfield Oil Works, two fields north of the Row, which also became defunct over thirty years ago. Mr. Goodall, with the brand of St. Andrew's University upon him, was a man of note. He became Provost of Burntisland, and died at Craigderran. He was a clever man.
The Begg Coalfield, in the eighties under the Goodalls, and afterwards the property of Peter Herd and his sons, now of the Fife Coal Company, was long fruitfully managed by the brothers Goodall of Kirk-caldy.
Denend Pit, adjoining the Railway Station, was sunk by Messrs. James and John Goodall, and afterwards became the property of the Craigderran family, Thos. Goodall.
Carden Colliery had many vicissitudes. It was sunk by the Goodall family;, and managed for many years by the four sons of Alexander, viz., James, Robert, Andrew, and William, afterwards tenants of the Kirkshotts and Balgreggie Farm. It was thought that an extensive colliery might flourish on these farms, but the later projection of the Josephine by these Directors, Messrs. Provost Hutchison, Maltster, Kircaldy; A. Bowman, Buckhaven; Adams, Muircambus; and H. V. Haig of Ramornie, stopped that proposal by its catching the whole coal on these and the neighbouring estates, mostly absorbed since by the Fife Coal Company, with the exceptions particularly of Westfield and the Pitkinnies, now under the control of the Lochgelly Coal Company. The Josephine, which is a double-shafted pit, separated by a few yards, stands on the dove-cot field of Wallsgreen Farm, at the back of Balgonie House, part of whose lands were absorbed by the site and the service railway. Two rows of houses erected on either side of the Kirkhill Brae, together with rows numbered 1 to 19, were built for the workmen of that new colliery concurrently with the development of the pit, which employs nearly 2,000 people, and emits 2 to 3,900 tons of coal per 3-shift day, involving a weekly pay of at least £7,000, under the agency of Mr. James Hendrie of Sunnyside. In the sinking of the pit, several seams of coal were traversed, viz., the "Duddy Davy," or Jubilee, so called because touched on the day of the late Queen Victoria's Jubilee, at a depth of 152 fathoms, 5 feet thick. The Lochgelly was found at 170 fathoms, about 4 feet 10 inches in thickness, and the "Five Feet" is 207 fathoms (4 feet thick). Then the Dunfermline Splint appears, 3 feet 9 inches at 220 fathoms. Lochgelly Splint and the Jubilee seams are wrought from No. 2 Pit and the 5 feet from No. 1.
For some time the populous parts of the town of Auchterderran were supplied by water pumped from the Josephine. It was raised into large receivers, softened of its hardness, and the lime largely eliminated. This continued until the new scheme of the County Council was first turned on as an emergency during the wicked and disastrous strikes of 1921. At first the average rate was 6s. per pound, due almost entirely to the enormous and quite extraordinary costs created by the exigencies of the War. For the present year the rate will be 5s or thereby.
The Lochgelly Coalfield as now developed has had a prosperous and well-managed career. It will employ now from 6 to 7,000 men, and pay in wages some £8,000 per week. It rose out of the small beginnings by John Henderson about the early forties of the nineteenth century. It is still ably managed by John Paul, C.E., and Robert Stone, Secretary.
From the beginning of the seventeenth century, there was great eagerness in securing coal until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the toy-workings, if we might use the term concerning this great industry, began to disappear. Any "coal getting" attempted depended largely on the success of the Lochgelly miners in draining their workings naturally to the River Ore, or in running their " levels " so that water might ultimately reach that watershed. Then 100 tons a day was seldom reached. In an old report, dated 1825, the following coal was available:
Smithy Coal, ... ... ... ... ... ... 2 feet (thickness)
The Three Feet Coal, ... ... 3 feet
The Fourteen Feet, ... ... ... 14 feet
Lochgelly Splint, ... ... ... ... .6 feet
Parrot Coal, ... ... ... ... ... ... 4 feet
The Glass Coal, ... ... ...... .4 feet
By mining on the stoop and room system, most of the coal brought from the underdip workings was carried to the surface, and any water found was, if unnaturally drainable, lifted by hand leverage, placed beside the old Gin Pit, which again delivered it into the Engine level, whence it passed to the river through the Engine Pit.
Since the advent of mighty machinery, motor-driven appliances, and great pumping engines, mining is one of the greatest and most interesting scientific industries of our times; and the contrast is nowhere greater than under Lochgelly Company of today, with its early life under John Henderson, who was then joined by Messrs. Russell, Falkirk; Thomas Grainger, contractor; and R. W. Kennard, of the Falkirk Iron Company, whose names remain on several Lochgelly streets. In their time, iron and blast furnaces stood in the " coal yard " near the railway station. In 1850, Mr. Henderson, who was joined by Mr. Andrew Wallace, chief clerk at Lochgelly, withdrew to his Cuttlehill property, and founded there the firm of Henderson, Wallace, & Fraser. When he left, Mr. Andrew Landale became the Manager at Lochgelly, and in 1872, when death had removed the original partners, the Lochgelly Iron & Coal Company was formed with a capital of £100,000. In 1896, Lord Glenarthur, of Glasgow, became Chairman, a post held by Mr. Jas. R. Stewart, Glasgow, since 1872. On Little Raith estate, the property of Wemyss of Wemyss Castle, the Company has the Gordon, the Dora, and the Lochhead, on lands to the left-hand side of the tramway route to Dunfermline. On Lord Minto's estate there are the Melgund, Newton, Jenny Gray, Nellie, Eliza, Minto, the Mary, and the Arthur. The capital of the Company is now £100,000 preference and £ 150,000 ordinary shares. All the seams wrought are 'Lochgelly Splint, the Glassee, the Parrot, Mynheer, Five Feet, and Dunfermline Splint.
In their Minto Colliery (newer and up-to-date) the following seams may now be manipulated with calculated ease and precision:
DEPTH. THICKNESS. Fathoms. Ft. Ins.
Little Splint Coal, ... ... ...depth 60 fathoms thickness 3ft 2in
Royal Coal. ... ... ... ..... ...depth 62 fathoms thickness 5ft
Fourteen Feet, ... ... ..... .depth 77 fathoms thickness 7ft
Duddie Davie, ... ... ...... .depth 86 fathoms thickness 4ft
Lochgelly Splint, ... ... ...depth 100 fathoms thickness 6ft
Lochgelly Parrot, ... ... .. depth 103 fathoms thickness 3ft
Glassee, ... ... ... ... ... ... depth 114 fathoms thickness 4ft
Mynheer, ... ... ... ... ... ... depth 125 fathoms thickness 3ft 6in
Five Feet, ... ... ... ...... ... depth 160 fathoms thickness 4ft
Dunfermline Splint, ... .depth 165 fathoms thickness 2ft
In 1856 an old wooden shovel was found in the coal workings to the east of the town. It is about 3 feet over all - the stalk being 2 feet and the flat 1 foot by 7 inches broad. An old sluice door, with a piece of an old wooden bowl, were also found in the same disused mine. These finds were given by Mr. Landale to the Pittencrieff House Museum, Dunfermline, where they can be seen at any time.
The old Fife miner, as found in this parish, was called a " hereaboots man," as distinguished from the " incomer," who might be styled a " Loudaner " (East and West Lothians), a " Heelanter," from north of Forth and Tay, or a " Wast Cuntry man," against whom there was a deep-set aversion. Notwithstanding the ever-increasing interchange caused by the introduction of our railways in 1845, there is still a hint of clannish moments when he describes imported agitators as " weaklings " and "parasites." Though many of them are descendants of the " adscriptiglebae " - serfs sold with their mines - they are no serfs in spirit. One great old hero used to wax eloquent in his " despite " of the " imported gaffers" - "paper-bags," as he used to call them in his wrath, when diligently himself maintaining the dignity of his county. Dear "Old Wull" used to say when these incomers were pouring in and cutting out his sons, whom he had trained practically, "Weel a weel: this is no like yesterday! Ye canna lie fou' at the yet noo withoot getting yer pooches pickit."
An esteemed old miner has written the following account of mining life around his favourite Lochgelly for the last 150 years. It was printed in 1896: "We are the oldest race of miners that belongs to Lochgelly, and have been all born in that little row of houses called Lencherhead, and the mines where they wrocht were round about it. It was the custom at that time for the man and his wife to work both. The man digged the coals, and his wife carried them to the pit bank on her back. They were called 'bearers' and if anything went wrong with the man, she had to be both miner and bearer. Such was the case with my Grandmother. She was left a widow with five of a family, three girls and two boys. My Father was 6 months old and my Uncle B—— was two years, there being no other way for her to support her family but to make herself a general miner. So she put her two boys in her coal creel, carried them down the pit, and laid them at the stoop side until she digged her coals and carried them to the pit bank on her back. When she rested, she gave my Father a drink and my Uncle a spoonful of cold stoved potatoes: tatties formed their staple living at that time. There were only 9 miners in Lochgelly at that time, and at the end of the year my Grandmother had the highest output of coal in Lochgelly work. Their daily output was little over 10 tons. Last time the mining industry of Lochgelly was brought up, she was the leading character. After her family grew up, she drove both coal mines and stone ones. She drove a great part of the day level leading from Water Ore. The air was sometimes that (so) bad that a light of no description would burn: the only light she had was the reflection from fish-heads, and her family carried the rede (redd, or refuse) to the bank. (The name of this remarkable female miner was Hannah Hodge.) Sir Gilbert Elliot was the laird of Lochgelly at that time. He had them all up to Lochgelly House two or three times a year, and had a proper 'spree' with them. There 'was' two Englishmen, father and son, the name of Chisholm, took Lochgelly work and kept it as long as they lived, and their sons after them. They invented the first machine for raising coal, and that was a windlass, and they raised the output from 10 to 15 tons. The only machine for raising coal before that was the miners' wives. As time rolled on, father and son got married on my two aunts. Such a marriage has not taken place in Lochgelly for one hundred and fifteen years (before that). William Stewart carried on the work after their father's death. They introduced a gin, and brought the output up to 25 tons. When the Hendersons took the work, they raised it to 30 tons. And it has increased ever since that time. When the ' Nellie' workings got up through on the old workings that I heard them talk so much about, I ' travelled ' (walked) a whole day to see where my Father and Mother wrought, and I saw my Uncle B.'s ' mind' (mine), where he made such a narrow escape of his life. He was driving a 'mind' from the parrot seam to the 'splent' to let off a great quantity of water that was lying there. It blew the side out of his 'mind.' It knocked him up to the high side, which saved his life. If he had gone out the day level with the water, he had never been seen again. He was very jocular, and about as good of walking on his hands as feet. He got himself rightly arranged with his lamp hanging on his 'back-side' and walked up and down past Launcherhead doors, and every one that looked out thought they were no use going to work that day after seeing a man walking about the place wanting the 'head.' All the miners in Lochgelly lived in Cooperhall and Launcherhead, and ' was full' of superstition,"
The folklore of the Fife miner is good, though scanty. He will tell you " it is unlucky to harry a swallow's nest," or "to have peacock's feathers in your house ": but " a man who has killed a lot o' pigs in his day stands a good chance of seeing the Deil." He believed that "sudden silence meant the passage of an angel through his room." To dream of the loss of teeth or fingers means death." In the event of a fatal accident in his pit, " every collier, within knowledge of that event, will come to the surface." It is unlucky to " start work, or begin a journey, on a Friday "; and unlucky to "turn back after you have left the house."
"Hogmanay " is long triumphant as their date for marriages. I have often married on that night from ten to fifteen couples. Everything is made "snug" for the new year. "Guising" and "first-fitting" are still indulged in by the " halflins." If one of them be red-haired, woe betide him: his attribute of misfortune only leaves the house at Hogmanay next. Sometimes a miner "sleeps in" and "loses" his "shift," and the only " excaise " (explanation) vouchsafed is, " they had a' been sleepin in ever since that dovey-heidit (dovey, pigeon, sleepy-headed) cratur had been their first-fit."
Some festival customs still persist, though many have gone. We have the " ball-field " plantation, to tell us where the farm-servants (many of whom on reaching 50 became oncost pitmen) had their bowling green or "Ba' field " in the vicinity of Balgreggie House - an annual festival after "earing-time " in "the merry month of May," a custom long since fallen into desuetude.
Quite recently I was present at a wedding where an old farm servant of more than seventy summers persisted in kissing the bride and tying round the elder sister's left knee, much to the discomfiture of the assembled ladies, a broad strip of green ribbon. Then he said to her " Marry for love and work for siller." This roused the curious as to whose turn for " cries (banns) came nixt," and so and so was announced as " gettin mairit." " Wha's he takkin?" said one. Had the question been of a woman, it would have ran, " Wha's she gettin?" Then followed criticisms as old as Scotch doubt: " She's owre mony werrocks (bunions) to get a man." " Him-mou'ed lassies never get a man; but muckle-mou'ed anes get twa," and " When they tak' a man, they tak' a maister."
It is regarded as a disgrace to be married without the "cries" (banns). It begets a pitiless sneer, the "hung up"; and " mairit by the Shirra is neither yae thing nor anither: she can rin awa' when she likes." " Ye may as weel gang tae the smiddy " (tae the blacksmith) .
St. Swithin's Day is " the day the deer lies doon/* meaning that the grass will be dry if St. Swithin's be dry," " and so will 6 weeks be to come."
I remember a college friend, thirty years ago, venturing near the harvesters in Murrayknowes fields, being seized upon and given "Benjie." It was a rough handling. They tossed him in the air; and threw him on the stooks. Money saved the situation. They let him off for a couple " o' shillins," like their brethren the masons, for a "foondin (foundation stone) pint." Next Sunday was stooky Sunday. The crops were all cut and standing in the stooks: but my friend's face was a study as the harvesters joined him in worship without a grin on their faces, and heard him preach with pride. He " was jist fine."
I have not heard many proverbs, but some remaining are: "A hoose-de'il and a causey-saint." "A scabbit heid's aye in the way." "A wummain's wark's never dune, an' she's naethin' to show for't." "Wi' your ee on your wark an' your pooch fu' o' baccy." "As fly 'as the Fife kye, an' they can knit stockins wi' their horns." "He has a gude neck." "Freens gree best separate." "Seein's believin', but findin's (feeling) the naked truth." "Soo's tail tae ye." One's sense of suggestion requires training in face of these quaint sentences.
Turning the key was a curious custom. The Presbytery frowned on "the silly practice." "Compeired Janet Dick and Andro Allan, both confessing the turning of the key: the said Andro affirming that ane John Fullarton, a sailor, he having told him that he wanted some moneys, went to David Wood in Arbroath, a sailor also, and told him that Andro Allan wanted some money, and desyred him to goe to him who came to him and taught and caused him to turn the key for it befoir two servands."
''Compeared David Wood, sailor, confessed he turned the key in Kirkcaldie, and that he learned it in ane English shipp where some of the company, wanting something, they took the Byble and enclosed ane key into it and read the 5oth Psalm at the i8th verse, and named all the names in the shipp, and when they lighted upon the man whom they suspected, the key turned about. James Gibson and James Kay, sailors in Kirkcaldie, being also sowmmoned witnesses thairto. Andro Allan and David Wood being confronted anent the turning of the key, the said Andro declaired that the said David turned the key in Margaret Law's house in a chamber themselfs alone, whilk the said David denyed bot confessed that he told him all the forme how to do it." David afterwards confessed " his guiltiness in turning the key both in teaching and practising the samyne." He was ordered " to stand at the Kirk door in sackcloth betwixt the two last bells to the preaching upon the Sabbath and thair-after to goe to the place of public repentance and confess his fault publicklie, and desyres the magistrates to ward him till he find cautioner to obey."