Mining Veterans – 69 Years In The Pit, And Still Working – Old Times Recalled - “Worthies” Relate Their Experiences And Draw Comparisons - Who are the oldest miners still working ?

That is the question which has been answered by a competition in the Weekly News. That there is no hardier or more daring body of men in the country than those who work in the bowels of the earth goes without saying, but few people are aware that a number of miners can lay claim to having worked underground for well nigh "the allotted span " of life. These veterans, of course, were early engaged in the pits, many of them having been working; when they were but eight years of age. They have recollections of the time when women were employed in the mines, and several of them have stories to tell of being carried to the pits on their fathers' backs. Mr Alex. Russell, Church Street, Tranent, remembers one very stormy winter when his mother bore him to the pit in her creel. Mr John Laws, Blyth, who has been awarded first prize, has a record of sixty-nine years, and can fairly lay claim to be the "father" of British miners. The other prizes have been awarded to John Harrower, Grangemouth; Robert Strachan. Kilmarnock ; Colin Campbell, Shiremoor; Joseph Gilmour, Larkhall.

The following is a list of the oldest miners still working :
John Laws, Cowpen Coal Company's Mill Pit, Crofton, Blyth, Northumberland age 77, emloyed 69 years
John Harrower, Middle Street, Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, age 74, employed 67 years
Robert Strachan, Kiln Row, by Kilmarnock, age 74, employed 66.5 years
Colin Campbell, Whitby Row, Shiremoor, Northumberland, age 74, employed 66 years
Joseph Gilmour, Shawsburn, Larkhall, age 72, employed 65 years
James Muir, 4 Bertram Street, Greenfield, Hamilton, age 72, employed 64 years
Robert Curnow, Lambie's Buildings, Drygate Street, Larkhall, age 74, employed 64 years
Howard Steen, 75 West Benhar, by Whitburn, age 71, employed 64 years
James Penman, sen., 8 David Street, Buckhaven, Fife, age 72, employed 64 years
Alex. Bowman, sen., 12 Dunnikier Row, Kirkcaldy, age 71, employed 64 years
Alex. Innes, 11 New Row, Wallyford, by Musselburgh, age 73, employed 63 years
William Meiklejohn, 105 George Street, Paisley, age 73, employed 63 years
Thomas M'Farlane, Gauchalland Toll, by Galston, Ayrshire, age 72, employed 63 years
Robert Brown, 39 Dalhousie Cottages, by Bonnyrigg, age 73, employed 63 years
John Dunsmuir, 112 New Logans, Motherwell, age 71, employed 63 years
Alexander Russell, Church Street, Tranent, age 69, employed 62 years
Thomas Malcolm, No 15 Fairfield, Lassodie, by Dunfermline, age 70, employed 62 years
John Boyd, 99 Hagg's Road, Near Pollokshaws, age 71, employed 62 years
Daniel Gray, 2 Boyd's Rows, Overtown, Wishaw, age 77, employed 62 years
Robert Steel, Ure's Land, Bishopbriggs, by Glasgow, age 72, employed 62 years
Robert Wallace, Glenbuck, by Douglas, age 71, employed 62 years
Walter Baird, 133 Roman Road, Motherwell, age 72, employed 62 years
James Darling, 102 Oakbank Rows, Midcalder, age 71, employed 62 years
Alexander Neilson, 24 George Street, Burnbank, Lanarkshire, age 70, employed 60 years
George Brown, c/o John Brown, Oakfield, Kelty, age 70.5, employed 61.5 years
Andrew Easton, 15 East Longrigg, by Airdrie, age 73, employed 61.25 years
James Rae, Old Monkland Cottages, by Coatbridge, age 69, employed 61 years
John Johnstone, Balgonie Square, Markinch, age 71, employed 61 years
John Whyte, no 49 Blackbraes, by Falkirk, age 69, employed 61 years
William Sneddon, Simpson's Buildings, Carfin, Motherwell,age 70, employed 61 years
William Walker, 26 New Row, Wallyford, by Musselburgh, age 68, employed 60 years
H. Drysdale, sen., Richardson Stead, Scremerston, Berwick, age 70, employed 60 years
William Archibald, Wemyss Square, Fordell, Crossgates, Fife, age 68, employed 59 years
James Gordon, 55 Gartgill, Coatbridge, age 67, employed 59 years
Alexander Stevenson, Gartgill Thatch Row No 3, by Coatbridge, age 68, employed 58 years
Samuel Kelso, Brand's Land, Cleland road, Wishaw, age 66, employed 58 years
Joseph Hale, Bankend, Coalburn, by Hamilton, age 64, employed 58 years
James Paton Miller, 48 Lumphinnans, by Cowdenbeath, Fife, age 75, employed 58 years
John Mitchell, Devon Bank, by Alloa, age 64, employed 57 years
James Moffat, Summerhouse, by Falkirk, age 65, employed 57 years
Peter Docherty, 61 Smithstone Row, Croy, by Glasgow, age 64, employed 55 years
John Adamson, 16 Devon Square, Sauchie, by Alloa, age __, employed 53 years
James Hughes, 30 Station Road, Haywood, by Carstairs, age 72, employed 53 years
R. Monteith, 70 Main Street, Kirkconnell, by Sanquhar, age 63, employed 52 years
Thomas Watson, Dalquharran Colliery, Dailly, by Maybole, age 62, employed 51 years
William M'Goughan, Baillieston, age 63, employed 51 years
William Allan, Limerigg, Slamannan, age 59, employed 50 years
William Maclean, 18 Benquhat, Dalmellington, age 60, employed 50 years
Charles M'Pherson, East Longrigg, Longriggend, age 56, employed 47 years

Mr John Laws, who was an underground miner for the long period of 69 years last Monday, commenced work when 8 years of age at Backworth B Pit, and is now working at the Cowpen Coal Company's Mill Pit at Crofton, Blyth. Though 77 years of age, he is still working in the dreary mine, and sends up coal with the youngest.

Mr John Harrower, who comes next with 67 years' service, was born on 16th October 1823, and started to work with his father in the pit eight years later with the Clackmannan Coal Company. He afterwards wrought for 22 years with the Dundee Company, whose employment he left to work in Stirlingshire at Skinflats. In 1853 he started with Mr Mackay, and has been there ever since. He left off working coal for himself about 15 years ago, and has since been engaged as roadsman and bottomer, putting up from 230 to 250 hutches of mineral per day.

Mr Robert Strachan was born about the same time as Mr Harrower, but was was half a year younger in making his first practical acquaintance with life underground, when he was taken to the Moorfield Pit. Afterwards he was engaged at Skerlington, Hurlford, Burnbank, Gauchland, and Galston, and has now come back to the first mentioned.

For sixty-six years Mr Colin Campbell has been digging for black “diamonds” having started when he was a boy of eight in No 4 Drumpelier Pit, Coatbridge. He is at present working in Church Pit, Backworth, near Newcastle, and as he is still hale and hearty, he expects to send up plenty of minerals to the surface yet.

Mr Joseph Gilmour can claim 65 years experience of practical mining to his credit. When 8 years old he entered the old Wester Pit, Westmuir, near Glasgow, and is now working in Birkrigg pit, near Larkhall. Mr Gilmour has performed several heroic acts in his day. When a youth he was employed in the Wellshot Pit, and it was there he was the means of saving the lives of fifty men. The old workings became full of water, and disaster at every moment threatened the men working at the west side of the pit. Young Gilmour saw the danger, and without hesistation and at the risk of being caught by the flood himself, ran and warned his comrades. But for his action there is little doubt the miners would have been overtaken by the flood, and, as escape was impossible, lost their lives.

Mr John Mitchell, Devon Bank, was a witness of the Hartley disaster, in 1852, when the beam broke and fell down the shaft, closing the pit. No fewer than 200 men then lost their lives, and it was eleven days before their bodies could be recovered. Over thirty years ago, Mr Mitchell was the pursuer in the bad air csee against the Clackmannan owners. As the result of his appearance in Court he could not get employment. He was forced to remove to the West Country, where he changed his name and was successful in getting a start. So recently as March of last year, Mitchell had a narrow escape from death, several men lost their lives in the Devon Colliery, where he was then, and is still, engaged.

Mr Thomas Malcolm, Lassodie, writes that when he first entered the mines there were no cages used and no signals given, nor was there any pithead scaffolding. The hutches were used for winding the men and women up and down the shaft.

The Record For Long Service - Mr James Muir, Greenfield, Hamilton, has spent forty of the sixty-four years he has been working in Greenfield Colliery, and, besides, he has never been out of the county. But the record in that line belongs to Mr Robert Monteith, Kirkconnel, by Sanquhar. Mr Monteith is a miner of fifty-two years' standing, and all that time he has wrought in the employment of the Messrs Whighams. An extra prize has been awarded Mr Monteith on this account. [Dundee Courier & Argus, 9 April 1898]