Bannockburn’s Industrial History:Coal Mining Section

by John Dreczkowski 16th April 2008

Miners working on the coalface at Bilston Glen mine

Although there is little or no physical evidence around Bannockburn of any coal mining activity, coal mining for a period of a few centuries was a major contributor to Bannockburn’s well being and development of the community.

Viewing the survey maps of 1860, revised 1896, we can recognise old mine shafts around Corbiewood, Bentheads area, Western Greenyards and Auchenbowie, although we have no way of determining the operational periods of these shafts due to the slow extraction processes we could expect them to be 50-100 years life of the shafts.

The Muir of Bannockburn indicates 2 old shafts, but more interesting shows signs of an early mining community with rows of housing and an old disused school, which would be understandable as at this period of time. Mine and mill owners provided housing for their workers, normally close to the works as public transport did not exist. It was normal for more than one member of the family to work in the mines including children and women, where the men would work the coal and the children and women were involved in transporting the coals to the surface of the shaft. Working conditions were very dangerous and hard, all works were carried out by hand and transport by human manpower.

Women and children working underground was called to a halt in the 1888’s, but they continued to work on surface activities for some time. Greenyards Colliery was in production from 1830 to the 1889. A significant investment in coal mining by the Alloa Coal Company saw a major step forward in mining methods in Bannockburn around 1893 bringing an end to older mining activities. The Alloa Coal Company began sinking shafts at Bannockburn Colliery, to reach the Bannockburn main seam. A second shaft was sunk at Sink Farm in 1903 to harvest the Hartley coals. Both delivered excellent coking coals for foundries. In 1933, Pirnhall mine opened for coking coal. Due to the nature of the seams, all works at the face were hand worked. In 1936 Carron Company took owner ship from Alloa Coal Company to secure coking coal resources for their foundries.

A major transition how coals were mined was developing due to the usage of steam and electrical powered equipment. Where possible, at deeper shafts, mechanical rope and cage systems were needed to carry the coals to the surface from the pit bottom. Coal getting and underground transport systems were also developing, but in the early days of these new types of collieries, pit ponies were to become an important transport tool, as the coal faces were increasingly gaining on distance from the pit bottom. The trend to full mechanisation mining would be quickly developed during the next years.

New collieries required a quick and large increase in their work force to meet their needs. Bannockburn was seeing a big migration of miners from other areas, a significant amount of workers came over from Ireland. They were housed and integrated in to the community. During 1909 a law was passed that allowed local authorities to provide social housing, where previously housing was supplied by the mine owners, often to a very poor standard. Colliery villages such as Cowie, Plean and Fallin were built close to the mines and were later upgraded by the NCB and the local authority.

As time moved on and new communities settled to live and integrate together, the coal industry nationalised. Cowie Drift Mine operated Pirnall to their closure in 1950-60. As larger mines in the Carse coal fields took over, coal production many miners transferred to Carse or Fife collieries.

There is no longer any coal production in the Bannockburn nor the Carse fields. Not the most glamorous occupation working in coal, but comradeship and friendship in their hardship was a bye word. I have not gone in to detail as I am sure that there will be folk in the community who will have a better recount of life in the coal industry.

If you have a story our old photos let us know by email me at: johnKws@aol.coml

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