Tag Archives: Coal mining

On 9 April

Lovely story from an old newspaper cutting that appeared on today’s date celebrating my ancestor Robert Strachan.

9 April 1713
Baptism of Abraham Rock at Worsbrough, son of Abraham Rock. He is my gggggg grandfather as his daugter Alice Rock married Joseph Green.

9 April 1811
Baptism of ggg aunt Alice Green at Worsbrough, daughter of Joseph Green and Ann Cox.

9 April 1898
The following appeared in the Dundee Courier & Argus: the Robert Strachan who won a prize was the son of my gggg uncle.
Dundee Courier & Argus, 9 April 1898
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. …
Mr Robert Strachan was born about the same time as Mr Harrower (1823), but was half a year younger in making his first practical acquaintance with life underground (7 or 8 years old), 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.

9 April 1952
My cousin once removed who lives in the north-east of England was born. Happy birthday cousin! This shows how the generations go out of age sync when people had a lot of children over a large span of years. I’m actually his mother’s cousin but I’m only six months older than him, due to my being the youngest child of a youngest child. His grandfather was my father’s older brother.

Strachan page – addition

I’ve added a new page to the Strachan section: the story of Thomas Strachan born 1749 and Susannah Alexander born 1752, and their children. Thomas and Susannah were a coal mining family from Ayrshire, had a large family, and their children went on to have large families. So there must be a lot of people out there who are descended from the same couple. I’ve also rejigged the Strachan section so hopefully things are a bit easier to find.

Book Recommendation: The Mineworkers by Robert Duncan

The Mineworkers

An essential read for anyone with Scottish coal mining ancestors. Robert Duncan is an academic specialising in labour history. His book goes from the early development of the coal mining industry in Scotland and ends with the miners’ strike of the 1980s. Very well written and researched, with a good focus on the lives of the actual miners and their families. Lots of illustrations and photos too.

Online sources if you have Scottish ancestors

Thought I’d mention a few web sites I’ve found excellent for padding out the detail of my Scottish ancestors’ lives.

National Library of Scotland’s digital gallery – access point to historical maps of Scotland, Post Office directories, gazetteers of towns and parishes, plus lots of other fascinating stuff.

Statistical Accounts of Scotland – a very good read to get a feel for where your Scottish ancestors lived. The Old Statistical Reports were published in 1791-1799 and the New Statistical Reports in 1834-1845.

Brilliant site if you have Scottish coal mining ancestors. Lists of mines, copies of housing and other reports, and an index of coal mining deaths and accidents

Access to Scottish historical tax rolls from 1645 to 1831.

Golden Wedding report from 1910

Under the “Strachan” tab (above) I’ve added a page that contains a transcript of a newspaper report from a 1910 issue of the Kilmarnock Standard that I came across online. I assume it was put online by a descendent of the featured couple so, whoever you are, thank you.

The couple are Janet Strachan, daughter of my ggg grandfather’s brother, and her husband Alexander Lindsay (known as Alex). The newspaper article published to celebrate their 50 years of married life gives a lovely insight into coal miners’ lives at the time, and is reassuring in that the picture it paints is of a better lifestyle than we might perhaps imagine. Certainly they worked very hard and lived in houses we’re very glad we don’t have to live in, but there was also a very obvious sense of family and community pulling together and making life as good as they could. And they had time for leisure: Alex Lindsay was a star of the local Quoiting Club and a keen angler, as well as being on a local education committee. They both came from large families, had twelve children and, by 1910, had 42 grandchildren.

Janet’s birthday was today, so when I was looking up “who did what today” she was on the list, which reminded me of the newspaper article.

On 25 March

25 March 1873

A big day on my family tree – my grandfather Henry Strachan was born. Sadly, I know nothing about him apart from what I’ve been able to research, nor do I have any photos, as not only did he die before I was born but he died 3 days before my father’s second birthday so my father had no memories of him to pass on. Henry was a coal miner, born at Crookedholm, the eighth child of coal miner Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. He’s Henry in all the records but my father always said his name was actually Hendry. He was named after his uncle, the brother of his father, who did manage to get himself listed as Hendry in one census.

Fortunately, as Henry he’s fairly well documented in the records. In 1881 he’s an 8 year old living with his parents and siblings in Crookedholm, and he’s still there, with his parents at Lamont’s Land, Crookedholm, in 1891, a 19 year old coal miner. His older brother Robert had died the year before and, sadly, his older sister Flora was to die two years later.

Henry met local girl Helen McCrae, who lived in Hurlford and was the daughter of a coal miner, and she gave birth to their first child in September 1895. No marriage took place at the time, but that might have had something to do with the health of Henry’s father, who died in December 1895 of cardiac disease. But Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae did get married in March 1896, at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, and they went on to have a total of 11 children, my father being the youngest. In the 1901 census they were living at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, with three children.

In 1905 the Valuation Roll has, at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, Henry Strachan collier living next door to Henry Strachan pitheadman. This is my grandfather and his uncle but I don’t know which is which, though it’s more likely that the older Henry is the pitheadman as it was a job that usually went to older miners. They were both living in housing rented by Portland Colliery.

Some time between 1906 and 1908 the family moved to Lanarkshire, to an area that is now classed as Glasgow. They first settled at Tollcross, where their next child was born. Henry’s younger brother also moved to Tollcross and there were a number of other relations already in the area. No doubt the main reason for the move was better or more secure work in the coal mines. Then they moved to Cambuslang, but times must have been tough as in the 1911 census the family is in a two roomed tenement at 14 Mansion Street in a household comprising Henry and Helen, 9 children aged from 15 to 2 months, and two lodgers, both coal miners. A very crowded household indeed!

In 1912 Helen and Henry’s youngest child, William, died at the age 1 of measles and broncho-pneumonia. This must have been what prompted Henry to take out a title on a plot at Westburn Cemetery: I have the original title deed in my possession because my father ended up with it. Henry and family had moved by then and were living at 54 Gilbertfield Buildings. The address suggests Henry was working at the Gilbertfield Mine near Cambuslang, owned by United Collieries and which in 1910 employed 315 underground and 82 above ground. The mine owners’ houses for employees are described in a 1910 report as two storey, erected in 1884, with large rooms, wc in a close, and an inside sink with water. In the 1915 Valuation Roll Henry Strachan miner is the tenant of 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Overton Street, owned by United Collieries, and paying a yearly rent of £9 12s.

Henry Strachan died on 27 November 1918 at the age of 45, of pneumonia arteriosclerosis – a common cause of premature death in coal miners. He left behind a widow and 10 children, 5 of whom had not yet reached working age.

Adding a Haggerty page

I’ve finally got round to writing up my research into my Haggerty ancestors, and have added a Haggerty page.

They haven’t been the easiest to research, and hopefully when more “stuff” gets to be online I may discover more, and as many of them migrated to America there’s little research I can do here in the UK. Going backwards, my suspicion is the earliest Haggerty I know I’m descended from – Joseph Haggerty the husband of Jean Orr – was born in Ireland some time in the mid to late 1700s. When I get to put “born in Ireland” against someone on my tree my going back research stops at that point, as Irish births are impossible to find when you have no idea where, when and to whom someone was born.

But what research I was able to do took me into the coal mining history of Glenbuck, in the parish of Muirkirk, and into trying to find out where cottages at Boat Stabs in the parish of Dundonald could have been located: by the sea is my guess, though they could have been on the south side of the River Irvine. I also found about the coal mining history of Indiana and California, and tried to imagine what it would have been like crossing the Atlantic in the late 1800s. Not exactly a cruise, I suppose, but at least by then it was done by steamship in about nine days.

I do love how family history takes you into so many different but equally fascinating areas.