HeadLine: Men who powered an Empire
The Mirror, 30/03/2002, p7
by SHAUN MILNE & GRAHAM TIBBETTS
ARMIES of men, thousands strong, marched to work.
Their blackened faces bore testament to their trade – hewing the
precious fuel which powered Scotland’s economy.
From Fife to Ayrshire, across virtually all of Lanarkshire and the
Lothians, working class boys as young as 12 were guaranteed a job down
the pit. It was once the lifeblood of the UK and its Empire.
Coal fuelled the furnaces which famously made Britain the workshop of
Steel mills, power stations, ship yards, factories and homes all relied
on the stuff.
And the mine was the lifeblood of every pit village.
It sustained steel bands, sports teams, social clubs, church
congregations and day trips.
At its peak, Scotland’s mining industry employed 150,000 men in more
than 500 pits, producing 42 million tonnes of coal a year.
In 1914, Fife alone had 30,000 miners.
But the demise of heavy industry spelled the end for coal. As new fuels
and new industries began to shape the economy, the outlook for coal
Waves of pit closures during the 1980s and 1990s left the industry
And Longannet was the last remaining deep coal mine .
Yesterday, like all the others, it was flattened by the march of time.
Not because there is no coal to excavate.
But because the moneymen have decided it is too great a risk for their
And, for once, those who work in darkness, have been forced to agree on
Floodwaters of 50 million gallons are threatening to engulf the
And last night respected historian Guthrie Hutton, who wrote the book –
Fife: The Mining Kingdom – said it was a sad day for an industry that
had given so much.
He said: “What is particularly tragic about this is Longannet is a
truly remarkable feat of engineering with its five-mile long
underground conveyor belt.
“It will be a crushing blow to the men. They were trying to extend the
coalface from the north to the south.”
The flood at Longannet may have washed away coal from Scotland’s
industrial future – but the black gold has left an indelible mark on
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