The Fife Coal Company Limited
In 1946 the Company produced a book containing photos and short biographies of their veteran employees:
Part 1 Adams to Laird
Part 2 Liddle to Young
The book also contains a brief history of the company by Charles Augustus Carlow
The Fife Coal Company Limited – The Jubilee Year 1872 – 1922
By And. S. Cunningham, September 1922
James VI. was a maker of sayings which today rank among the proverbs of the “Kingdom of Fife.” In the days of the Scottish Solomon, many coal mines and salt works were at work on the shores of the Forth between Culross and Pittenweem, while in the centre and the northern boundaries of the county the sparse populations which existed lived chiefly by farming on patches of land, which, because of the primitive methods adopted, yielded poor crops. The striking difference in the industrial conditions led James to compare the county to “A beggar’s mantle with a fringe of gold.” Great changes in the industrial conditions have taken place since the monarch coined what he considered one of his happiest sayings. Fife has for many years produced more wheat than any other county in Scotland, and in the centre of the “mantle,” where the King found an absence of wealth, the eye of the visitor lights on collieries, around which all is activity. A perusal of this little work, which is issued on the fiftieth anniversary of The Fife Coal Company, Limited, will, I think, impress the reader with the feeling that, if the Royal happy phrase-maker could come back to the Palaces of Dunfermline and Falkland, he would be compelled to revise his Fife proverb. The mineral developments of recent years have been enormous. A statistical record of the contributions made to the coal output of the county by The Fife Coal Company will be found in the pages which follow.
A.S.C., 13 Granby Road, Edinburgh, September, 1922.
The Fife Coal Company, Ltd.
The Jubilee Year
In his “College Memories” Robert Louis Stevenson writes :- “The generations pass away swiftly on the high seas of life,” and he goes on to speak of being “conscious of the dignity of years.” When people who have reached “the dignity of years” slip the collar and look back, they cannot help being impressed with the swift flight of time. To me it looks but yesterday since the announcements were made in Fife that The Fife Coal Company, Limited, had been formed, and had taken over the works of the Beath and Blairadam Coal Company at Kelty, and that Mr Charles Carlow had been appointed General Manager. A glance at the records of mining in the ancient “Kingdom” shews, however, that the Company was formed in September, 1872, and that Mr Carlow’s appointment dates from March, 1873. These dates mean that the Company will celebrate its Jubilee in September of the present year, 1922, and will be in the unique position of having a Chairman and Managing Director who has, without a break, been at the head of the management of the concern for 49 1/2 long years.
Pittencrieff Glen, Dunfermline
When Coal was first worked at Kelty and Culross.
Coal was first wrought in Scotland by the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the great churches which were founded by David I., the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret. The monks of Newbattle Abbey were digging fuel from a crop seam near Tranent in the first decade of the thirteenth century, and in 1291 the proprietor of the estate of Pittencrieff, Dunfermline, granted a charter to the abbot and the convent of the ancient city, giving the fathers of the Church power to open a coal-heugh on the estate “in such a way that they may get from thence sufficiency of coal for their own use,” but upon no account were they to “presume to sell the fuel to others.” It is apparent from the language of the charter that coal had been gotten from the banks of the Tower Burn in the historic Pittencrieff Glen before 1291, and in prohibiting the monks from selling coal to the private consumer the proprietor of the estate was evidently anxious to preserve his rights as a coalowner, or the rights of a lessee to a monopoly of trading outwith the Church. From the thirteenth to the middle of the sixteenth century, however, the Church had an enormous power over all classes of communities, and it is evident from glimpses which early historians give us now and again that for many years the development of minerals outwith the Church lands was extremely slow. Æneas Silvius, who became Pope Pius II., in the reign of James II. (1436-1460) made a pilgrimage to Scotland, and he has left it on record that he saw poor people begging in rags at the church doors, and that for alms they were presented with “black stones” with which they went away contented. The time came when the abbots and monks did not confine themselves to supplying the churches. They found that they could exchange coals with the ordinary consumer for other necessaries of life. A considerable trade was even opened up with the foreigner, coals being accepted as readily in payment of the wines and other merchandise which arrived at the Forth harbours for the monasteries as the current coin of the realm. That the progress of mining during the century which followed the visit to Scotland of Pius II was considerable is evident from the record of a pilgrimage which Hector Boece, the Principal of Aberdeen University, made through Fife in 1526. The gossipy, if somewhat inaccurate, Principal tells us that “in Fiffe are won black stainis quhilk hes sa an intolerable heit quhen they are kindillit that they resolve and meltis irne, and are therefore richt profitable for operation of smiths and such artificers as deal with other metals.” These words indicate a considerable industrial trade. At that date the monks of Culross Abbey were operating on the crop seams of the coalfield of Culross, which is now in the hands of The Fife Coal Company, while the miner-monks of Dunfermline were providing fuel for the monastery of Inchcolm from the slopes of the streams running through the parish of Beath. In 1575, fifteen years after the Reformation, Sir George Bruce, an ancestor of the Earl of Elgin, was granted a lease of the minerals of Culross by the Commendator or Lay-Steward of the Crown of Culross Abbey. The lease reads as follows:- “To our worthy friend and cousin, George Bruce, for the great regard we bear to him, for the special care he had of our affairs when we were abroad in France; for his great knowledge and skill in machinery, such like as no other man has in these days ; and for his being the likeliest person to re-establish again the colliery of Culross, which has been long in desuetude, insomuch that we have neither large nor small coal for our own house fire.” Sir George Bruce established a colliery at Culross which was one of the mining wonders of Scotland. He abandoned the flooded day-mines of the monks, sunk shafts, and drained the workings by the Egyptian wheel system of pumping, horses being the driving power both for drainage and winding. A century afterwards the ninth Earl of Dundonald worked coal at Valleyfield, established a tar work, and, while carrying out experiments in connection with the manufacture of tar, discovered the illuminating properties of coal gas.
Centuries before the Reformation of 1560 the barony of Beath belonged to the monastery of Inchcolm, but the great church of the city of Dunfermline held rights over the Beath lands. The rights embraced the minerals, and the Dunfermline ecclesiastical mining engineers in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries discovered coal cropping out on the braes at Cocklaw and Lassodie Mill. When the monks were driven from the churches, the farms, and the collieries in the Reformation storm which swept across Scotland, Commendators or Lay-Stewards were appointed, who were nominally understood to be accountable to the Crown for the Church revenues. So we find Robert Pitcairn, the Commendator of Dunfermline monastery, granting in 1572 a charter bearing on the lands and minerals of “Cocklaw and Lassody,” within the lordship “of Dunfermline.” It appears from this charter that William Douglas of Lochleven and his predecessors and their colliers had been in possession of the “Keltie-heugh colliery” for many years, and the Commendator granted him a new and “perpetual lease” of the colliery, with “power to win new coals” within the limits and bounds specified. Local history often forms interesting links with individuals who figure prominently in national history. In 1606 the charter of “Keltie-heugh colliery” was confirmed to William the sixth Earl of Morton, who was a son of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. Sir William, in 1588, became fifth Earl of Morton, and as students of history will be able to recall, was the custodian of Queen Mary during her imprisonment in Lochleven Castle. William the sixth Earl was admitted to the Privy Council in 1621 ; in 1630 he became Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. In the “Abbot,” Scott provides another link with Kelty and Blairadam of other days. The red-roofed and corbie-stepped gable house on the Blairadam side of the bridge over the stream which forms the boundary of Fife and Kinross was in the old coaching days an inn, which was kept by an old man the name of Keltie, and which we are told “was not very distant from a romantic dell, well known by the name of the Kiery-Craigs.” Scott makes Keltie’s wayside change-house the scene of the struggle between Dryfesdale, Queen Mary’s messenger, and young Seyton. Dryfesdale falls in the fray, and Seyton suggests that a stone should be hung round his neck and that the body be thrown into the “Loch of Ore.” Chief Commissioner Adam of Blairadam gives us many interesting glimpses at the Blairadam collieries of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century in his “Letters to his Son,” Admiral Adam. Pits were put down here and there on the crop coals on the estate, drainage being effected by roadways run from the workings to Kelty burn. Writing of the days of his grandfather, Chief Commissioner Adam says :- “There was upon the estate the most northerly situated coal mines in Scotland ; at that time abundant, apparently inexhaustible, and all workable by a complete and well-formed level. The coal was in full repute, and was brought from below ground by a pit. The pit was in the Collier-house Park, a little to the north of the spot where Maryburgh was built.” Operations were confined at the colliery for a time to an output for private use, despite the assurance that the minerals were “apparently inexhaustible,” but the Chief Commissioner opened up the crop seams on a more extensive scale, and writing in 1772 he says :- “I have seen all the lawn up almost to the doors of Blairadam House covered with coal.” While the pits at Blairadam were in operation, coal was being worked at Oakfield. In 1860, the Earl of Moray sunk No. I Pit at Kelty, then followed No. 2 shaft, and ultimately his Lordship’s two pits were taken over by the Beath and Blairadam Coal Company – viz., Messrs James A, Nasmyth, Thomas Goodall, George P. Grieve, Adam Johnstone, William Johnstone, and D. Nasmyth,
The Advent of The Fife Coal Company.
Although coal had been worked in the Kelty and Blairadam districts under the monks of pre-Reformation times, and under different superiors and tenants between 1560 and 1870, operations had been mostly confined to the upper seams. Of the two lower seams – the Five Feet and the Dunfermline Splint, on which most of the collieries in the western district of the county had from 1850 to 1870 concentrated – only the Five Feet had been partly worked, but the Dunfermline Splint lay intact. With the advent of The Fife Coal Company steps were, without delay, taken to prove the value of the lower coal seams; and in a comparatively short time work had commenced in connection with the sinking and the fitting of the Lindsay Colliery. At this colliery, which was named after the first Chairman of the Company, Provost William Lindsay of Leith, a magnificent hold of all the seams common to the rich coalfields of the western district of Fife was obtained. No better household coal than the Dunfermline Splint had ever been struck in the “Kingdom” and the other eight seams cut through in the shaft were found to be all of good quality and of workable thickness. The Lindsay Colliery fitted, and operating on the seams in most demand, the management turned their attention to the parishes of Wemyss and Scoonie. In 1878 leases were obtained of the coalfields of Leven and Pirnie, and pits were opened on the eastern boundaries of Wemyss and on the estate of Durie, near the burgh of Leven. The Dysart Main seam at Wellsgreen, in the heart of the parish of Wemyss, was leased in 1884, and in 1887 the Company purchased the estate of Hill of Beath. The purchase embraced the Hill of Beath Colliery, which had been in operation for many years, and the new colliery of Dalbeath.
On a site about half a mile to the north-east of the Lindsay, the Aitken pit was sunk, and mid-way between Kelly and Hill of Beath, Kirkford Colliery was established. With the ramifications of the Kelty and Hill of Beath fields bordering on the Cowdenbeath and Lumphinnans workings, it became apparent in 1895 that amalgamation of the concerns belonging to The Fife Coal Company, Limited, and the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, Limited, would have many advantages, and in 1896 the Cowdenbeath and Lumphinnans Collieries were taken over by The Fife Coal Company. This amalgamation was followed by the purchase of the estate of Lochore; the Benarty Colliery, belonging to the Lochore and Capledrae Cannel Coal Company, Limited; the acquisition of Blairadam Colliery and the Blairenbathie pits, on the borders of Fife and Kinross; the Bowhill Colliery, in the parish of Auchterderran ; the Dunnikier Colliery, near Kirkcaldy, the property of the Bowhill Coal Company; and the Donibristle Colliery, in the parish of Aberdour, which for many years had been in the hands of the Nasmyth family. In 1908 the estate of Low Valleyfield, on the western boundaries of the County of Fife, in the parish of Culross, was purchased, and there on the fringes of the Forth two shafts were sunk, the lowest seam, the Dunfermline Splint, being struck at a depth of 217 fathoms. With a view to obtaining a great hold of the seams in the Lochore field, the Mary Pit was sunk to a depth of 335 fathoms in the valley lying immediately to the south of Benarty hill; while in recent years the metals were pierced by two shafts at a point to the east of the village of Kinglassie, and, as the crow flies, about two miles north-east of Bowhill Colliery. The Company has since bought the mineral field of Rothes, and the estate of Kinglassie, while they have on lease large fields of undeveloped minerals in other parts of the county.
The Fife Coal Field
The coal-bearing strata operated upon in the county of Fife is divided into two sections – West Fife and East Fife – or rather the Dunfermline and Wemyss fields. The Dunfermline field extends from Culross on the west to Cardenden and Kirkcaldy on the east, and the Wemyss field commences at Dysart and holds through the parishes of Dysart and part of Markinch and Scoonie parishes. The seams which are worked in the Wemyss field today are all above the Millstone grit, while all the Dunfermline seams are under the Millstone grit. This means, that in days long gone by, the upper coal measures which are today operated upon in the parish of Wemyss have from Culross to Cardenden been swept down the ocean. At the Wemyss Coal Company’s Colliery of Wellesley, near Methil, the Dysart Main, the lowest seam of the upper coal measures, was struck at a depth of 261 fathoms; the Dunfermline Splint seam will at the same spot be at least 700 fathoms from the surface. The seams met with generally in the Dunfermline field are as follows: –
In the Aitken Pit, belonging to The Fife Coal Company, the Dunfermline Splint and Five Feet seams were found to be Navigation coal, and this opened up a new trade for the County of Fife. At Bowhill and No. 11 Pit, Lumphinnans, considerable stretches of Navigation coal are also worked, while at Low Valley field the output is all of Navigation quality. Here is a copy of an analysis of samples drawn from the Navigation coal seams :-
Volatile matter and Ash, 20.48
Fixed Carbon, 77.41
Calorific value—14,690 B.T.U.’s.
Evaporative power (dry)—15.21 lbs. of water from 212 deg. per lb. of coal.
The analysts in their report state:- “The coal was moderately bright, hard, firm, with a crystalline fracture. The volatile matters burned with a long, lasting, bright, white smokeless flame. The coke produced was compact, dull, dark grey, slightly fused and of moderate hardness. The ash was of a very pale stone colour, indicating that not more than a trace of iron was present.”
Above – Views of Aitken Colliery & Kelty Power Station
The Output of Fife County and The Fife Coal Company compared.
At the Coal Commission of 1919 a good deal was said about the decreased output of coal per person employed in and about the mines of Great Britain, which had been experienced for some years. Some of the miners’ leaders attributed the decrease to a desire on the part of the management of many collieries to adhere to antiquated methods of coal-getting rather than adopt modern methods. I disagree entirely with the allegations made by the miners’ representatives. I know of no industry in the country where greater enterprise has been shewn than in that of mining, and in no county in Scotland has progress been more marked than in the County of Fife. Half a century ago an output of from 100 to 200 tons per day of from ten to eleven hours was considered a great achievement in pits where the workings were not more than from 50 to 100 fathoms from the surface. The exhaustion of the more shallow coalfields has necessitated the sinking of shafts in Fife to depths of from 200 to 330 fathoms ; and from the deepest workings outputs of from 1,000 to 2,000 tons per day are in many instances produced in two shifts of seven to eight hours. In 1872, when The Fife Coal Company was formed, there was not a single coal-cutter at work in the county. Today, The Fife Coal Company have 116 mechanical coal-cutters operating on different seams. In 1872 the transport work on the main roads was done by ponies. Today electrical or steam power is utilised on the main arteries, and even on the service roads, which connect the sidings with the working faces, motors have been introduced here and there. While steam is the power principally used in connection with the great pumping engines which raise from 500 to 1,500 gallons of water per minute to the surface, electrical pumps are at work in many of the shafts and also underground on the great dooks which run through the coal seams, for distances of from half a mile to two miles at different gradients, to the dip of the bottoms of the shafts. Undoubtedly one of the most striking features of colliery work of modern times is the care with which all classes of coals are handled, so that they might be placed on the market in the best possible condition. Fifty years ago coals, as they were drawn from the shafts, were rattled over screens into the waggons, and in many cases the large pieces were sold as “Chews” while the small which fell through the bars of the screens were placed on the market as “Chirls” and “Dross.” At every colliery today the loaded hutches are emptied on moveable picking tables, where a staff of workers pick out stones and other foreign matter. While the large coals drop into waggons and are dispatched to. the different markets, the smaller pieces and dross are conveyed to washers, where they are effectively cleaned and separated into fuel of different sizes and qualities. During the coal scarcity of 1920 and the strike in Great Britain of 1921, American triping coal found its way into Continental and other markets in which this country had from time immemorial held a monopoly. The clear glistening washed trebles, nuts, beans and peas of this country present a striking contrast to the American product, and little surprise need be expressed at the fact that within a comparatively short time our foreign markets had been recaptured. Although reduced selling prices had a good deal to do with the re-capture of the trade, there can be no doubt that quality was a great factor. The following table shews the output of the County of Fife in 1872, and for each year from 1891 to 1913, and the output for the corresponding years of The Fife Coal Company :
Output of Output of
County of Fife. Fife Coal Co.
1872, … 1,550,500 70,000
1892. … 3,573,818 794,194
1893. … 3,619,550 856,242
1894. … 2,784,019 634,676
1895. … 3,911,235 892,916
1896. … 3,633,455 1,277,197
1897. … 4,077,818 1,468,610
1898. … 4,447,569 1,686,039
1899. … 4,927,489 1,741,727
1900. …. 5,419,373 2,009,034
1901. … 5,601,501 2,177,960
1902. … 6,134,171 2,472,437
1903. … 6,376,985 2,564,503
1904. … 6,586,154 2,603,759
1905. … 7,241,439 2,824,294
1906. … 7,783,459 2,842,252
1907. … 8,530,043 2,971,755
1908. … 8,412,856 3,161,076
1909. … 8,412,856 3,721,221
1910. … 8,647,404 4,072,060
1911. .. 9,037,790 4,352,509
1912. … 8,435,516 3,905,341
1913. … 9,680,206 4,343,644
It will be observed that in 1894 the output of Fife shewed a decrease, as compared with the previous year, of 835,531 tons. This check to progress arose through a sixteen weeks wages strike in which the whole of the collieries in Scotland were involved. In 1912 a national stoppage took place, the question in dispute being the establishment of a statutory minimum wage, From the year 1899 the Scottish miners had had the advantage of a standard rate of wages through the Coal Conciliation Board, but in 1911 an agitation arose throughout Great Britain for an individual minimum fixed by Act of Parliament. While offering to legislate for a reasonable minimum, the Government refused to incorporate the scheduled rates which the miners tabled in a Bill, and a suspension of labour took place on 29th February, 1912; Despite the stoppage, the Government introduced a Bill into the House of Commons without the scheduled rates, and on 26th March the measure passed through Parliament. The Act provided for the appointment of Joint District Boards, and the different Boards had the power to fix the minimum rates for their respective districts. After a six weeks’ struggle the miners accepted the principle of the Act. The pre-war year, 1913, was a record year for output for the County of Fife, and it will be observed from the above table that the collieries of The Fife Coal Company contributed nearly the half of the total. In 1872 the persons employed in and about the mines of Fife numbered 4,650. In 1913 the total was 29,322, and of the latter total, The Fife Coal Company employed about 15,000. Statistics bearing on the persons and the output beyond 1913 would be of little value.
The great world-wide war broke out in 1914. From 20 to 25 per cent of the mine workers joined the Forces, and the coal output fell in proportion. The number of workers was increased after the war had finished, but in July, 1919, the seven hours day was conceded by Parliament, on the recommendation of the Coal Commission, and the cutting off of an hour off the working day seriously affected the output per person employed. Over the wages question a suspension of labour took place throughout the country on April 1st, 1921. Fife collieries suffered badly at the hands of the extremists. Pumping was forcibly suspended at all the pumping pits in the county for four weeks, and the damage done through flooding in the workings of the pits was great and unprecedented. Work was resumed on July 1st. The strike ended fully two months before The Fife Coal Company had in September entered upon its Jubilee year ; but, because of the devastation caused in the underground workings, months had elapsed before most of the pre-strike operatives were able to find employment, while there are still a considerable number of men out of work, and two collieries are only now being unwatered, as well as considerable areas of dip workings.
The present output is 15 per cent below pre-war output, but is being steadily increased. The following is a complete list of the Company’s collieries at work:-
COWDENBEATH (NOS. 7,9 AND 10)
DONIBRISTLE (JAMES AND MARION)
DONIBRISTLE (NOS. 12 AND 15)
LASSODIE MILL (KELTY)
LEVEN (NOS. 1 AND 2)
LEVEN (NO. 4)
LOCHORE (NOS. 1 AND 2)
LUMPHINNANS (NOS. 1 AND 2)
There are also brickworks at Hill of Beath, Blairadam and Bowhill.
A GLANCE AT SOME OF THE WORKS.
The Collieries in the Parish of Beath.
Although coal has been worked in “The Kingdom” of Fife since the thirteenth century, it must not for a moment be thought that the seams are nearly exhausted. For at least four and a half centuries the crop seams were only scratched by the miner-monks and their successors, and great as the increase in output has been during the past twenty-five years, it is computed that the areas of coal still to work in the county are sufficient to maintain a greater annual output than that of 1913 for at least three centuries, and the areas owned or leased by the Company extend to over 65 square miles. Reporting in 1905 on the coal supplies of Scotland, a Parliamentary Commission wrote thus of Fife:- “The County of Fife, with the smaller quantities in Kinross, takes the leading position in Scotland in the matter of its coal resources. Besides the coal in these counties, probably two-thirds of that under the Firth of Forth will be worked by collieries in Fifeshire, so that the available resources at less than 4,000 feet deep will amount to something like 5,700,000,000 tons, or sufficient to maintain the present output for 930 years. While the output from the Firth of Forth will not rapidly increase for a great many years, when so much coal is available under the land, the output from Fifeshire is certain to advance until it occupies a leading position in the Scotch coal trade.” Although the parish of Beath is comparatively small in extent, it has become one of the greatest coal-producing centres in the country. Population is undoubtedly one of the best indexes which can be cited as to the decay or progress of a town or parish, and judged from the point of view of population, Beath’s record of the past 30 years is astonishing. In 1872, when The Fife Coal Company commenced operations at Kelty, the population of the parish was 3,550; in 1881 it was 8,298; in 1891 it was 8,298; in 1901 it was 15,812; in 1911 it was 24,351; in 1921 the total was 24,912. The villages of Oakfield and Cantsdam have rushed up in recent years and the old red-roofed Kelty of other days has become surrounded by a new and greater village. The prosperous burgh of Cowdenbeath could only boast of 7,000 inhabitants in 1900; in 1921 the population was 14,215, and a junction has been practically formed between the burgh and the populous village of Lumphinnans, which is in the parish of Ballingry. In the parish of Beath and the immediately adjoining parishes, within a radius of seven square miles, the Company have as many as fourteen collieries in operation, including Dalbeath, Kirkford No. 10, Mossbeath, Cowdenbeath, Foulford, the Aitken, the Lindsay, Lassodie Mill, Lumphinnans No. 11, Lumphinnans No. 1, Blairenbathie, Blairadam, the Mary, and Donibristle. At all the collieries the underground and above-ground fittings are thoroughly up-to-date. At the Aitken Colliery, where coal winding commenced in 1897, the Dunfermline Splint or lowest seam was struck at a depth of 203 fathoms. The different coal seams in the field were pierced at the following depths :-
Name of Seam Thickness of Coal Depth from Surface
ft. in. ft.
Little Splint, 3 0 696
Main Seam, 5 8 714
Upper Jersey, 4 2 726
Lochgelly Splint, 5 6 831
Glassee, 4 6 960
Five Feet, 5 2 1147
Dunfermline Splint, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 1220
It will be noticed that all the seams are of a handy workable thickness. In the case of the Wallsend and Five Feet seams, it was found that they had obtained the heat necessary to transform them into an excellent Navigation coal. This was the first discovery of Navigation coal in Fife, and developments in the Wallsend and Five Feet seams were taken up with such vigour that within three years of the date of completing the sinking operations, the output had touched upwards of 1,500 tons a day, in two shifts of eight hours.
In the old pits at Kelty, when the Company was formed, only one loaded hutch, containing from 5 to 6 cwts of coal, was drawn each wind. At the Aitken Pit, four hutches, each loaded with 10 cwts. of coal, are drawn every wind. Wind after wind, the journey from the bottom of the shaft is accomplished in 32 seconds, and the loaded hutches are removed and empties substituted in 10 seconds. The powerful winding engine runs as smoothly as a sewing machine, and the pumping engines, drawing from 1,500 gallons of water per minute, move on as silently and as perfectly as the heart of a man in vigorous health, effectively draining the cisterns in the shaft and the reservoir into which the electric pumps in the docks discharge the daily growth. The air is quickened in the underground workings by a Walker ventilating fan, and the handling of the coal output on the pithead is facilitated by a “gravity run” for loaded hutches and the “creeper” system by which the empties are conveyed from the tipplers to the cages. Power-driven tipplers are at work at each of the screens. As the coals fall from the tipplers they drop into jiggers and picking tables, every possible care being exercised to remove foreign matter from the different classes of coal while in process of being separated into various marketable sizes. The bottom of a shaft is the underground “clearing house ” of a colliery, and the Aitken pit “clearing house” is constructed on a scale which enables the operatives to move the empty and loaded hutches with as much ease as they are moved on the pithead platforms.
At a comparatively early stage of the developments at the Aitken, electricity was utilised for haulage and underground pumping. The Jubilee year of the Company is being signalised by a great extension of electrical plant, however. The new station is, without doubt, the largest colliery electrical power station in Scotland. Electricity had years ago been introduced at most of the Company’s works in the district, but the smaller local stations are being abolished. From the great central station, power will be provided for the Aitken, Lumphinnans (2), the Mary, Blairadam, Hill of Beath, Lassodie Mill, Kirkford, Donibristle, and the Lindsay collieries. The station equipment comprises at present one 1500 KW turbo-alternator, and two 3000 KW turbo-alternators. The condensing plant is of the multi-jet type, and the whole of the water required for condenser purposes is re-cooled through spray nozzles. The boiler plant comprises six large boilers of the water-tube type, each capable of evaporating 22,000 to 27,000 lbs. of steam per hour. The steam pressure adopted is 200 lbs. per square inch, with superheat to a temperature of 588 deg. F. The stokers are of the Erith retort type, and approximately burn 4,340 lbs. of low-grade fuel per hour. Four stokers are operated by electric motors, while the fifth is operated by steam. Hydraulic waggon tippers are in use. A new shaft is in process of sinking to the upper seams—the Little Splint, the Main Seam, and the Upper Jersey. The Lindsay Colliery, which was the first great venture made by the Company, is within a mile of the Aitken. An old colliery is often like a threatened man, it lives long. It is years since some of the Kelty miners prophesied that “the days of the Lindsay were numbered.” It is interesting to state that, after forty-seven years’ continuous work, the Lindsay today shews evident signs of being good for a large output for many years to come. Many consumers of coal in Scotland used to think that there was no Dunfermline Splint in “The Kingdom” like that drawn from the Lindsay Pit, and they will be pleased to hear that roadways are being made to an area of the fine household brand which has not hitherto been tapped. Stretches of other fine household seams are also being opened out. The winding in the shaft is done by electric power, and one looks in vain for the puffing steam pipes common to the ordinary colliery.
At No. 1 and No. 11 Lumphinnans Collieries, considerable proportions of the output are made up of Navigation, Wallsend Household, Dunfermline Splint and Mynheer coals. Nothing finer than the Wallsend has ever been struck in Scotland. It is equal to the best Dunfermline Splint, with the advantage of caking. All the other household and steam coals are also of the finest quality, and in anticipation of developments underground, a new shaft is to be sunk in the vicinity of No. 11 Pit. Electricity promises to bring about a transformation at Lassodie Mill colliery, while at Kirkford, where Household, Dunfermline Splint, and the finest of Five Feet steam coal are gotten, minor changes are contemplated. At Dalbeath, Blairenbathie, Benarty, and Blairadam, coal-getting is continued, and is likely to be so for many years to come.
The Parishes of Ballingry, Auchterderran and Kinglassie.
The Bowhill pits, in the parish of Auchterderran, have still a long life before them. The colliery has the distinction of drawing coals from a point deeper than that touched by any colliery in Scotland. The dook workings in the Five-Foot seam are nearly 500 fathoms from the surface. Even in the edge coal workings of the Lothians the seams flatten out at from 400 to 420 fathoms.
At Kinglassie colliery, which is sunk and fitted on the estate recently bought by the Company, water and faults in the strata have given the management a good deal of trouble. Just before the strike of 1921, however clean fields of excellent household and steam coals were being pierced, and the prospects of. the colliery being a profitable one are good. Meantime the draining off of the water which accumulated through the enforced stoppage of the pumping gear during the strike is being pushed forward with all possible speed.
Above – The Mary Pit, Lochore
The Mary Pit is sunk on the Lochore and Capledrae coalfield, in the parish of Ballingry. It may be interesting to state that Lochore can claim even a stronger connection with Sir Walter Scott than Blairadam and the scenes on the western spurs of Benarty. In the closing decade of the eighteenth century, the estate of Lochore was acquired by Captain J. Park. Being more anxious to add to his landed possessions than to preserve the amenities of the estate, the Captain decided to drain the loch. At a cost of £1000 the Captain had a deep cutting made through whin rock to the east of the pretty sheet of water. One fine morning in 1798 the sheet of water, with its perch, pike and eels, went sweeping down the river Orr. Although the drainage added considerably to the acreage of land owned by the Captain, it did not add much to his arable land—his chief crop was meadow hay—and he disposed of the property to Mr John Syme. In 1813, Mr Syme sold the estate to Mr William Jobson, who belonged to a Dundee family. Mr Jobson’s only daughter, Jeanie, became the heiress of Lochore, and on February 3rd, 1825, was married to Walter, the eldest son of Sir Walter Scott. Lockhart, in his “Life of Scott,” quotes a description of a dance given at Abbotsford at Christmas, 1824, to celebrate the betrothal of young Walter and Jeanie Jobson. The writer of the description of the dance says :- “We had a great clan of Scotts of Harden and ten of other families. There were others besides from the neighbourhood – at least half a dozen Fergussons, with the jolly Sir Adam Fergusson (a fellow student and close friend of Sir Walter) at their head, Lady Fergusson and her niece, Miss Jobson, the pretty heiress of Lochore.” The Scott-Jobson match was looked upon with favour by Jeanie’s father, but her mother, who claimed to be a direct descendant of Robert II., did not think the son of a newly fledged baronet, although a distinguished novelist, good enough for Jeanie. Mrs Jobson’s scruples were dropped, however, at the solicitations of the young folks, and the couple were married in 1825. During the following four years, Lochore was visited now and again by Scott. On the death of Scott in 1832, Walter succeeded to the baronetcy, and Jeanie became Lady Scott. The second Sir Walter died in 1847. His widow survived him for thirty years. There was no issue of the marriage, and the baronetcy became extinct. Lady Scott continued to be affectionately spoken of in the Lochore district as “Bonnie Jeanie Jobson” until the date of her death. It is a coincidence worth noting that Jeanie Jobson was first introduced to her future husband in September 1822, exactly half a century before The Fife Coal Company was formed. Jeanie was a Maid of Honour in connection with the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in August, 1822, and was then introduced to Sir Walter Scott, who welcomed the King to Scotland while the Royal yacht lay in the Forth in Leith roads. In the following month the heiress of Lochore met the young laird of Abbotsford, who was a lieutenant in the 15th Hussars, and two years after the first meeting the pair were married in Scott’s Edinburgh residence.
With the drainage of the old loch, the flat stretch of country lying between the villages of Blairadam and Lochore took on a different aspect, and the old castle, which for centuries had stood upon an island, was left high and dry. The valley continued to be a haunt of the whaup, the coot, and wild duck as in former days, however, until 1870, when the Lochore and Capledrae Cannel Coal Company began to sink pits to the Cannel coal seams.
On the estate being acquired by The Fife Coal Company, it was decided to sink the Mary Pit to the Navigation coal seam, which lay at a depth of upwards of 300 fathoms. Speaking at the cutting of the first sod of the pit in March, 1902, Mr Aitken, who was then Chairman of the Company, said:- “It is thirty years since, in conjunction with Provost Lindsay of Leith ; Sir William Miller of Manderston ; the Right Hon. W. P. Adam of Blairadam, Governor of Madras ; Provost Cox, Dundee; Mr Johnstone of Burntisland ; and last, but not least, Mr Jas. A. Nasmyth of Middlebank, who, I am sorry to state, is unable to be with us today because of indisposition, the undertaking of The Fife Coal Company, Limited, was launched. Mr Nasmyth’s services during those thirty years have been of great value to the Company, his intimate practical knowledge of the business being always freely placed at the Company’s disposal. At a critical period in the Company’s history he nobly stood in the forefront. Had he acted differently, then the position of The Fife Coal Company might not have been what it is today. All the others I have named have gone to that ‘bourne from whence no traveller returns. Beginning in 1872 with a modest output of between fifty and sixty thousand tons, we did fairly well for a year or two; but lean years followed, during which nearly all the earnings went to pay the men’s wages, very little being left to the shareholders. These lean years numbered seven, and having no Joseph to help us, the struggle was a pretty hard one; but better times came, and we have since done fairly well. In the year 1896 we amalgamated with the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, and had our Board greatly strengthened by the admission of three Directors from that Company – Mr Smith Sligo of Inzievar; Mr Henry Mungall (than whom an abler or more successful coalmaster is not to be found in the Kingdom of Fife); and Mr. William Beveridge, jun., of Dunfermline. I believe the results of the amalgamation have been satisfactory to the shareholders in both Companies. The work of the amalgamated Board goes on very smoothly, but in that we are greatly assisted by the clear and distinct way in which our able general manager, Mr Carlo w, places the business before the Board. In fact, he seems to control the huge business of today, with its 2,177,000 tons output per annum, with as much ease as he did the 60,000 tons per annum which was the output when he entered our service twenty-nine years ago. This is only the second occasion on which any ceremony at pit opening has taken place, the exception being at the Aitken Pit, nine years ago. More than a million and a half tons of coal have been raised from this pit, and if the results from the pit now in hand are equal to that of the Aitken Pit, there will be no reason to complain.” Up to now the results have not been as satisfactory as were anticipated. In the shaft and to the west the seams were found in the same satisfactory condition as in the Aitken Pit, but to the east volcanic disturbances were met with. These disturbances have now been passed through, and the Navigation seams beyond have been struck and are found to be of excellent quality, and the prospects of an extensive area of the finest Navigation coal are good. Developments were prevented by the strike, and the flooding which followed upon the stopping of pumping operations. A second shaft is in process of sinking, and when completed drainage operations will be tackled, and with the two shafts, developments in the upper and lower seams will be taken up upon a scale which would have been impossible with one shaft. Meantime operations proceed apace in the upper seams, and the output of the colliery is nearly as large as it was before the strike. The Mary fitting in every department is a good one, and the new shaft is being lined from top to bottom with concrete. The pithead frame is also of concrete, the first departure of the kind in Scotland. Electric power will be utilised in connection with winding in the new shaft.
Early in the fourteenth century, in the days of Robert I., Lochore Castle was the residence of the lords of the manor, and the “Keep” dominated Lochoreshire, which embraced the parishes of Ballingry and Auchterderran. For centuries the ancient “keep” was a resting place for the nobles who travelled between Edinburgh and Perth, and was the venue of meetings held to discuss matters affecting Church and State. Many national and local changes have been experienced since these old feudal days. The once formidable castle has become a ruin, and instead of the sound of rippling waters and the screaming of wild birds, we have in the valley of the loch the noise of the great pumps by which the workings of the Mary Pit are kept free of water, and the rattle of the machinery by which the coals, drawn from depths of from 250 to 320 fathoms, are effectively cleaned and separated into different sizes and qualities for home and foreign markets.
In the two pits which the Company have sunk at Valleyfield, coals are being gotten at depths from 150 to 200 fathoms below the seams which were worked by Sir George Bruce and the Earl of Dundonald. The colliery occupies a site about half a mile to the east of the ancient burgh of Culross. The fitting in every department is well appointed. In the shafts all the upper seams operated upon by the miner-monks and their successors were passed through, and the lower seams were also tapped. The following are the seams cut through:-
The two lower seams are Navigation coal, and are quite equal in quality to the best Navigation coal of South Wales, which for many years had a complete monopoly of the demands of the Navy. The coal is handled in a way which guarantees complete immunity from all. impurities. At the working faces the coal is filled in the hutches as triping—large and small mixed. On reaching the surface the loaded hutches are passed on to the tipplers, and the coals dropped on to the screening and picking plant. On the picking tables all foreign matter is carefully separated from the round coals, while the small coal which drops through the screening plant is whisked on to a washer and subjected to a thorough process of cleaning. The washed small coal is then returned and mixed with the round fuel, and goes to the market as picked and washed triping. Writing in 1793, the Earl of Dundonald said:— “On Valleyfield estate valuable seams of caking and splint coals have been discovered. These rich coals may be worked with equal safety within high water mark as under the land, as the strata under the sea are covered by 50 perpendicular feet of very strong tenacious blue clay. The mineral property in the estate of Valleyfield may be justly esteemed the most valuable to its extent of any in the country.” The Earl wrote thus of the upper seams. What would his Lordship say if he could return to the scene of his earthly labours and see the bright glistening Navigation coal which is today drawn from depths he never dreamt of? Writing of the miners of 1793, the Earl says:- “The miners carried a taste for the elegantiorum of life further than may be thought necessary. Most of them had silver watches, clocks in all their houses; several of them on Sunday wore silk stockings, tambour embroidered silk vests, with their hair well dressed and powdered.” On the high ground within the policies of Valleyfield House, and on the fringes of the Forth, The Fife Coal Company have erected houses which are a great improvement on the dwellings of the ninth Earl of Dundonald’s times ; and the earnings of the toilers in the mines today present a striking contrast to the wages of the closing years of the eighteenth century, and all may have “watches and clocks in their houses.” But the twentieth century miner does not wear either silk stockings or silk vests, however much he may have a taste for “elegantiorum,” and he does not spend much on hair powder,
Kirkcaldy, Leven, and Wellsgreen
At Dunnikier Colliery, the Company operate on all the seams found in the lower coal measures of the county of Fife, while at Wellsgreen and Leven the seams in the upper coal measures are worked, and in all the collieries household and steam coals are gotten. East Fife Jewel is a coal which is much sought after for household purposes, while as a steam coal the Dysart Main is quoted daily for cargo and bunkering purposes.
Past and Present Directors of the Company
The following is a complete list of the names of the gentlemen who have served on the directorate of the Company, the dates of appointment, and: the length of service:-
Date of Appointment.
Sept 1872 Mr WILLIAM LINDSAY … … … Died April 1884.
Do. The Right Hon. W. P.. ADAM, M.P. Died June 1881.
Do. Mr THOS. AITKEN of Nivingston … Died Jany. 1907.
Do. Mr JAMES Cox, late Provost of Dundee Died Dec. 1885.
Do. Mr WILLIAM JOHNSTONE of Kingswood, Burntisland Resigned April 1890
Do. Sir WILLIAM MILLER, Bart, of Manderston Resigned March 1880
Sept. 1872. Mr JAS. A. NASMYTH of Middlebank Died Jany. 1903.
Augt. 1884. Mr JAMES CREE . Resigned on going abroad, July 1888
Feb. 1886. Mr JOHN JORDAN, Shipowner, Leith Died Sept. 1914.
Jany. 1889. Mr ROBERT CROALL of Craigcrook, Edinburgh. Died Deer. 1898.
Do. Mr JAS. S. STENHOUSE of Fod… … Died June 1922.
July 1893. Mr CHARLES CARLOW of Linnwood Hall Still in office.
Nov. 1896, Mr A. D. SMITH SLIGO of Inzievar,.. Do.
Do. Mr HENRY MUNGALL of Gattonside Died Deer. 1911.
Do. Mr W. BEVERIDGE, Jun. of Bonnyton Died April 1913.
Feb. 1904. Mr A. H. NASMYTH of Middlebank Died June 1911.
Decr. 1911. Dr T. G. NASMYTH of Canaan Lodge, Edinburgh Still in office.
July 1912. Sir ADAM NIMMO Still in office.
March 1913. Mr C. AUGUSTUS CARLOW Still in office.
Augt. 1922. Sir WILLIAM ROBERTSON of Mugdrum Just appointed.
Mr William Lindsay, whose name occupies the top of the list of Directors, was for many years Provost of the burgh of Leith. He took a great interest in Local Government work throughout Scotland, and had the distinction of having his name associated with the Lindsay Act. Mr Lindsay was Chairman of the Company from the date of its inception until his death in the spring of 1884. He was succeeded as Chairman by Mr Thomas Aitken of Nivingston, who held office as Director for 35 years. On the death of Mr Aitken, in 1907, Mr Carlow was appointed Chairman, and combined the duties of Chairman with that of Managing Director. His eldest son, Mr C. Augustus Carlow, was elected a Director in 1913, and shares the responsibility of Joint Managing Director with the Chairman. Mr C. Augustus Carlow, who has been associated with the management of the Company for 25 years, is one of the representatives for Scotland on the National Wages Board, and is Chairman of the Coalowners’ Committee of Transport.
The Right Hon. W. P. Adam represented the united Counties of Clackmannan and Kinross in Parliament from 1859 to 1880, and at the date of his death, in 1881, was Governor of Madras.
It is interesting to point out that Mr James A. Nasmyth, who was a Director from 1872 until 1903, was a member of the Beath and Blairadam Company, which had a lease of the Kelty coalfield before the advent of The Fife Coal Company. Mr Nasmyth, who had a life-long connection with Donibristle Colliery, was succeeded as a Director by one of his sons, Mr A. Hogg Nasmyth, who became the head of Donibristle Coal Company, and on the latter’s death in 1911 another member of the Nasmyth family, Dr T, G. Nasmyth, was elected to the directorate. Dr Nasmyth was Medical Officer of Health for the County of Fife for many years, and all through life, has taken a practical interest in mining and other industrial problems.
Mr James Cox,who died in December 1885, was the Provost of Dundee, and in him and Sir William Miller of Manderston, and Mr William Johnstone of Kingswood, Burntisland, the Company had Directors whose work was appreciated at a time when the earliest developments were launched. Mr John Jordan, who served on the Board for 28 years, was a Leith shipowner, while Mr Robert Croall was the head of John Croall & Sons, coachbuilders, Edinburgh. Mr James S. Stenhouse of Fod, having a special knowledge of agriculture, devoted much attention to. the farms of the Company. Mr Henry Mungall, Mr A. D. Smith Sligo, and Mr W. Beveridge, Junr., joined the Board when the Company acquired the works of the Cowdenbeath Coal Company, Limited. Mr Mungall was Managing Director of the Cowdenbeath Company, and had been at the head of the management of the concern from the year 1870. Mr Smith Sligo was Chairman of the Cowdenbeath Coal Company. Sir Adam Nimmo is Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners’ Association, and is the Managing Director of Messrs James Nimmo & Coy., Ltd., of Auchengeich and other collieries in Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire. Sir William Robertson, who has been recently elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr James S. Stenhouse, is the head of the firm of Messrs Hay & Robertson, linen manufacturers, Dunfermline, and is Lord Lieutenant of the County of Fife.