Scotland's Black Diamonds shine in new book
Scottish Collieries publication carves out lasting record of the coal-mining industry and our industrial heritage
A groundbreaking book from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the Scottish Mining Museum is set to become the first comprehensive reference guide to the coal industry during the nationalised era. Scottish Collieries: An Inventory of the Scottish Coal Industry in the Nationalised Era explores the profound impact of coal on both the people and landscape of central Scotland. It is particularly timely given that a new generation of Scots is growing up with little idea of how important the industry was to the nation.
The facts speak for themselves: fifty years ago over 100,000 people worked in the coal industry and 95 per cent of energy was provided by Scotland's so-called "black diamonds". At its peak in the 1950s, the National Coal Board operated 200 coal mines alongside a similar number of smaller, privately-owned mines. Today, with the surface remains of most mines now demolished and a significant quantity of historical records lost in the process, little physical evidence remains of this once-huge part of Scotland's social and industrial heritage.
The book’s author, Dr Miles Oglethorpe of the Royal Commission's Survey and Recording Group, said the book was designed to address the growing gulf between past and present. He said: “The immense contribution of coal in the evolution of modern Scotland is rapidly slipping away from public consciousness, and already in some of the most important parts of the Scottish coalfields the physical evidence of mining activity has completely disappeared. Our hope is therefore that by producing a record of the nature and extent of the industry in its final decades, we will help to ensure that the work, ingenuity, and sacrifice of Scotland’s coal-mining communities will not be forgotten.’
The comprehensive survey of Scottish collieries and the mining industry in the nationalised era represents a significant new 344-page resource containing a huge amount of information on all the collieries to have operated in Scotland since 1947, including 340 illustrations. Much of the research for the book was only possible because of the extraordinary archive and library of the Scottish Mining Museum and the work of its volunteers, but many individuals and organisations throughout the Scottish coalfields also helped provide information and records.
Perhaps most important is the fact that his book is seen as the beginning of a new process, and that the record it represents is only partly complete. The hope is that it will encourage people from Scotland and beyond to send in information and images, helping to fill some of the many gaps in a very large story.
Copies are now on sale at the Scottish Mining Museum in Newtongrange ISBN - 1902419472