Rutherglen Mining Memorial
Eight years after the idea of a mining memorial for Rutherglen was conceived, the memorial was finally unveiled in Rutherglen Main Street on Friday 29th. September 2023.
Above, Left to right: Nicola Murray of South Lanarkshire College, Colin Findlay and Bob McDonald of Rutherglen Heritage Society, Provost of South Lanarkshire Cllr. Margaret Cooper, President of the National Union of Mineworkers Nicky Wilson and Principal of South Lanarkshire College Stella McManus. The newly unveiled Rutherglen mining memorial is in the centre.
Picture: Colin Findlay
Guests at the unveiling event gathered in advance in Rutherglen Town Hall where they heard speeches by Bob McDonald of Rutherglen Heritage Society; Stella McManus, Principal of South Lanarkshire College; Margaret Cooper, Provost of South Lanarkshire and Nicky Wilson, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, who did the actual unveiling. The guests were welcomed by Colin Findlay on behalf of Rutherglen Heritage Society.
Background to the Memorial
Heritage Society members Bob McDonald and Colin Findlay met during a South Lanarkshire Council, Heritage Lottery Project, Pits Ponies People and Stories in 2014 and started researching coal mining in Rutherglen and Cambuslang.
After giving a talk about mining at Rutherglen Library, in 2015, Bob was alarmed when an irate David Jackson, a foremost authority on the history of Rutherglen, stood up ‘with steam coming out of his ears’, and said “Every mining town and village in Scotland has a memorial, why doesn’t Rutherglen?” Bob replied “You’re quite right. I’ll get you one! “
Above, David Jackson whose fervent intervention at the 2015 talk in Rutherglen Library, instigated the Mining Memorial project.
Picture: Carrick McDonald
That day finally arrived, following delays due to the Covid pandemic, but sadly, David Jackson, who died in 2020, did not live to see the fruition of what he had ignited.
Bob began the search for funding to build a memorial and also contacted South Lanarkshire College to enlist help with the design, construction and installation of a memorial. The design went through a number of iterations, then everything stopped in 2020 with the Covid pandemic.
Left, Bob McDonald and Colin Findlay pictured on either side of the mining memorial. Far left is Joe Cunningham, co-author with Bob and Colin of A History of Coal Mining in Rutherglen & Cambuslang. Colin is holding a copy of the book.
Picture: John Esslemont
In 2023 a new team at the college brought fresh ideas and a new impetus. The College contacted Jason Paterson Fabrication & Design, at Dalmarnock, specialists in metal fabrications and sculptures, and Jason has produced a wonderful steel representation of a miners flame safety lamp. The college has also negotiated planning permissions, constructed the foundation and base and replanted the surrounding garden.
Right, the Rutherglen mining memorial, manufactured by Jason Paterson Fabrication & Design. The memorial sits on a base constructed by South Lanarkshire College.
The design for the memorial itself evolved from ideas developed by Bob McDonald, Colin Findlay, South Lanarkshire College and Jason Paterson.
The oval plaque on the memorial bears the simple inscription: 'In Memory of Those who Worked in Rutherglen Coal Mines'
Picture: John Esslemont
Why A Flame Safety Lamp Memorial?
In early mining of coal, naked flames were used for illumination, but these could ignite firedamp (methane) and cause explosions, with loss of life. In 1815 Sir Humphry Davy invented a safety lamp, using a metal gauze to shield the flame. Dr William Reid Clanny improved it using glass to shield the flame and give more light. It was given the name “Glennie” by Scottish coal miners.
The Davy Lamp - by John Jack Haldane
When man first ravaged mother earth
And hewed black coal to feed his hearth
Countless miners rued the day
They took a lowe to show the way
For firedamp lurked and gathered there
Their lights let loose the fires of hell
Then miners bairns and miners wives
Mourned the cost in miners lives
Then William Clanny found the clue
And Humphry Davy saw it through
He fashioned it from brass and wire
A prison for the fiendish fire
A lamp that would not turn the key
To set the fires of Hades free
Real gold not just a guineas stamp
The miners friend, the Davy lamp.
Right, and below, images from the original mining memorial plan drawings from 2017 showing the flame safety lamp design. The specification changed several times between then and the unveiling.
Images courtesy of South Lanarkshire College
Above, video of Nicky Wilson, President of the National Union of Mineworkers, unveiling the memorial.
Video: John Esslemont.
Left, Lindsay and Simone, daughters of David Jackson, pictured on either side of the memorial. They were among the guests at the unveiling.
Picture: John Esslemont
History of Mining in Rutherglen
Between the 1500s and 1931, Rutherglen was a substantial mining community. This Coal Authority © map below shows the mine shaft locations, however most areas underneath Rutherglen will have been worked for coal at some time.
With the coming of the steam engine, in the 18th century, for winding and pumping out water, mines could be deeper. The arrival of the railways in the early 19th century allowed coal to be transported more easily to an ever-expanding market. By the 19th century the main collieries were: Stonelaw (1774 – 1903), Govan (Toryglen) (1771 – 1903), Farme (1805 – 1931), Eastfield (1758 – 1883), Low Crosshill (1700s), Bankhead (until 1861), Spittal (until 1860s).
Although coal is nowadays regarded as a dirty polluting fuel, its use in previous centuries powered the industrial revolution which brough great wealth to the country. Indeed, without coal, technology would not have progressed to the computers and mobile phones we take for granted today.
Special thanks to our funders:
Commonweal Fund Trades House
Scottish Coal Industry Special Welfare Fund 1 May 2018
South Lanarkshire Council
Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association
Many thanks to the staff at South Lanarkshire College for pushing this project to fruition:
Alan Sherry, Stella McManus, Nicola Murray,
Brian McAteer, Mark Flynn.
Thanks to Jason Paterson for final design and fabrication of the memorial.
J P Fabrication & Design
259 Dalmarnock Road, Nuneaton Industrial Estate, Glasgow G40 4LX. www.jpfab.co.uk
Thanks to Iain Morton at South Lanarkshire Council Planning Department.
Thanks to Clyde Gateway for funding this reception and to Rutherglen Town Hall for arranging the venue and catering.
Thanks to Rutherglen Heritage Society for supporting the project and managing its funds.
Text by Colin Findlay
© 2023 Rutherglen Heritage Society.
Links and further reading
Web page by Jim Henry listing the mining memorials in Scotland. Click here
A History of Coal Mining in Rutherglen and Cambuslang
by Colin Findlay, Bob McDonald and Joe Cunningham, 2020. For a pdf copy of the book Click here
David Jackson obituary on this website. Click here