In 1791 it was stated – “On the banks of the Calderwater, which divides the Blantyre parish from Kilbride, has of late been discovered a vast quantity of iron ore”, and this was carried to a furnace in Glasgow to be made into pig iron there. By 1835, limestone was also mined at Auchintibber, (about two miles to the south of High Blantyre) and these mines, including iron, were worked by Messrs. Colin Dunlop & Company, Glasgow and kept relatively busy until near the end of the century.
In the late 1700’s coal was being mined in Cambuslang and was being brought to Blantyre to fuel the furnaces and steam engines of the Blantyre Works and Mills which opened in 1785. As the Lanarkshire coalfields were further opened up, in 1835, coal was also being brought from the Hamilton area at a cost of between 5 and 6 shillings per ton. Another pit which supplied the Mills was Blantyreferme No.3 Colliery, which was sunk in 1850 by the Ayrshire company, A & G Moore
In 1867 however, test borings revealed a number of seams of high quality coal in the Blantyre area. In 1871, the first two pits Blantyre Colliery Nos. 1 and 2 were sunk in High Blantyre by William Dixon Ltd., and the first coal drawn by 1873.
No. 3 Pit was sunk about between 1873-75 and coal drawn in 1876 and No. 4 Pit was producing coal in 1878. Priestfield Colliery which opened in 1872 was another of Dixon’s pits, and rows (houses) for the workers – Dixon’s Rows, were built about 1871-72. Merry & Cunningham’s Auchinraith Pit was sunk in 1872 and coal drawn 1875, with the first row (Merry’s Rows) built in the period 1874-75 and the Long Rows in Stonefield about 1876.
William Baird’s Craighead Pit was opened in 1876, the Priory Pit (Bothwell Castle Nos. 3 & 4) also being owned by the Company and the rows (Baird’s Rows) were built about the same time, there now being eight pits in all, with a daily output of several thousand tons.
The mines brought Irish workers initially to the area and later on many Lithuanians both of whom the coalmasters exploited to full advantage, particularly in times of industrial unrest.
In 1891 the census revealed some interesting statistics showing the number of miners in Blantyre.
Split into the four main areas they show that:
Auchentibber had 119 miners which made up 68.9% of the male working population.
High Blantyre had 1,181 miners which made up 49.9% of the male working population.
Stonefield had 1,792 miners which made up 71.3% of the male working population.
Low Blantyre had 434 miners which made up 46.8% of the male working population.
This number steadily increased until during the 1920s and 1930s, over 6,000 men and women were employed in the pits. (At the time of the General Strike 1926, men were paid between 4s. (20p) and 8s.4d (42p) per eight hour shift.) By the 1950s, the Blantyre coalfield was almost exhausted and Blantyre Colliery, High Blantyre, better known as Dixon’s (the 1877 disaster took place in No. 2 and 3 Pits) closed on 10th August, 1957 following a cave-in at No. 1 shaft. The last of the mines the Priory pit, closed at the start of the 1960s.