Closure of Bardykes Colliery, 1905

Nothing short of starvation faced the miners and their families affected by the closing of Bardykes Colliery at Spittal in June 1905.

The distressing state of affairs was the outcome of a dispute between Coalmasters Merry & Cuningham.. Ltd. (the Spittal colliery owners), and Mr. John Jackson, the proprietor of the land. The latter some time ago demanded 2d per ton of extra royalty in addition to the 1s per ton he had been receiving. However the Coalmasters called out this, refusing to pay and the whole thing backfired on Mr Jackson, but even worse, backfired much more greatly on those who had been employed at the colliery.

As the mine-owners had been losing annually between one and two thousand pounds, they declined to to proprietor’s request, and decided to close down the mine entirely.

The decision was arrived at in May 1905, and by a month later in a report on 8th June 1905, since that time men and their dependents had been in ‘sad straits’. Roughly, it was estimated that with 700 miners out of work and the affects stretching to their families, some 3,000 people were at that time suddenly feeling the pinch of poverty, and as employment could not be had elsewhere, the situation was most alarming.

This was difficult for the miners to comprehend. The land on which the pit was located had 400 acres of coal, sufficient it was calculated, to give employment for the next twenty or thirty years! The colliery had a fairly attractive location. Equi-distant from the districts of Cambuslang, Newton and Blantyre, it formed the only noticeable headland on a vast expanse of charming green country.

To the right of it were rows of houses occupied by the men formerly employed at the colliery, and guarding it on the ether side are mounds of slag.

A Daily Record reporter wrote at the time, ” In the course of yesterday one of our representatives visited the neighbourhood and discovered that the outlook for the men was even gloomier than previous reports had revealed. The colliery itself presented a desolate appearance. There was an utter absence of the bustle usually associated with the pithead of a large mine in operation.

A closer survey of the place showed that the work of demolition was in progress. The various large erections in which the necessary machinery had been housed, were stripped bare. From the mine had been taken lines of rails and numbers of hutches. Boilers were rooted out; in fact every requisite pertaining to a colliery had been taken away, and scarcely anything was left but the walls of the different buildings. The only article of machinery that has now to be removed is the pumping engine which the colliery owners £15,000 and which at one stroke pumps a gallon of water per minute. When this has been carried off it is believed that the rapidity with which the water will accumulate in the mine will be a matter of grave concern to the landowners. “

“So effectively has the work of clearing been carried out that it would take six months to replace the fittings and prepare the mine for proper working. Though the company have till November term to vacate the colliery and to demolish the builidings they have practically arrived at the stage when the erections can be razed.

Loss of work and the consequent lack of money have told their tale in the miners’ households. The majority of the families were unprepared for such a crisis, and are now in great want. Not only are they in the grip of poverty, but they live in daily peril of being evicted from their houses, which are to be demolished. In conversation with one of the most prominent miners of the district, our representative was informed that a few years ago the landowner made a similar demand. On that occasion, Merry & Cunninghame. Limited offered to add 1d per ton but another individual agreed to give the Proprietor his terms. After negotiations had been carried through, the individual in question had to withdraw his offer. In the opinion of the miners and the company officials, the present situation would not have arisen but for the mediocre with which the demand of the proprietor was met by another colliery owner a few years ago.”

George Neilson of Summerlee (resident of Crossbasket House) then bought the colliery and re-opened it a couple of years later. Bardykes Colliery is shown in later decades.

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