The Kilted Ancestors Prompt for September was Mining, Steelwork & Shipbuilding.
A great number of men in my Family tree worked in the Pits, not the best of jobs, it was dirty, dangerous & not that well paid either!
Recently I worked on a commission for a client which saw me carry out research into the Blantyre Pit Disaster, on reading some of the statements I gained a new respect for the work that they did. This research also gave me a better understanding of the day to day working of a mine & the worries that miners had in respect to gas & potential explosions.
My own mining story focuses on my Great Grandfather James Anderson from Ayrshire. His father was also a miner & having lost his first wife married a young woman almost 10 years his junior.
James their youngest was born in 1873 & My Grandmother told us the story that not long after his birth James’ father was said to have fallen in a ditch late one night on his return home from the public house, that he took ill & died. His death entry states Chronic Bronchitis (Years) not an unusual illness for a miner & Dropsy (2 Weeks) the main cause of dropsy is heart failure.
Understandably this left the family not only devastated but struggling too. Fortunately, some of James’ half siblings lived with them which helped to ease the burden but at age 10 James had no option but to go down the Pit to help contribute much needed funds to the household.
You can imagine at 10 years old it must have been terrifying but as time progressed, he eventually took on a job as the winding engineman, a much safer job above ground where he would raise & lower the cage that once took him down into the dark depths of the pit.
Many years ago, during one of my visits to the Scottish Mining Museum I was overjoyed to have the chance to work the levers of the winding engine there (something they no longer allow visitors to do now), this gave me a much greater understanding of his job as well as feeling I was connecting with him on some level.
My Grandmother told me that her father James never drank in his life due to what happened to his own father, so much so that he would not even drink wine during communion. My own feeling is that this was also passed down to his own children as I never knew any of them to drink either.
He would eventually leave Mining behind him & start up his own business as a fruiterer. He was a creative man who made his own caravan from scratch & my uncle still owns a writing bureau made by him.
I suppose the interesting thing about James is that he is the spitting image of my brother, less the fancy moustache that is. Interestingly too my brother has turned many vans into camper vans!!
Have the Genes jumped a Generation or two?
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