Coal mining local history
Mining provided employment for the people of East Dunbartonshire for a long period of time. There were mines right across the area, from Baljaffray in the west to Twechar in the east. Coal was the most common mineral found locally, but limestone and ironstone were also mined extensively. The presence of alum shale led to the establishment of an important chemical works at Campsie to process the alum for use in the textile industry. The 'Secret Works', as it was known, was a major employer in Lennoxtown for most of the nineteenth century.
The earliest mines were created by following an angled seam inwards from its outcrop on the surface, extracting the minerals at progressively deeper locations. Vertical pits were also sunk from an early date, with primitive winding gear to raise the minerals to the surface. Several modern collieries were established during the second half of the nineteenth century, some of them employing many hundreds of men. The most important coal-owner was the firm of William Baird & Company, which came to the Twechar area about 1860 and developed extensive mining operations there.
The picture shows a group of miners from Woodilee Colliery circa 1914. East Dunbartonshire Information and Archives hold many photographs depicting local history.
A number of branch railway lines were opened to serve the mining industry, although Baird & Company also made extensive use of the Forth and Clyde Canal for transporting coal. The Carron Company employed the Canal to convey ironstone from the Cadder area to their ironworks near Falkirk.
There are mining artefacts permanently on display in the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch. The mining industry had a major effect on the local environment. Apart from the creation of coal workings and spoil heaps, the companies built miners' rows and other housing for their employees. Traditional miners' rows have disappeared, but modern houses were built by Baird & Company for their Twechar coal workers during the 1920s.
The last colliery in East Dunbartonshire, at Gartshore, closed in 1968. After that date there were still many miners living in the area, who travelled each day to collieries in neighbouring districts, such as Bedlay, near Chryston, and Cardowan, at Stepps, but this came to an end in 1983 when Cardowan closed.
Many reminders of the mining industry can be seen today, from spoil heaps to fenced-off shafts. Subsidence of the ground above former mine workings sometimes occurs, as at Grampian Way, Bearsden, in 1982, when a substantial hole appeared in the ground.