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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

In search of a lost coal mine

Beoch No. 4 mine 1937-1968

Here are some photos of Beoch No. 4 mine. OS Grid ref NS 50 09, near Dalmellington, Aysrhsire, Scotland. At 1100 feet it was the highest coal mine in Scotland. 

Photo One
 Photo One shows the mine being sunk into the hillside in 1936/7.

Photo Two
 Photo Two is an aerial photograph of the new mine and associated surface buildings.
Photo Three
 Photo three is a close up of the mine shaft being sunk.

Map One
 Map One shows the mine (compare with Photo Two) and the tramway which linked it to the Dalmellington Iron Company railway system.
Map plus recent satellite image
The last image is a modern satellite image overlaid on Map One, taken from the National Library of Scotland  digital maps section. The green areas are recent forestry plantations and the grey areas are open cast mines. Even on maximum zoom, no trace of Beoch No. 4 mine can be seen. It has become a lost mine.

Researching the history of Galloway (to the south of Ayrshire) I have spent many hours on the maps section of the National Library of Scotland website  trying to find farms and crofts which were abandoned due to agricultural improvement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I have also used satellite images to look at their locations and visited some of the sites, looking for any traces on the ground.

Apart from a few traces of old field boundaries and remnants of rig and furrow cultivation, the old farms and crofts have vanished, erased by 200 years of agricultural improvement or by more recent forestry plantations.

With mines like Beoch No. 4 which are part of living memory not ancient history, I had expected to find more surviving evidence of their existence. But- apart from the open cast mines- it seems Ayrshire's coal mining industry has vanished from the landscape as completely as Galloway's medieval farms have.   

Thursday, July 05, 2012

All the Madmen lives again!

About a month ago Mark Wilson of the Mob rang me to say there was a plan to revive All the Madmen, the Mob's record label.Mark said his daughter Tess was keen to get involved. And now- here it is

This is from the site:

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. In 1980 a group called the Mob released a single called ‘Witch-hunt’. A powerful piece of punk, it reflects and captures the sense of anger and despair felt by their generation as the new decade dawned. A line from the song sums up the situation as the newly elected governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began ‘Stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown’…
 In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis had shocked a generation into action The prospect of death by thermo-nuclear war concentrated minds and inspired a life-affirming counter-culture. The renewed threat of nuclear war revived the idealism of the counter-culture. So, despite its ‘never trust a hippie’ rhetoric, as blazing fragments of the punk explosion scattered across the land, there was a fusion with aspects of the existing counter-culture. In particular the ‘Do it yourself’ aspect of punk was able to grow through a fertile relationship with -for example- Joly McFie of Better Badges, Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Pete Stennett of Small Wonder who were veterans of the sixties counter-culture. 
The Mob, along with hundreds of other punk bands released their music on their own independent record label. Alongside the independent record labels there were hundreds of punk fanzines. While most histories of punk focus on the few bands who crossed-over into the mainstream, there is also hidden  history of punk as a creative explosion through which thousands of young people made their voices heard.
Punk did not end when the Sex Pistols split up in 1978. It carried on into the 1980s, given a new edge by the impact of Thatcher’s government on a generation of young people. It really felt that we had ‘No Future’…Radicalised by harsh reality, punks realised that they had to work together and co-operate just to survive. A practical example of this was the creation of punk housing co-ops like the Islington based Black Sheep Co-op which the Mob and other punk bands helped to finance through benefit gigs. The Mob also worked to renovate houses for the co-op which (along with Andy Palmer of Crass and members of other punk bands) they later lived in. All the Madmen was based in a Black Sheep Co-op house for two years before relocating to another housing co-op (originally a squat) house at Brougham Road in Hackney. 
Even if most histories of punk forget this hidden history, those involved have not. Against the competitive individualism which has become the norm over the past 30 years, we have held fast to the values of co-operation and mutual aid. But holding fast to a memory of what once was is not enough. Now another generation of young people are faced with a government which offers them ‘no future’.
 The revival of All the Madmen as a collective on its own cannot undo the damage done by 30 years of neo-liberalism, but what it can do is offer this generation of young people inspiration in place of despair. The teenagers who created All the Madmen refused to accept that they had no future. Instead they chose to create their own future. And so the seeds of progress were not stubbed out but survived to flower again.