We’ve asked members of our local communities to send us their stories of their time working at the Lay Vic so that we can capture these memories for future generations. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! Many of them will also be recorded by our Curatorial team.
If you have a story to tell about your time working at the Lady Vic please contact [email protected] or [email protected]
Bill Britton, via OldMidlothian Memory Lane (Facebook)
“I have just seen your notification on Facebook and it reminded me of my first day in the Lady in 1962/63 working on the tables on the pit head removing stones etc from the coal. I worked there for a few months before they were able to do this by passing coal through a chemical where the coal was separated. The tables were then closed and I moved to the central workshop as and Apprentice Welder before being accepted as an Engineering Apprentice at Mctaggart Scott Ltd.
Anyway, I eventually came back to the Lady around 1971 and worked on the pit head as a fitter. My fondest memory is assisting to install the pulley wheels on the pit head. Alec Simpson (Nally) was foreman, Alec Mooney, Bob Moir and myself were involved in this – these are the names I remember! One job I really liked was assisting shanks men with the hosling and resetting winding engine limits.
My father worked in the Lady and my Grandfather was winding engine man in Lingerwood Colliery. I enjoyed my time there. I’m now retired and living in Fort William. I visited the museum a few years ago and boy did it bring back some memories!! I wish you all success for the future and hope you all stay well.”
Gordon Livingstone, via Old Midlothian Memory Lane (Facebook)
“I started as an apprentice electrical fitter in the Lady Victoria in July 1971. I served my apprenticeship from 1971 to 1975 both on the surface of the Lady Victoria and underground. I carried on at the Lady Victoria Colliery working underground doon the parrot P04 , P27 , doon the Kaleblades and in Polton and on the surface .
I was one of the last persons down and up the Lady shaft who rode in the cage. Along with Wullie Dickson and Scrappy Gray.
Old Jock Learmonth was the assistant chief electrical engineer during closure with the closed colliery manager being Mr Bill ooops, forget his second name! We were filling in both the Lingerwood and Lady Victoria shafts after the colliery officially closed. I was posted temporarily to Newbattle workshops and worked between them and the Lady Vic, decommissioning the electrical distribution switch gear . The colliery was actually in the process of becoming a museum, work starting around 1982/83. Mr Catherwood and a Mr Hyde regularly visited whilst decommission was going on.
I worked with some of the best electrical engineers during my time at the Lady Vic: Bob Laird, Frankie Donnelly, Tom Dickson, big Wullie Lockhart, Jim Black, Andrew Hall, Jimmy Murray, John Kennedy , Pud Walkingshaw, Wullie Mcbride , Bob Ewart…oh the list is endless but I’ll never forget Gordie Ferrier.👍
I finally left the Lady Vic and also Newbattle workshops in 1983 and left the coal industry in June 1986.
I’ve visited the museum many times with friends and was an expert 😂 on the winding engine house..signals and electrical systems although the winder was steam..remember it well .
Enjoyed the work, the people and the place itself at times.”
Kenny Shields, via Old Midlothian Memory Lane (Facebook)
“My dad Eddie Shields transferred there after Easthouses closed. He is 86 now and has very advanced dementia. My memories though, are of him picking my brother and I up from school and going to the pit canteen for what was always a great tea! Food was great and the puddings perfect. A dinner, pudding and a mug o tea!”
Robert Brown, via Old Midlothian Memory Lane (Facebook)
“I started working at the Lady in 1968. My first job was working in the lamp room. Worked beside a guy with glasses and a club foot. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name. Shortly afterwards I went onto the coupling at the pit head. I did some time working on the tippler emptying the tubs of coal and pushing through the next two full tubs with a ram, which pushed the empty ones out for the couplers to couple together again.
I went to Dungavel in 1969 for my underground training at the Barony Colliery for 12 weeks. I then went onto the Lady’s pit bottom to do the coupling down there, also the backshunt and the corner. With working on the corner came the customary 3 x 3 bells from the couplers. (Only those in the know understand what that signal means). Even the deputy Davy Watson knew what that signal meant because he was with me when I received a 3 x 3 signal and he himself sent 7 bells back to the couplers lol. Eventually I went in the box controlling the tubs of coal coming out from the Newbattle and Carrington lies and placing them strategically towards the cages in an orderly fashion in preparation for them to be loaded onto the cages. I was then given a line for the shaft signals so I could signal to the banksman and the winding enginehouse man that the cage was clear to go after I had counted on the 30 men and taking their square tokens.
I have also worked during the trades letting men down the pit and having my holidays at a later date. I’m sure I still have that line in my home somewhere. Anyways, I then went onto the Newbattle loader filling the empty tubs from a steel conveyor belt and shunting them forward when they were full. One day in 1975 I was on dayshift near lousing time when my backshift neebour came in to relieve me. I went down the metal ladder from the platform on the tight side between the wall and the full tubs, saw a gap between the tubs and went between them to get to the walking side. While I was in between the tubs my neebour pulled the handle to push the tubs forwards and the tubs closed on me and squeezed my pelvis as all the tubs were moving. I felt as though my insides were going to come out of my back passage as my pelvis was being squashed. Fortunately my neebour was only moving the tubs forward a short distance otherwise I don’t think I would be writing this today. Afterwards, and because of a certain guy called Tam Crombie, God rest his soul, I went down the dook on the belt signals. I left the Lady in 1977, but I have always looked back and reminisced about the good (and bad) times I had there.”