Gala Days

Gala Days were festive occasions when mining families got together to enjoy music and sport and listen to rousing speeches.  Some began as small pit-based sports, or children’s play days.  Many had their origins in famous struggles; the Fife miners’ gala began in June 1871 to celebrate the securing of the 8 hour day the previous year.  It merged in 1947 with the annual Scottish miners’ gala which was held annually, on 1st May, at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.  This began with a parade to the park, through the city streets, and was just like small galas, only bigger. There were band competitions and sports like athletics, football and boxing.  A Coal Queen, who had to work in the industry or be the wife or daughter of a miner,was crowned.  Children took pony rides – like the old days when pit ponies were brought to the surface during holidays.  Stalls were set up in a large marquee to sell produce, including craft goods made by disabled miners.  There was dancing and there were speeches from union leaders, politicians and celebrities.

Pipe or silver bands held pride of place at gala days.  They headed the processions and took part in keenly contested competitions.  Some bands were formed by men of a town or village while the larger pits were able to muster enough men to form their own bands.  Weekly contributions from all the men who worked at the pit and fund-raising by voluntary committees paid for the band.  Miners’ bands were often very good and took part in national competitions, which they often won!

The following gallery shows images of Newtongrange Gala Day.

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