Nostalgia: Holding the Fort

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FORT Kinnaird is set to expand again, with planning permission being granted for a new unit marking just the latest chapter in the area’s long history.

Long before it was transformed into one of the city’s biggest shopping and leisure centres, the site was known for its mining history.

For 70 years, Newcraighall Colliery was known as “The Klondyke”, with the miners there digging a living from the “black gold” of the coal seams.

While the “gold rush” brought a good life to many, it was also rife with dangers and, years later, miners would recall efforts to dig colleagues out with their bare hands following one of many roof falls.

The mine was served by bogies which carried the men down into the pit eight at a time. In the 1940s, this contraption failed when the support rope snapped, sending the wagons plunging to the bottom. Two men were badly injured.

Like the famous American Gold Rush which gave the mine its nickname, the days of the Newcraighall Colliery were numbered and, in 1968, after it was decided the roof of the pit was not safe enough to accommodate new mining machinery, the colliery was closed down.

The site lay vacant for many years until, in 1989, it became the home to the Fort Kinnaird retail park.

As well as being home to the famous toy store Toys’R’Us, the site was notorious for hosting the Capital’s first multiplex cinema, a 12-screen venue which raised concerns about its impact on smaller city venues.

The argument about the effect of retail parks on the city centre has only intensified in recent years, and the continuing expansion of Fort Kinnaird is only likely to add to add to the concerns.