Nostalgia: Mining

The Bilston Glen mine pictured in 1956
The Bilston Glen mine pictured in 1956
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It wasn’t just an industry, it was a way of life and the lifeblood of communities across Scotland.

Scotland’s pits employed more than 14,000 people at the beginning of the 1980s and Bilston Glen was the jewel in the crown. But as the biggest and most modern facility in the country, it was also the flashpoint of the industrial unrest which was to follow.

Bilston Glen Coal Mine in 1963 - Tunnel showing Locomotive

Bilston Glen Coal Mine in 1963 - Tunnel showing Locomotive

This week Bilston Glen was back in the news as the anti-bypass campaigners who have been occupying an area of woods prepare to mark ten years of their camp protest.

They have little connection but no doubt share solidarity with the men who stood up for their own cause and the destruction of an entirely different kind in 1984. The imposing structures at Bilston Glen, captured in our main picture from 1956 was a landmark in the shadow of the Pentland Hills.

It was finally closed by the National Coal Board in 1989, marking the end of an era for the entire country.

Its demise would have been hard to imagine for the miners in our photographs from the 1950s. Then it was a job for life, with generations of sons following their fathers down the mine.

The mine in the 1950s

The mine in the 1950s

In 1984, at the height of the miners’ dispute gripping the UK, Bilston Glen was at the forefront. As, often younger, workers chose to cross the picket lines, there were regular flare-ups.

Men who had perhaps been colleagues, often friends, days before would find themselves at the centre of angry confrontations. Media descended and images were flashed across the country as the story played out. Nothing would ever be the same and the rest, of course, is history.

Bilston Glen Coal Mine Projects - Tunnelling 2000ft down to Great Coal Seam - Team of surveyors

Bilston Glen Coal Mine Projects - Tunnelling 2000ft down to Great Coal Seam - Team of surveyors