Calls for Midlothian memorial to the 'child slaves' that worked Scotland's worst mines

Calls for children forced to work in some of the worst mines in Scotland to be given a permanent tribute have been made after a local community group unearthed part of their history.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Scottish Mining records have an account of the Edmonstone Colliery disaster which saw 13 miners, including a 12-year-old girl, trapped for days before miraculously being rescued.
Scottish Mining records have an account of the Edmonstone Colliery disaster which saw 13 miners, including a 12-year-old girl, trapped for days before miraculously being rescued.

Danderhall and District Guerrilla Gardeners uncovered part of an old colliery waggonway while tackling weeds.

And they quickly found out more about Edmonstone Colliery, which it was attached to, a mining disaster at the site and the plight of local children who worked in pits.

Their discovery this week saw a powerhouse delegation descend on the mining community with representatives from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and Shawfair LLP arriving to investigate further.

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And Helen Graham, from the gardening group, wasted no time in making clear what the community wanted to see at the wall.

She said that as the group learned the history of the colliery and the lives of the children who worked there they had become determined to ensure a fitting memorial is created.

She told the assembled group: “We’ve read the 1840 account of the Childrens Employment Commissioner’s inquiry and medical evidence . In Newton parish the commissioner concludes the pits were the worst in Scotland and Scottish pit conditions were worse than English.

“With heart-wrenching accounts from this parish, the guerrilla gardeners having uncovered this last remnant of the Edmonstone waggonway would hope in partnership with Shawfair LLP and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust that a fitting commemoration is made here to the children forced into barbaric and cruel employment .

“This passionate and proud community came from one where some of its children were forced into a life of slavery.”

The 1840 commissioners inquiry looked at conditions in pits and took accounts of life from children working in them.

Scottish Mining records also have an account of the Edmonstone Colliery disaster which saw 13 miners, including a 12-year-old girl, trapped for days before miraculously being rescued.

Matt Laing, chaplain of Free Colliers , who played an important role in the rescue and fighting for miners’ rights, also addressed the delegation.

The Free Colliers were instrumental in getting miners access to their church, which was denied and the right to be buried on consecrated ground in the 19th century.

Local councillors Colin Cassidy and Steven Curran also joined the delegation visiting the wall.

Councillor Cassidy paid tribute to the guerrilla gardeners’ for their work and determination.

He said: “It is inspiring and this is just the beginning. I feel optimistic for the future when I see community groups like this taking back control.”

The group gathered at Danderhall Miners Club following the wall visit for refreshments.

Ian Dewar, from Shawfair LLP, pledged support from the developers for the community project.

He said: “The wall is a really interesting discovery and we are really happy the gardeners have been so active in he community.

“We are happy to support them in any way going forward.”

The Midlothian group has another meeting scheduled with the Coalfields Regeneration Trust later this month to begin applications for funding.

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