Mines and Pits

Armadale’s mines created an influx in Armadale’s population during the industrial revolution of the mid 1800s. They brought a wealth of employment in addition to the wealth they brought to the mine owners.

Ironstone from Colinshiels Pit was used to make cannons in the battle of Waterloo, and Armadale coal was of such good quality and gave off such intense heat, it was used for industrial fires in the foundries etc.

As with all things, there was good and bad in mining. Many miners started pipe or silver bands to counter-act the effects the coal dust and underground air had on their lungs.

In the 1800s, women and children were exploited, working in the mines as ‘drawers’, pulling the heavy ‘bogeys’ full of coal, to the top of the mine or to the pit bottom where the coal could then be hauled up on pulleys. Their speed influenced the wages of the miners who were paid by the weight of coal, and sometimes the miners were heavy handed if they believed the drawers were not pulling quickly enough.

The Children’s Employment Commissioner of 1842 visited Armadale and reported on the local mines.

To read this report click here

At various times, the miners were well paid, and although the work was tough, they enjoyed life outside work. There was a large ‘Gala Day’ in Edinburgh every year in addition to the local ones.

The last mine in Armadale, Woodend Pit, closed in the late 1960s. Many of the miners moved to Easton and Polkemmet, both of which closed shortly after – the Polkemmet pit closed in 1983 during the Miners Strike.

You can read more at Armadale.org.uk here





Coal is black
and hard to get.
Coal warms hands
and feet and yet,
Coal is found
cold, underground.




and sputtering
candles, light
the miners moles
slashing picks
that win the coals.
Nightmare dreams
haunt low wet seams.
and shovelling
miners, weans
and miners wives
(grimy sweat
cakes all their lives),
haul the coal
up the black hole,




to sunlight,
(where colours glow),
sea and sky
and trees, but no,
bings abound
round poison’d ground.
 Davie Kerr