The Collieries of Campbeltown

as they relate to the Peden family history.

The Town of Campbeltown

This brief history is intended as a background to the Peden family history. It therefore concentrates on items considered relevant, and should not be regarded as a comprehensive history of the town or district.

The Campbeltown Coalfield

The Kintyre peninsula is largely mountainous, but is traversed near its southern end by a low-lying plain known as the Laggan. This terminates on the the east side at Campbeltown Loch, and on the west at Machrihanish Bay; it does not generally rise more than 60ft above sea level, and to the north and south the ground rises abruptly to hills over 1000ft, composed of ancient metamorphic rock. Within the area of the Laggan lies the Campbeltown coalfield. It extends under the sea at Machrihanish, and is cut off towards Campbeltown by the outcrop of the underlying old red sandstone.

Working of the Campbeltown coalfield dates back to the fifteenth century, with the surface workings largely grouped to the north and west of the village of Drumlemble. By the late eighteenth century, the costly and inconvenient overland transport of the coal to Campbeltown was making the workings uncompetitive, and in 1785 work started on building a canal from Drumlemble to the port. By the end of the eighteenth century, the canal was being used to transport some 4,500 tons of coal per year to Campbeltown for local use. In addition, shipment to Ireland and elsewhere was developing, with the sloops Susanna and Favorite engaging in this trade.

Between 1810 and 1835, the coalworks ran fairly well, with an annual output of 10,000 to 15,000 tons. In February 1835 the pit flooded, and it was not cleared until June the next year. It was no sooner working again than the miners went on strike. They demanded to be paid on gross output and apparently were successful in their claim. In 1837 a new pit was opened 627 yards from the canal terminus and a similar distance from the main road. To transport the coal from the pit-head to the the canal, a tramroad was built.

In 1841, John Howie, a competent manager for many years, died and the company was thrown into confusion. Coal continued to be extracted from a 7ft seam but in 1847 several faults were struck. Problems continued, and in 1855 coal extraction ceased and the canal was filled in. In 1861, the pumps, engine and underground equipment were removed and the mine was closed.

The mine reopened in 1875 and was run successfully for many more years, finally closing in 1967.

Page last updated 09/06/2001