Grange Colliery, Elie & Earlsferry

Owner/Lessee: P. Keddie (1842)
Robert Keddie (1854-57)

All trace of the old pits known to be sunk on the Links to the east of Elie was gone well before the end of the nineteenth century. Three of these pits were sunk 20 and 30 fathoms to the Main Coal, and 26 fathoms to the Salt Coal.
The line of three small pits and an engine house, located just south-east of Grange Farm, and another coal pit on Earlsferry Links, south of Grangehill, were still working some of the coal seams of the small Earlsferry and Elie coalfield as Grange Colliery into the 1850s. The opening dates of these pits at Grange/Grangehill are not known but it is known that there were coal-works here as early as the 16th century.
In the 1840s, the manager of the later colliery was apparently dismayed to discover that a large part of his workforce had left to try their luck at the North Sea herring fishing. The last pits of Grange Colliery and Earlsferry Links are believed to have ceased coaling around the early 1860s.

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... from Statistical Accounts: Parish of Ely (1791) ...

"Coal is the only fuel used here. There is an excellent coalwork, belonging to Sir John Anstruther, 3 miles from this parish. The price of coals, independent of carriage, in 1790, was 3s. for 75 stones, and 4s. 4d. for 75 stones of a better quality, but is now 4s. for 75 stones of the first sort, and 5s. for the other."

... from Statistical Accounts: Parish of Kilconquhar (1795) ...

"On the west of the Earl's Ferry is Kincraig rock, remarkable for caves, which, though some of them resemble the works of art, are probably excavations caused by the influx of the sea. ... The stone of this rock is of excellent quality ... Coal is found in this rock too, which cannot be worked, as the sea comes so close upon it."

"There is a considerable number of coal fields in this parish, which have, in great measure, served the adjacent country for some centuries past, and afford coal of various kinds, as hard, splint, parrot, and soft, known here by the name of cherry; and of a mixed nature, in many places; all generally good of their kinds. The strata are subject to many interruptions, as is the case with most of the coal in the inland parts of Fife, being often broken off, or thrown into different directions, by hitches as they are called, which are of very different thicknesses, composed variously of heterogeneous materials; the coal strata themselves also differing in thickness, quality, stricking, and declivity; seldom found to go much deeper than 30 fathoms from the surface; whereas the coal strata, close by the sea, both here, and in many other parts of our island, are said to run for miles, almost in the same direction, and of the same dimensions."

... from Statistical Accounts: Parish of Elie (1836) ...

"Lying intermediate betwixt the Earlsferry coal-field on the west, and that of St Monance on the east, this parish may be considered as a section of the great independent coal formation. This useful mineral, however, is wrought in no part of it, although at a former period several pits were open; and little doubt can be entertained, from its geognostic relations, that it is not less highly favoured than its neighbours in this respect. ...
Along the shore, from Saucher Point, eastward to the extremity of the parish, all the members of the coal-field are to be met with, some of them inclined at an angle of 12o, others at 30o, and in some instances, they are thrown into a vertical position. ...
The coal measures are traversed by several trap-dykes, by which they are not only up-heaved, but greatly altered in texture at the line of junction. ...
Coals is the only fuel used in the neighbourhood. The whole district abounds in this valuable mineral; and it is wrought at the distance of half a mile from the village. By this means, there being little carriage, the expense is reasonable. There is, moreover, a good deal imported in winter both from Newcastle and from Bridgeness, near Grangemouth. The price of the former is commonly about 15s. per ton; that of the latter, 13s. This year both will be considerably higher. Towards the new year, from sixty to eighty cart loads are distributed among the poor, - many families getting them, which are not on the roll, and that receive nothing from the session funds in the course of the year. ...

... from Statistical Accounts: Parish of Kilconquhar (1837) ...

"The great independent coal formation characterises, throughout, the length and breadth of this parish. ... Three well marked divisions, at different levels and elevations ... comprise separate and distinct coal fields, geographically as well as physically distinguished from each other.
The first of these embraces the Grange or Earlsferry coal field, which lies along the shore, and inclines towards the sea; ... Earlsferry point exhibits ... at low water the stratified rocks, and edges of the coal field ... Immediately to the east of this interesting series of rocks, the Grange coal-works are situated, the metals of which consist of nine seams; the largest being about eight feet thick. This coal field is traversed by three trap dikes or veins, which have produced the usual effects upon the minerals, those in contact being charred, and in some places thrown into a vertical position. The strata incline to the west at an angle of 12o.

In the parish of Kilconquhar, in 1837, 90 persons are recorded as having employment at coal works.

... from Descriptive Gazeteer of Fife (1857) ...

"Although coals are not wrought now in the parish, it bears ample proof of this having been done at an earlier period."

Information on coals worked at, or near, Grange Colliery

(based on reports from 1900 and 1977)

The lower limestones that underlay the coals were found on the east side of Elie and, as the strata dipped steadily towards the south-west at 20o to 25o, the coals themselves soon came in, traces of their outcrops being detected on the flat, rocky beach in front of Elie and Earlsferry.
Landale (1837, map) had listed no fewer than seventeen coal seams with a united thickness of nearly 60 ft. of coal which he termed the Earl's Ferry seams.

Landale's Earl's Ferry seams Possible Correlation to Central Fife coal seams
COAL 1 ft. 8 in. PILKIN COAL
COAL 1 ft. 11 in. GLASSEE COAL
COAL 3 ft. 7 in. TWO FOOT COAL
SALT COAL 2 ft. 9 in. Unnamed coal
COAL 1 ft. 4 in. SMITHY COAL

Another description, this time from an experienced miner in the old coalfield, indicates the following section of the field with around nine coals:

Earlsferry & Elie Coalfield (Andrew Rolland, local miner)
TOP COAL 11 ft.
Strata 18 ft.
Strata uncertain
Strata uncertain
Strata uncertain
Strata uncertain
Blaes 1 ft. 2 in.
Ironstone 1 ft. 4 in.
Strata uncertain
Thin coal uncertain
Strata uncertain
MAIN COAL * 5 ft.
Strata 156 ft.
* The MAIN COAL lay 30 ft. below the CHERRY AND SPLINT COAL

The coals chiefly worked were the Main and the Cherry and Splint. The Main seam had a strong roof and, being a good household and splint coal, met with a ready sale in the surrounding area. No parrot coal was met with in the coalfield except in the thick Top Coal which contained a 1 in. thickness of parrot coal in the centre of the seam.

There was an east and west fault present, with a downthrow of 30 fathoms to the north, which divided the coalfield into two. The field was bounded on the south by a parallel fault which also had a downthrow to the north.

The coal seams of this small field struck in a north-westerly direction and may possibly extend for some distance further than they were worked. The quality of the coals remained good as long as they were mined along the strike until they were cut off by the large fault that bounded the Pittenweem basin. Towards the west (in the direction of the dip) the coals were either affected or destroyed by various invasive strata from Chapel Ness to Ruddons Point. The old workings on the Links were pushed north-westwards as far as the Grange farm until the coals became broken and contorted. Immediately to the west lay the large volcanic vent of Kincraig Hill and as the coal was followed in that direction, it was found to be crossed by small faults and to have become foul and "blind", until at last, when it was quite on edge, further working of it was abandoned.

Plans of Abandoned Seams for Earlsferry Pits or Mines designated in Plans
COAL; Splint (1859) Earlsferry Links (District)


"The Scotsman"
13 September, 1828

THESE LIME-WORKS will be Let either for a Lordship or Money-rent, for a term of years to be agreed on, with Entry now or at Martinmas. ... The Lime is of the best quality, and in constant demand. The Works are provided with a Railway, Crank, and Machinery, and the Tacksman may be allowed to work coal for burning the Lime in the Lands adjoining, or he can find a ready supply at the Elie Colliery.
The Overseer will point out the Works, and sealed offers for a Lease, may be forwarded betwixt and the 10th October next, to W. Drummond and H. Berwick, writers, Cupar.
Kilconquhar House, 9th Sept. 1828.


"Fifeshire Journal"
9 February, 1833

THE Best SPLINT COAL at GRANGE COLLIERY, in the Parish of Kilconquhar, is now reduced (to customers going through the toll bar at Elie) to One Shilling per load, or Six Shillings per ton; and Chew Coal to 8d. per load.
No delay will be occasioned to customers at the Hill, as the supply is very abundant.
Grange Colliery, February 9, 1833.


"Fifeshire Journal"
Saturday, 20 September, 1834

A NUMBER of COLLIERS are wanted at the Collieries of GRANGE and RIRES, in the Parish of Kilconquhar.

Steady workmen are enabled to earn from 18 s. to 24 s. per week.


"Fifeshire Journal"
22 March, 1838

Any little semblance of a breakwater, which for many years served to protect our naturally beautiful harbour, has been swept away by the recent storm. The rough wall which connected the rock on which our fragment of a harbour yet stands with the shore, has been hurled to the ground. The granary at the pier is now completely isolated at high water, and in rough weather the breakers from the east make a clean sweep into what used to be the sheltered portion of our basin.
How sad it is to see this stae of thriftless delapidation existing where, at so moderate an expense, one of the finest low-water piers in the Forth might be built.
The whole country around is filled with coal-pits, and 50 yards of sea-wall would take us into water fit to flood a frigate, so that the whole steamers plying up and down the Forth might get from our pits a daily supply, on easier terms as to prices, shore-dues, and trouble, than at any other point from Alloa down.


"Fifeshire Journal"
24 May, 1838

Our ancient little burgh was on Monday night all animation, in consequence of Mr. Keddie's workmen parading the streets, accompanied by the Kilconquhar instrumental band, on occasion of their presenting to their esteemed and worthy master, Philip Keddie, Esq., a splendid and richly-chased silver snuff-box, "bearing the following inscription:-
Presented to Philip Keddie, Esq., as a mark of respect and esteem, from his workmen at Grange Colliery. May 21, 1838
While recording the above most gratifying proof of Mr Keddie's workmen in thus manifesting their generous feelings towards so kind and indulgent a master, it is but justice to state that many in this neighbourhood have by this enterprising gentleman obtained great benefits; not only in giving circulation to so much money, but also in furnishing many a poor old "grannie" with "a blazing ingle", which she can view with delight and feel with comfort, instead of shivering over "the rusty grate, unconscious of a fire." The evening was spent with much real pleasure and satisfaction to all parties concerned.


"Fifeshire Journal"
9 August, 1838

THE Best COAL at GRANGE COLLIERY, near Earlsferry (where an abundant supply can be depended upon), is now Sold at One Shilling and One Penny per Load, and for Coal to be taken through any Toll-Bar besides Elie, at One Shilling per Load.

Grange Colliery, 8th August, 1838.

See also West Gin Pit entry.


"Fifeshire Journal"
9 July, 1846

An accident of rather a serious nature took place here, on Wednesday morning last, at the West Gin Pit, the waste of which had contained a great deal of contaminated, or as it is commonly called, foul air, for some time.
Andrew Rolland, one of the colliers, was in the act of ascending the pit in a bucket, he got so sick as to become quite powerless, and abandoned his hold of the rope; the consequence was that he was precipitated to the bottom of the pit, a height of from eight or ten fathoms. He was when taken up dreadfully cut on the head, and he is so much internally injured that he is considered in a very dangerous state.

[This is likely to be the same miner who provided the information on the local seams - see above.]


"Fifeshire Journal"
30 August, 1849

GRANGE COLLIERY - to Let (from Candlemas)


"Fifeshire Journal"
8 April, 1851

It is our painful duty to record a very melancholy accident which took place in the morning of Friday last, in the coal pit adjoining this place.
While Andrew Herd, a collier residing here was engaged in his ordinary work within the pit, the roof of the spot where he was working suddenly gave way and, a large mass falling upon him, he was killed in a moment. The poor man leaves a widow and six children - only two of whom are able to do anything for themselves - to lament his untimely fate.

The age of this miner is reported as 41 years in a Pre 1855 Fife Deaths Index.

M. Martin and Webmasters.


"The Scotsman"
12 December, 1863

TO BE LET, a FIELD OF COAL and BLACKBAND IRONSTONE at GRANGE, near Elie Harbour. The quality is good, and, being accompanied by a bed of Coal, the Ironstone is obtained at moderate expense. The Ironstone has been supplied to the Tyne Iron Works, Newcastle, who will continue to take it if desired. The Machinery at the Pit may be had by a tenant.
Offers for a Lease on or before the 7th of January next to be addressed to THOMAS LYDE, Esq., Solicitor, 1 and 2 Mitre Court, Temple Bar, London; or to Messrs JOHN & E. H. GEDDES, Mining Engineers, Edinburgh.
8th December 1863.





Fife and coal are practical synonymous terms. For centuries now the mining industry has been the chief one in the county, and with all due respect to Dunfermline Linen, Kirkcaldy Linoleum, or even Markinch cabbages, it still occupies the premier place. Right down through the centuries from 1291, when the monks at Dunfermline were granted a charter to work coal on a certain part of the Pittencrieff estate, the black seam may be said to have spread its way through Fife history, cropping out here and there, along the coast principally in the old days, and which have led to the kingly simile of the county as a "beggar's mantle with a fringe of gold", and in its later developments embracing almost the whole of Fife inland.

No one yet has put on consecutive record the varying history of coal getting in "The Kingdom"; the ebb and flow of the industry in various districts, the development of some and the gradual decay of other fields. Spasmodic and localised writings have appeared, but no scribe has tackled a comprehensive survey of Fife as one coal area, or attempted to link up the different fields, the influence on Scottish commerce or upon "human equation" in the county.

The subject of the present article is nothing so ambitious as that outlined in the last paragraph, but merely to chronicle a few of the interesting entries which appear in an old ledger described as "The Oncost Book of the Grange Colliery, Earlsferry, 1826". This field, which was situated about half a mile from Macduff's Cove, was "drowned out" in the early fifties, and little or no trace of the workings now remains.

In 1826, however, matters seem to have flourished although the colliery was a small one, and no difficulty, apparently, was encountered in disposing of the coal. On the output side of the book is entered the twenty odd names of the miners who found employment there, and many of the present day inhabitants of Earlsferry would recognise the familiar ring some of them have; indeed not a few of the descendants of these old miners are still in the town and district.

On the output side also, we find that Thomas Fernie, working from the 11th to 18th August, 1826, was able to produce 35½ lades of large and 62 lades of small coal, for which he received £1 7s 8½d. A "lade" was the measurement used, and weighed four cwts., so that it took five lades to make the ton. This system of weighing was long in use, the writer believe, in Largoward and Ceres. To return to the output entries, Alexander Pearson, working six shifts, did better than Fernie's total, for seven visits to the pit, being able to deliver 58 of the large and 65 lades of small coal, making £1 17s 8½ for the six shifts. Whether Fernie had struck a bad place, or Pearson was the better miner, is not placed on record, but one shudders to imagine the domestic recriminations that would ensue in the Fernie household should Mrs Pearson have so far forgotten what was becoming to a good Christian as to "point the moral and adorn the tale" in public of her husband's superiority.

Laying these intimate speculations on one side, and dipping again into the output side of the ledger, both James Patton and David Philp show up as "workmen not needing to be ashamed". Almost every entry against their names intimate that they were full timers with no idle or gala days. Unless they indulged in a surreptitious game on Sunday - perish the thought in such a God-fearing burgh as Earlsferry - golf had no attraction for them, neither had the littery of a day with the lines in largo Bay any lure. Work was their sole recreation, and they made it pay, for, taking one instance out of what was a regular thing, James, in twelve shifts, brought to the surface 119 large and 156½ lades of small coal, his earning for this being £4 2s 2½d, while David, with a similar number of shifts to his credit, produced101 large and 223½ lades of small coal, his recompense being stated at £4 8s ½d.

For a fortnight's work our present day miner might not reckon himself overpaid at £4 8s 8½d, but during the time under review no mention is made of dissatisfaction with the earnings, and no strike of the 'Ferry miners ever came along to worry the management. Out of the wages, of course, would have to come the payment of the drawers, but as these auxiliaries in 1826 were generally the miners wives, their sons, and even their daughters, all the money earned would go into the common purse. It has also to be remembered that the miner then sat rent free, and was provided with coal at the hewing rate, i.e., the price paid him by the coalowner for hewing the coal was the price he paid when he wished to replenish the domestic cellar. Such vexatious impositions as rent and tax money, national insurance items, or hospital contributions neither worried his working hours nor affected his dreams. Food and clothing were the only direct charges on his income - education was even considered a luxury beyond their means - so that after all, the old time miner's lot compares not unfavourably, so far as the monetary side is concerned, with that of his present day prototype.

One could enlarge on the personal element indefinitely as contained in these old records of coal getting in Earlsferry according to the output side, but the balancing items of the ledger claim attention as being of equal interest. In 1826, for instance, the price of coal was 1s 3d per lade for splint, and 10d per lade for chews. Of course, these figures varied a little, but there were none of the wonderful ups and downs of the present coal market. The variation throughout the year 1826 was only 1d or 2d per lade either way, 1s 4d being the top price paid recorded for splint and 10d for chews, while the lowest for the first quality was 1s 2d, and 8d for the second.

All the output was sold at the pithead, there being no entries to indicate any extensive export trade, even granting that the facility existed for such traffic, and taking the price at 1s 3d per lade for splint, this would give a ton rate of 6s 3d. Coals at 6s 3d per ton is enough to make the thrifty housewife sigh for a return of the "good old days", for, just now, supposing one's geographical location is suitable, 20s at the pithead is about the lowest figure at which a colliery manager will part with his "black diamonds".

Many quaint entries occur in the oncost expense side. Andrew Nicol is the oversman, whose fortnightly wage is £1 16s. For two months, however, the management open up their heart, and Andrew revelled in wealth at the rate of £2 per fortnight, despite the fact that at that time the price obtained for coal had dropped 1d per lade, but the reason for this transient burst of generosity, or why his "screw" was again reduced, is not given.

For six weeks, we are told, the toll charges came to £4 9s 7d, but as business got brisker in the winter months, as much as £5 5s 5d was paid under this heading. These toll charges were even paid to the carter on the occasion of the miner's "flittin'", a piece of generosity that would no doubt be welcome at the present time.

Robert Keddie's name appears regularly in the fortnightly entry as receiving £2, and one assumes that he laboured as a Clerk, as his particular duties are not defined. If the surmise is correct, Robert was "some" clerk, a conspicuous neatness and copperplate handwriting distinguishing the whole book. He was also conscientious to a fault, for he enters that Henry Simpson goes to Leven for a rope and gets 1s for his trouble, while Andrew Russell, who also goes to Leven, but with no definite object, receives 2s. Keddie, if he it was who made the entries, was evidently a close student of human nature, and realised that a man with no definite purpose in view would have more time to spend money than a man on business bent, hence 2s.

One other excerpt from this dog-eared volume will suffice. "To whisky for carters on New Year's Day, 8s". That lends a human touch to this quaint old oncost book, and one closes it with the hope that, prohibition propaganda notwithstanding, it ushered in a guid New Year to the drinkers

Sent by Jim Campbell


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