Seafield Pit, sunk to the west of Kirkcaldy near the shore
to a depth of 1830 ft., was built with similar 'new
look' structures to house the winding gear that had
characterised the Rothes Colliery, near Thornton. The
Seafield pit would take its coal from the vast deposits lying
beneath the Firth of Forth.
Click on Image, Map or Plan to Zoom In
["We are always delighted to receive complimentary comments for our website efforts and
also to amend/supplement content where inaccuracies may exist. We were contacted in April 2012 by
Tony Forster, HM Inspector of Mines (HSE), who kindly described the website as 'a wonderful testimony
to the people who worked in an industry that I'm so proud of being a part of.'
Tony wrote, "Mick, I came across your excellent site today researching powered roof supports used
on D19 at Seafield. I was the Deputy Manager when the pit closed in 1988. The last entry when the mine
closed in 1988 is therefore incorrect. At the time of the pit's closure, John Souter had retired and Jim
Sorbie had been promoted to the post of colliery manager at Bilston Glen Colliery in Midlothian.
In follow-up emails, Tony - with a contribution from Allan Thomson - confirmed, not only further background on colliery staffing around the time of the Seafield closure, but very interesting information on his own career.
"Chris, ... There was a lot of movement around that time. I was promoted to acting Colliery Manager
at Killoch Colliery in July 1986 when the then manager, Willie Miller, left Killoch to take over from Willie Kerr
as General Manager at Monktonhall. ... I'm not sure if Willie Kerr returned to Monktonhall for a
period or moved to Seafield shortly after that?
Click on Image to Zoom In
I have just recovered my old 'Garforth' Flame Safety Lamp (FSL) given to me when I left Seafield.
It bears the number '2' (Deputy Manager) and is stamped with the Seafield logo on the 'sparker' tab.
I will take a photo and attach it to a future email.
Here are images of that 'Garforth' Flame Safety Lamp (No. 2) presented to Tony Forster, Deputy Manager, Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy.
Click on Image to Zoom In
[See Frances entry - East Index - for images of Tony's Wolf lamp.]
We were delighted to hear, in September 2012, that Tony has been appointed
to the position of Chief Inspector of Mines in New Zealand. We wish him every success
in his new role.
The body of 20-year-old Angus Guthrie, 73 Carden Castle Park, Cardenden,
was recovered from the Dysart seam of Seafield Colliery at the weekend.
He was one of five miners killed in the pit disaster caused by a roof fall on Thursday, 10th May. Three of the bodies were recovered the following day, but two were buried deep underneath the fall. Rescue teams had worked round the clock all last week to recover the bodies and young Guthrie was finally brought to the surface on Saturday.
His funeral was held to Bowhill Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon when there was a large attendance of mourners including relatives, colleagues, and representatives from the NCB and the NUM.
The Seafield Colliery Disaster Fund stood at £31,962.22 this week as donations from all over the country continued to arrive at the Department of the Town Chamberlain in Kirkcaldy. …
The D:22 section area in Seafield was positioned close by to a cross-cut roadway both in the two levels at Seafield, one level at 170 fathoms and the other at 300 fathoms. The X-Cut was part of the original plans to create lateral roadways to get easy access to all the viable coal.
The section was an advancing faceline heading towards the south-side from the main lateral roadway. The tailgate was on the 170 level and the maingate near the 213 fathom level. As the section was advancing, it came across a faulting which was an over-throw of 'post' coming from the pavement and unforeseen 'burnt coal' in the seam. To try and eradicate the problem, the boring and firing into the pavement, to allow the shearer to travel, took place. The face pans over this fault, however, had to be lifted over the fault to allow easy haulage of the shearer as well, but with the fault, the shearer was cutting higher into the roof causing the roof to weaken as it was breaching the solid roof. To allow the supports to advance, it was proving difficult for the relay bars to push the pans without them lifting into fresh air. To combat this, the pans, when being advanced, were 'stelled' with trees to sit off the pavement. When trying to advance the supports, it was proving to be almost impossible as the relay bars were in a jack-knifing position. In order to advance the supports, the relay bars were replaced by chains for the chocks to be brought forward. Once in place, wooden chock blocks and 10' boards were used to allow the chocks to be pressurised correctly onto the roof. With the culmination of the relay bars not offering proper stabilisation of the pans in relation to the chocks, and the broken roof over the chocks not being completely secured to the roof, this was a main contribution to the collapse of the chocks in the way it was found. There was no proper support in the area of the accident, with no support over the face-line and the chocks, the shearer coming down the face taking another 'cut' caused a further load of pressure with an extra 3 ft. of open ground unsupported. With stelled tress being left on the floor along with other wooden materials, the chocks were sitting on broken strata from the firing of the fault and the unwanted trees. This also made the supports unstable. It was all these factors that contributed to the disaster.
I believe this was the case, having being told by older men and my dad, who volunteered along with everyone to help and try and get the poor souls out of the faceline.
Many years after the accident, I was working in a newly-developed section in the 170 level. In this area, right into the furthermost seam, a lot of retreat sections were developed. One particular section in the Coxtool Seam, we encountered the same geological conditions of D:22, we were heading in the same exact south direction. The section was known as S:25, the main gate was in the 170 level and the tail gate was further up a heading then into a roadway that was being developed further than the known fault. We had to bore 6-inch holes above the face-line to allow reamer channels to be placed above the advancing chocks as we came across burnt coal that literally fell onto the pans, the shearer only had to cut the pavement coal, as the face-line was falling perhaps 8 or 9 feet in advance, the roof was very weak and had to be supported as soon as possible. It proved to be unsuccessful and never produced much. All attempts to develop that area were abandoned due to the problems.
The National Coal Board is to put down bore holes in the Firth of Forth,
off Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy, to prove an extension of reserves to the south of the pit.
Current developments in the area have met geological troubles with whin intrusions and faults.
The boring will be done by a drilling ship, Wimpey Sealab, owned by George Wimpey & Company. The bores will go down 1800 feet, the first time this depth will have been reached in this type of drilling.
The bores will be about four miles offshore and half a mile and 1½ miles respectively to the south of current workings.
They will cost about £350,000 and are expected to yield valuable information on the geological conditions, gradients and the development of the many seams in this part of the reserves.
Over the next five to six years the NCB plans to spend £1 million a year on the development of Seafield Colliery, which, as the largest single pit in Scotland, employs 2400 men.
The Wimpey Sealab will arrive in the Firth of Forth at the end of this month and boring
operations will begin at once. They will take about two months.
The ship will operate in 80 feet of water. One hundred feet of the bore will be in mud, sand and boulder clay until rock is struck.
Bores were made for Seafield Colliery in the 1950s, from towers set on the sea bed. The sinking of Seafield began in May 1954 and production started in April 1965. It cost £15 million.
The Wimpey Sealab, 6000 tons, was converted for sea drilling from a bulk paper carrier.
A 23 foot x 27 foot section of the ship's hold was removed so that the drills enter the water through what marine engineers call a "Moonpool." The rig rises 108 feet above the ship's deck.
To maintain stability, while drilling operations are underway, six anchors on the seabed are linked by wire hawsers to 40-ton winches on the Sealab which will be serviced by tug and helicopter.
The Sealab drilled in the English Channel to help plot the course of the proposed Channel tunnel.
... Seafield Colliery mined its millionth ton of coal in just over 11 months on Wednesday. This is the fourth unit in Scotland to reach a million tons this year.
The multi-million pound link-up under the Forth, which will lead
to coal being produced from the doomed Michael Colliery, is to go
ahead as planned.
Seafield Colliery, Kirkcaldy, and Frances Colliery, Dysart, pits at which many Central Fife miners work, will be joined up with some 160 men transferred from the Dysart pit to Seafield.
The National Coal Board have spelled out their commitment to the project which will tap the reserves of the Michael Colliery which was closed 11 years ago after a fire which caused the deaths of many men.
Kirkcaldy MP, Mr Harry Gourlay, said the fears that the long-term development plans were in doubt were unfounded.
He said, "There has been no change in the NCB's plan for the
link-up. "With the massive reserves of coal under the Forth, which can
be reached from Seafield, it would be criminal to suggest the closure of any pit."
Mr Gourlay made a tour of Seafield and saw the site underground where the drivage will be starting shortly to link-up Seafield and Frances and subsequently with the Michael reserves.
He said the best description of the project was a pit within a pit. "The excavations to accommodate the machinery and a bunker to hold about 1000 tons of coal are massive and all this is part of the £7 million scheme to link-up the Frances, Seafield and Michael reserves, he went on.
"The target date for the link-up of Frances and Seafield is March, 1980, and the
first face at the Michael reserves should be producing coal by September of that year.
"There has been no change in the Board's long-term plan for this linkage. What has changed is that there will be one mine driven from Frances instead of two. But with the improved facilities for bringing coal to the surface in Seafield, the need for a second mine is not so pressing."
He concluded, "It has been generally agreed that while there had been some doubt recently regarding the future of both Frances and Seafield, the position has now been clarified to a considerable degree and it is generally accepted that if productivity and performance in the drivage keep to schedule the future can be assured."
We are grateful to Bob Johnston, Cowdenbeath, ex surveyor, for
his personal account of this feat.
M. Martin & Webmasters.
"I was deputy surveyor at Seafield from 1965 until its
closure. By this time, I was Colliery Surveyor in charge of both
collieries. Both pits were connected underground on 20th March, 1980,
the connection being 'spot on'. This was one of the largest
connections undertaken in Scottish pits. Underground surveying was
in excess of 10.5 miles under very difficult conditions. The in-line
drivage being 1200m using laser beams for direction. This was
surveying to a very high standard - I might be a wee bit biased,
as I was the surveyor involved! However, this did not prolong the
life of the collieries as expected, and dams were put in at the
Frances and both collieries flooded. Hope this helps to update your
magnificent web site."
Ex-Surveyor Seafield/Frances Collieries
Castlehill Colliery have won, for the second year in succession, the national annual Mines
Rescue Competition, held at Loanhead, on Saturday.
Run for the 21st year, since its inception in 1958, the inter-station competition is fought out by the four mines rescue stations in Scotland.
Twenty-five brigades started out in this contest last year, but, after a series of knockout heats, only eight teams were left in the finals on Saturday.
Cowdenbeath Mines Rescue Station had two teams in the event - Castlehill and Seafield - and Castlehill took the major award, plus the Gallery Trophy and three individual awards.
Seafield took the runners-up position, with a close second place to the winning team, making it a first for the competition which has never seen the top places taken by one station - Cowdenbeath.
The Castlehill team - David Forbes (captain), Nap Smith (No. 2), David Barclay (No. 3), David Gardiner (No. 4), vice-captain Dennis Maddox (No. 5) and Robert Wilson (reserve).
[The Cowdenbeath Mines Rescue Station superintendent was Mr E. Savage.]
A 46-year-old Kirkcaldy miner, John Hutt, of 3 Muirfield Street, died
last Thursday, following a roof fall at Seafield Colliery.
Mr Hutt, a power loader, was working underground at the Dysart Main Seam, when the fall occurred. He was brought to the surface about 10.45 a.m. and taken to Victoria Hospital, where he died later in the day.
Mr Hutt is survived by his wife, son Kenneth (20), a student at St Andrews University, and daughter, Jacqueline (17), a prefect at Kirkcaldy High School.
Despite the names of Longannet and Seafield being mentioned on the "hit list"
of pits "revealed" by NUM President, Mr Arthur Scargill, on Tuesday, both the
West Fife Complex and the Kirkcaldy pit are "safe".
A National Coal Board spokesman told the Press yesterday (Thursday) that the Board considered the Longannet Complex and Seafield as areas of the Scottish Coalfield with a future.
He said: "The performances of all pits are under constant review, that is true, but, because a pit has one bad year, it does not mean it is going to close. And, as far as the Longannet Complex and Seafield are concerned, we have just made major investments at both and that is hardly a sign that they are to close."
A leading Fife NUM official said on Wednesday that Coal Board moves to close any pits in the Region on an "alleged economic" basis would be strongly opposed.
Following Tuesday's announcement of the result of the miners' ballot on pay and pit closures, Mr Scargill claimed that he had obtained an NCB document threatening the closure of 75 pits. These pits could be closed within seven years, it was said.
The document, he said, contained five pits in Scotland, but, on Wednesday, Mr William
Clarke, a Fife Regional Councillor, and a member of the Scottish Executive of the NUM, made
it clear that, if the Fife Coalfield were to be hit by any closures, the Union would fight all the way.
Mr Clarke said that any move for early closure of Seafield Colliery, or Longannet, would be strongly resisted.
These two parts of the coalfield employ over 5000 men.
He went on: "We have heard nothing officially about early closures. However, any moves prematurely to end production at any of these two places I have mentioned would be fought. The Union met with the Board in May and discussed closures and it was agreed that, where pits were becoming exhausted, closures would have to take place. That is only common sense. However, at Seafield and Longannet, there is plenty of coal to be mined in the years to come, so exhaustion would be no reason for closures. The Board could only close them for what they would allege as economic reasons."
He concluded, "The Union does not foresee any early closure at Seafield or Longannet, but certainly this document cannot be ignored."
Miners in West Fife collieries seemed split yesterday over Monday's strike-call.
Voting at the pitheads began on Wednesday and, while there was a reported strong "Yes"
vote for the strike-call at Castlehill Mine, miners elsewhere were not so keen to strike.
At Bogside and Solsgirth Collieries, with the back-shift workers still to vote, the mood appeared to be 50-50.
Meanwhile, at Comrie Colliery, the men are believed to have refused to vote, opting instead for a ballot.
At Seafield Pit there was a reported 2-1 vote in favour of a national ballot.
The men had been urged by the NUM's Scottish Executive to strike as from Monday, in response to South Wales miners' campaign to save the Lewis Merthyr pit, near Pontypridd.
At a special delegate meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday, the 19 delegates voted unanimously in favour of indefinite strike action from Monday.
Those delegates voted 12-7, in December, in favour of allowing Kinneil Colliery in West Lothian to close and miners being moved to work at other pits, including those in the Longannet Complex.
Yesterday (Thursday) staff at the NUM's Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh declined to confirm the outcome of pithead voting so far, saying that there were no NUM officials available for comment.
A meeting of the Scottish NUM Executive was due to be held last night in Edinburgh to discuss the results of the voting, and yesterday afternoon local executive member, Mr William Clarke declined to comment in advance of the talks.
As Kirkcaldy's Seafield-Frances complex suffered a massive 800 job losses this week, the NUM gave assurance that there was no danger to pits in West Fife.
Chairman of Dunfermline's Woodmill Strike Centre, Mr Bob Young, accused the board's Scottish area director, Mr Albert Wheeler, of intransigence in his handling of the dispute.
Mr Young flatly denied that the director's claim of a rapid deterioration at the Fife pits applied to those in the west of the region - Comrie, Solsgirth and Castlehill. …
The clearest indication yet of the National Coal Board's future plans for the industry in Fife and Scotland came after a meeting with unions on Friday. Area director, Mr Albert Wheeler, announced that the flooded Polkemmet Colliery was to be abandoned, but the bad news for West Lothian was sweetened with some good news for Fife.
The board plans to invest £20 million in the Scottish area this year - with a "reasonable share" coming to the pits of the Longannet Complex, Comrie Colliery and the Frances/Seafield complex, near Kirkcaldy. ... Fears that the Frances/Seafield complex would be abandoned were also lifted. The pits suffered badly from fire damage during the strike, and the two main production faces were lost. Two new coalfaces are to be developed at Seafield, with a promise of even more investment in future, depending on productivity.
On returning to Seafield, as General Manager, I have now had time to study the colliery and its prospects. Having lost one third part of the pit during the strike we have had to drastically reconsider Seafield's future.
To this end and a very important meeting took place at Seafield on Tuesday 7th June 1985, attended by our Director and Deputy Director. Also in attendance were the union's full time officials including Mr. M. McGahey, N.U.M. President and his Secretary, Mr. E. Clarke. Local officials of the union and members of the management team were also present. Important decisions relative to Seafield were intimated to the meeting and it is right and proper that I tell my workforce, who are affected by these decisions, what the main points were.
A 5-year plan has been drawn up for Seafield but it was made clear that the results over the next 2 years would decide if the rest of the plan came to fruition.
There had been a slight improvement in Seafield's O.M.S. but it was still well below the national average.
We were also on the right course for cost savings but as much remains to be done.
Losses at Seafield have been horrendous and, indeed, in the present financial year we are estimating a £19m deficit.
WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THIS POSITION WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE.
We have to produce efficiently and safely to survive. To this end the Board propose replacement faces for L11 and D17. It was imperative that we get L15 operational by October and a new face in the Chemiss Seam shortly after. Sometime after the commencement of the new financial year, a third face, D19, would be commissioned. New faces require massive investments and unless we are able to produce in excess of 2.5 tonnes per manshift, we have no future. It was pointed out very strongly, that D51 face at the Frances, with 4-hour working day at the face, regularly produced over 2,000 tonnes per day. In that respect Seafield was not being asked to do anything spectacular - just regular and consistent achieving of our face tasks.
In a wide sphere, we must diversify our markets and move away from concentrating only power station fuel.
We need to expand our sales in the domestic and industrial markets. At present we import 300,000 tonnes for this market from England. Our aim is to double our sales in this side of the market and to this end we must be able to compete favourably with gas, electricity, oil, etc. local authorities can play their part in the mining areas and protect jobs by converting to coal.
Again everything depends on our ability to produce at a price the customers will pay.
In the discussion that followed, no one disagreed on the main points of the meeting and Mr. McGahey, Scottish Miners President, pledged his members co-operation and commitment to make Seafield a viable proposition. This would assist the unions in their campaign to achieve an expanding industry in Scotland.
Concluding the meeting, it was evident that a future can exist for Seafield but only if we are strong enough to want it. Coal at the right price is the answer.
The only people who can lose Seafield is the men, union and management at the pit.
Similarly the only ones to save Seafield are the people at the pit - not in Green Park, not in London.
The coal is there for 100 years production - together let's go and get it out.
Continuing my policy of maximum communication, I will be arranging to meet as many men as possible on our return from the Annual Holidays.
COLLIERY GENERAL MANAGER.
By Max Meharry, Personnel Manager.
Achieving the production targets as necessary to survive could be done by making more use of the dead time in our faces and major developments.
At present there is a 3-hour gap from the time the dayshift leaves until the backshift gets in. The same gap exists between backshift/nightshift and nightshift/dayshift.
This means our faces are lying dormant for 9 hours in every 24 hours. There is no other business or industry in any country in the world who would spend millions of pounds on a project then have it lying unproductive for 40% of the working day.
It is even more ridiculous in our case where we are fighting for a future for ourselves, our sons and their sons. Its like buying a pub in a busy High Street, but only opening in the morning session and closing every evening.
We must organise ourselves to continuously mine coal and drive roadways 24 hours a day every day. This will protect and create jobs.
We have approximately a 4-hour working shift and, if we changed over shifts at the face, we can achieve 6 working shifts at the coal face (i.e. 6 shifts of 4 hours duration). This could mean 5 production shifts and 1 maintenance shift every 24 hours.
The same would require to be done on our major development as well.
This policy would increase our productive capacity by over 60% and with this kind of effort the national average production figure of 2.5 tonnes per manshift would easily be overtaken and in this way consolidate our future.
It would completely transform the whole climate for Seafield and the East Fife Coalfield.
When the Director and Deputy Director go to London they would not need the begging bowl when they plead for investment for Seafield. They would be able to DEMAND money for a pit with ample reserves and a proven record of production levels, success and profitability.
Similarly the union campaign to expand our industry in Fife has more chance of success if they are able to show what the Fifers have achieved by their own efforts.
Multi-shift working will eventually be necessary as our coal faces get further away from the pit bottom and I'm sure all thinking miners appreciate this. Unless we multi-shift, you would arrive at the face for piece-time then start to make your way back to the pit bottom, and you know how silly that would be.
There is a great deal of work to be done to introduce multi-shift, transport, shift times, underground races, manpower, team members etc, but we must make a start now. If we are serious about wanting a successful pit, we will take multi-shift in our stride.
Frankly, I don't think we have any alternative.
We are very grateful for the above article which was contributed
by Peter Wishart, Coatbridge. Peter has also kindly sketched layouts (see images
below) to remind us of Dysart No. 1 North Tail Gate [L image], C24 Tail Gate [C image],
and the outbye end of the D12 maingate [R image].
M. Martin & Webmasters.
Peter's accompanying notes re his sketch plans stated:- "I have attached
Dysart No. 1 North Tail Gate Plan. The main gate was placed on the 256 fathom level and
the tail gate was on the 213 fathom horizontal level. This faceline was worked well before I
started in Seafield, my Dad says that this was the first of many Dysart Main sections to have
worked in the Colliery.
I have also attached a drawing of C24 Tail Gate. This section was in the Chemiss Seam that I worked in. This faceline was a retreat faceline. The Main Gate was in the 170 fathom level and the main gate ran right onto the 170 level main roadway. The coal was transported along this roadway onto a heading that ran down to the 300 level. The heading or dook was in the Barncraig Seam and was known as the 'Barncraig Heading'.
I worked in a lot of retreat sections in this area. A lot of the Bowhouse, Chemiss, Coxtool, Six Foot and Barncraig Seams were worked in this area on a retreat system. The last section to have worked in this area was in the Six Foot Seam. I worked on the chocks in a lot of these seams. The last two Six Foot seams, S23 and S25, worked in advance on a southward direction from the 170 level. These two seams proved to be very hazardous as they both advanced to a known fault. S23 only produced coal for about 8 months then we hit the fault and the tail gate advance face lost the coal. S25 was being developed at this time. When S23 finished, we were transferred en bloc into S25. The tail gate was advancing through the fault. After driving through the fault it was found to have been one huge overturn. Once through the fault, the Chemiss seam was to be found on the same horizontal level as the Six Foot was found 150 yards beforehand."
Peter's comments on his third sketch plan were:- "See (B) - Manriding Dook - this was the main transport link. It comprised an endless rope haulage with two sets of man-riding bogies, each train had 5 carriages carrying 20 men on each carriage. The men then followed the roadway out of D12 Main Gate outbye end onto the (C) Material Dook and followed the dook down to their respective work places ( L.15, D17 or D19 development at the time). D12 was sealed off around 1980."
Seafield colliery, Fife, has returned to normal after a 24-hour strike on Monday by more than 800 miners. After talks yesterday with general manager, Mr John Souter, National Union of Mineworkers delegate Mr Johnny Neilson said a further meeting would be held today. "We don't expect any more problems," he added.
The 800 workforce at fire-ravaged Seafield Colliery - many of whom live in Dunfermline District - faced an uncertain future this week.
After the disastrous fire which wiped out one of its two faces, the future of the Kirkcaldy pit is to be reassessed and British Coal has given no guarantees on future manning levels.
Miners returned to work on Tuesday after the pit was declared safe - six days after the fire broke out. Consultations between the coal board and the unions are due to begin next week, and a new plan for the colliery's future will be based on the surviving face.
The NUM had hoped that the board would bring forward proposals for the development of the Frances end of the complex, which would allow entry to the Michael colliery reserves.
An inquiry into the fire will start as soon as the immediate problems have been sorted out.
It is not known how many men from Central and West Fife work at Seafield, but it is understood to be a fair number. Some of them had been switched to the Kirkcaldy mine when Comrie closed.
Seafield will no doubt be high on the agenda when a national organisation set up to protect the interests of coalfield communities meets in Fife for the first time on Friday.
The South Yorkshire-based Coalfields Communities Campaign, launched by concerned local authorities following the long miners' strike, will meet at the Lomond Centre, Glenrothes.
It has close links with the mining trade unions and increasingly with British Coal.
British Coal officials, unable to attend a meeting with unions at Seafield Colliery on Wednesday, were to have announced job losses, a union delegate revealed this week.
Mr John Neilson, NUM delegate at the Kirkcaldy pit, told the Press that the coal board has decided there would be a reduction in manning levels following the disastrous fire at the start of the year.
He said, "We are not aware of the precise figures but they will be conveyed to our members as quickly as possible."
Following a meeting of British Coal officials on Monday, a meeting was arranged for Wednesday, with senior union representatives at the pit. Due to bad weather this meeting had to be cancelled.
Mr Neilson commented, "We recognise that we lost half of the pit's coal face in the fire and we expected some redundancies. The most important thing is that the pit is still working and we will now push for investment."
Mr George Bolton, a senior NUM official, refused to comment on the redundancy situation at the moment, saying that it was more important to gain a guarantee about the pit's future for the 800 workers presently in employment there.
A British Coal spokesman was unavailable for comment.
Contributed by Peter Wishart, one of our many regular site visitors
Now that the colliery has made such a good recovery from
the fire everything possible is being done to prevent a
recurrence. Because of the ever-present risk of
heatings it was decided to introduce nitrogen into the D17
faceline to cut the oxygen and thus reduce the risk in an
area where a heating could occur.
"By reducing the oxygen in the airflow we should prevent any spontaneous combustion in the D17 Area which could put our only face at risk," said manager John Souter. "We have a problem with spontaneous combustion and that's why it is important that we do everything possible to protect out coaling operation." He stressed that the nitrogen is not a hazard to anyone working underground. "The gas is delivered by tanker to a surface tank and is taken by a series of pipes to the D17 area. Controlled quantities are released into the airflow which passes along D17. This has the effect of reducing the oxygen content in that area and should prevent any heatings occurring," added Mr Souter. "The nitrogen is actually passing away from the D19 airflow and any minute quantities reaching that area will be so diluted to be totally harmless. Every possible step is being taken to try and ensure the future of our pit and this should remove a lot of worry."
Scottish Area, Green Park, Greenend
Edinburgh EH17 7PZ
Telephone: 031 664 1461
With the serious fire at Seafield now sealed off, it is time to reflect on the intense activity that took place in the early days of the new year to save the entire colliery from being lost.
I am aware that, without the magnificent efforts of a large team working long hours both night and day, we would now be facing a much more serious position. Many of you willingly sacrificed the seasonal holiday with your family to devote your attention to the job of saving the pit. This was truly an example of all the best qualities of the Scottish mining industry.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you personally for your particular contribution to the Seafield operation. Needless to say, the loss of a major coal face is a setback to the industry at a time when we are looking forward to meeting our objective of making the Scottish industry viable. But given the spirit that was shown over these vital hours at the pit, I know we have the will to overcome this loss and move forward to future success.
Sent by Peter Wishart, Coatbridge.
The National Coal Board announced in 1983 that Seafield
was on course to break even that year and then to go into
profit for the first time in its history. (The coal
board's accounting methods were always held by miners to
be politically rather than economically based.)
But everything changed in 1984, when the National Union of Miners was manoeuvred into a position where it felt forced to strike, despite the strength of the Government's position.
The Conservative Government had set itself the task of
breaking the NUM's power and, over the course of the next
year, it gradually did so.
Coal, of a notoriously poorer quality, had to be brought in from overseas as the vast majority of miners stuck together but, eventually, solidarity crumbling at the edges, the NUM was broken and miners were forced to return.
They went back with their heads held high but their time back underground was short.
Towards the end of the strike, during which Kirkcaldy miners had almost unanimously stayed away (apart from safety workers), British Coal announced the closure of the Frances Pit and of the main production face at Seafield, both due to underground heatings which had got out of control.
Five hundred jobs went at the Frances and 300 at Seafield, which limped on with management/workforce relations at an all-time low.
By June, 1987, British Coal's Scottish area director announced that Seafield was on its way back into the black, with miners beating both Scottish and national production averages.
But just six months later the same area director announced the closure of the colliery, claiming huge losses.
By that time the pit, which was to have employed 2500 men for 150 years, had only 640 miners and was just 34 years old.
The last visible trace of Seafield was removed in September, 1989, when the two massive winding towers, landmarks in the town and a potent symbol to all involved in mining, were demolished.
Five miners who lost their lives when the roof of a Fife
pit collapsed on them are set to be remembered 30 years on.
The men had been working on a new seam at Kirkcaldy's Seafield Colliery on May 10, 1973, when disaster struck and they were trapped beneath tons of rubble.
Now former colleagues have joined forces to create a memorial plaque in their honour which will be unveiled at the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) Club, in Glenrothes, on May 10.
The unveiling will be performed by 80-year-old former Seafield miner Sandy Burnside. Also in attendance will be Scottish NUM president Nicky Wilson and Fife councillors Willie Aitken and Willie Clark, both of whom were NUM officials at the Kirkcaldy Pit.
A plaque commemorating five Fife miners who lost their
lives in in a pit disaster 30 years ago was unveiled at the
The five men died at Kirkcaldy's Seafield Colliery on May 10, 1973, while they were working on a new seam three miles out beneath the Firth of Forth.
As a team of miners toiled 1600 feet underground, part of the roof suddenly gave way and nine men were buried under tons of rubble.
Rescue teams battled for seven hours to reach the trapped men - sometimes digging with their bare hands and on one occasion having to flee a further roof fall - and brought four men out alive.
But Robert Henderson (59) and James Comrie (49), from Buckhaven, Methil men James Holmes (53) and Thomas Kilpatrick (38), and Angus Guthrie (20), from Cardenden, perished.
The tragedy rocked the tight-knit mining communities, but despite various memorials placed to commemorate every other mining disaster in Fife, their deaths have not been publicly marked until now.
Members of the Fife Miners' Community Group got together and decided to mark the 30th anniversary of the disaster by placing a plaque at the CISWO (Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation) Club in Glenrothes.
(From left) National Union of Miners Scotland president
Nicky Wilson, Dan Imrie, Councillor Willie Clark
and Sandy Burnside.
Saturday's unveiling was performed by 80-years-old
ex-miner Sandy Burnside, who was a workmate of the dead men
but was on a different shift on the fateful day, while former
industrial chaplain Hugh Ormiston performed the dedication
Relatives of the men, MSPs, MPs and councillors were among those who attended the unveiling.
Culture Group spokesman Dan Imrie, who worked at the Frances Pit in Dysart when the disaster happened, explained, "We decided to erect the plaque at the CISWO Club because memorials at the sites of some disasters have been vandalised. Many miners at the Seafield and other pits came from Glenrothes and a lot of them still come to the Club."
A commemorative plaque to mark the site of the old Seafield Colliery in Kirkcaldy has been unveiled. The special tribute which features in Seafield Playpark, was arranged by Kirkcaldy Civic Society and Fife Mining Heritage Society. Chairwoman of Kirkcaldy Civic Society, Ann Waters, said that because the playpark is on the site of the shafts of the colliery, it was felt the area should have some memorial to this historic industrial site of the past where so many men from Kirkcaldy and nearby worked.
A Fife man who was honoured for his bravery
during a pit disaster more than 30 years ago has died at the age of
63. Willie Kerr, who came from Dundonald, spent all his working
life in the mining industry. He joined the then National Coal Board
in 1956 and stayed with the organisation for 40 years, before
joining IMC Consultants in 1996.
For many years Mr Kerr worked at the former Seafield and Frances Collieries in Kirkcaldy, and was general manager of the joint complex when all operations finally ceased. He came to Seafield as a deputy oversman in 1967 and had been promoted to senior oversman when a roof fall at the colliery killed five miners in May, 1973.
Mr Kerr, who is survived by his wife Moira and daughter Karen, was actively involved in helping to save two men trapped 1600 feet below the Firth of Forth. He was later awarded the British Empire Medal. He left Seafield for Monktonhall Colliery in 1982, but later returned as general manager.
Mr Kerr was a keen motorcyclist, refurbishing and rebuilding old racing machines. He was also an enthusiastic hill walker with several Munros to his credit.
John T Mackie CEng FIMMM (1938-2010)
John was an undermanager at Barony Colliery, then Deputy Manager at Killoch Colliery before becoming Colliery Manager at Barony Colliery. Moving to Fife, John was Colliery Manager at Seafield Colliery and then a Production Manager. He then moved to HQ to be Head of Technical Services before becoming Opencast Director for Scotland. John was President of The Mining Institute of Scotland in 1987/88.
George M Caldow CEng FIMMM (1930-2010)
George was an undermanager and then Deputy Manager at Castlehill Mine. He became Colliery Manager at Comrie Colliery and then moved to Seafield Colliery. George was Senior Mining Engineer, Scottish Area, when he retired.