Giving Miners Their Pride of Place in The Pans
Time to Re-instate & Realise the Vision of David Spence
It's a well known story that the 'great' David Spence intended Prestongrange Pit to be Scotland's National Mining Museum because that pit was probably Scotland's even the UK's first! But as fate would have it, Newtongrange pit became available on closure with so much infrastructure intact that they had that honour. And nobody expects to change that.
click on all cuttings to enlarge
But .... the downside hereabouts has always been totally unacceptable and becomes more so as years go by. Even that which we did retain at Prestongrange has been allowed to slide closer towards oblivion. Rusting tracks and derailed wagons, pit steam and diesel engines one never sees these days, brick kilns and beam engines rendered inaccessible in siege mode. The seminal BathHouse deListed by Historic Scotland [without so much as a public consultation it might be added] and leaking worse than the proverbial sieve.
It's not a question of who is to blame any more than it was at Cuthill Park. The question is: What Next? And there seem to be more than a few signs that a grass roots determination is starting to get a grip down there at what is euphemistically called our 'Heritage Museum'. First it was the Beam Engine Mural, then the boarded up BathHouse got 28 window murals, then Three Harbours demonstrated their determination to count Morrison's [filled-in] Haven as one of three by 'floating' 1000 boats there. Then Tom Ewing, whose Pa worked in the pit, crafted the stunning Summerlee Mural along Pans High Street. Now it's the turn of the Community Council to campaign hard for a fitting Miners' Memorial hereabouts. It's true the notion has been around awhile and not getting very far, but there's a new determination afoot and everyone in The Pans seems to be getting well onside. And as more than a few miners remind us all, it may well be that Prestongrange was the oldest pit hereabouts but there were more than that - not least at Preston Links!
Let's Get it Funded and a Local Sculptor to Create a Fine Monument
The town's coal mining heritage has been woefully neglected across more than thirty years by just about everyone. Not just the official 'stewards' of Morrison's Haven but the Arts Festivals and the Battle Heritage Trust. More publicity has gone to Bonnie Prince Charlie, archaeological glassworks diggers and Prestonpans Potters of late than our miners who frankly were the energy providers for just about everything the town ever achieved, including salting and brewing! And anyone who doubts not only what they accomplished but the outrageous slave conditions under which they laboured for some 200 years has only to read Helen Crummy's new book Whom Dykes Divide, just published telling their sad tale of exploitation and oppresion.
Let's all make 2009 the year that our Miners' Memorial takes pride of place in The Pans. And that Memorial should be the 'renaissance moment' for remembering, conserving and interpreting our coal mining history in proper style - just as properly if not more so than The Prince, Our 81 Witches, Our Esteemed Potters or Mr Fowler's Ales!
Finally, all let's very much make the effort to visit Campbell Drysdale's Exhibition of the 'Coalfields of East Lothian' when it comes to the Pans Library on February 6th - 19th 2009. The Arts Festival has already indicated that it wants to make that visit an opportunity for something very special in partnership with the Community Council. So watch this space!
P.S. Campbell Drysdale's Exhibition calls to mind The Coal Trail Guide we were pleased to publish at the Arts Festival in 2004, linked HERE. If you link across you will get a good understanding of the extent of coalfields in our area.
And there's also a link there to some truly excellent murals [later painted out] in the Power House by Annette Lyle when David Spence ruled the scene!
Location agreed for the Statue
click to enlarge cutting
Published Date: November 3rd 2008