MEMORIES OF MORISON HAVEN - Peter Ralton
There were two blocks of houses with outside toilets and wash-houses
and with 40 families in each block. Never any locked doors as
everyone was friendly. It was all miners staying there - there
and the Kittle, and no one had anything more than anyone else.
At that time it was the Edinburgh Coal Co. who had the Grange
and we aye had only three days. You would come out. but be idle
on Monday and Tuesday and then work for the next three days. Can't
remember the wages but they would be under three pounds and that
was a full week. So a man with family didn't have very much and
naturally the best friend we ever had was Prestonpans Store, the
Co-operative, and the dividend at 4/6d. was a lot of money, that
was every six months and after they took off what you were due.
there would be some left for boots and shoes.
The boats used to come into the Harbour then to gel filled with
coal and bricks from the Brickwork. The pug took the coal out
and then the horse would get harnessed with a chain and take the
hutch the rest of the way to the chute.
Ponies worked down the pit and one day I was sitting at my piece
and the pony was at my side so it got a bit. In fact a lot of
miners told their wives to put in an extra couple of slices for
the ponies so they were all well fed. It was the same when the
miners were going home. a lot of bairns would wait and ask if
they had any pieces left. The ponies were down fifty one weeks
in the year. usually in total darkness, and when they came up
for the one week that the pit was on holiday the sun would blind
them. They were taken up the cutting to graze in the fresh air
until the holiday was over and then it was back to the pit bottom.
When they had eight hutches put on them the pony moved off but
one day there was an extra hutch added on and the pony wouldn't
move so someone said that it was able to count the number of cIangs.
But the truth was that the pony could move the eight hutches but
not the nine. The extra weight was too much.
One day miners were going to work in the same road they had used
for months. The pony stopped and refused to move. The men decided
to turn and they had only moved back about six yards when the
whole roof caved in behind them. The pony knew something was wrong
and it saved the miners' lives. Sarah Butler's husband was the
last to get out and was sent to the Royal with head and shoulder
Wee Johnny Corbett was the man who put the miners on the cage.
One of the men who was going to see Celtic play Hearts shouted
an insult about Celtic. The cage was half-way up but he sent it
down again. Johnny was waiting with a pail of water to throw over
all the men. Football was a serious business!
The Watchman for the pit had his house in the pit yard. That meant
the coal dust was in their house everywhere and every day. How
would you like to clean it?
Another day. Donald Boyd. the Manager, was waiting for the bus.
He was all dressed in his best overcoat. A man came out of the
yard and asked him to help him load two bags of coal onto his
bike. Donald helped him even though he knew the man was stealing
The Manager always went home for his breakfast but one morning
when his wife took his food to him she found he had died in his
During the war, a rumour started that there was an invasion on
so after we worked our shift, 2pm till lOpm.wehad to go out to
help stop it when we got up the pit.
At Morison Haven, especially in the summer, it was braw. After
the school we would come right home and into the Harbour. My mother
used to say that I was as often in the water as I was in my bed!
Any night it was packed, bar Saturday, for that was the football
or the men would take the wives out to the pictures. There wasn't
a soul then at the Harbour. One wee lad drowned in the Harbour
because it was a Saturday when there was no one else there. There
was a wee pier on the left hand side and a big one on the right
hand side with about 60 yards between them and you weren't counted
a swimmer until you could swim that and there were four of us
wanted to do it. Willic Watson came on the scene. He was a very
powerful swimmer and he told us to jump in and he would be at
our backs to save us. He said we were not to look back or we'd
get water in our mouths and then panic. We swam right over to
the other side and when we turned round to thank him. he wasn't
there. Willie was sitting on the other pier waving to us. After
that, we had no fear. We could SWIM!
Years ago there was a Swimming Club, Willie Thomson and Mary Arnott
were in it. and the Club used to come up to the Harbour at night
and have races and a tournament. When they needed a diving board,
that was easily remedied, they just climbed on to the top of the
harbour and dived in.
We had a large hut and it was used for whist drives, concerts
and dances and also as a Shelter during the war. For dancing,
Bert Edwards played the button accordian. As long as they had
music the people would get up to dance. And there was always somebody
who could sing or say recitations. Just all being together in
the hut for a wee while was all that mattered. Annie Gordon's
Heather got up to sing and she was applauded before she even started
because she had on a Gordon tartan skirt. She looked really nice.
Heather was invited to sing at Edenhall Hospital and most of the
injured soldiers from WWII were members of the Glasgow HighIanders
so they were pleased to hear the wee girl in her own tartan who
had come to entertain them!
One day we went down to the Harbour and there was a boat high
and dry on the rocks outside the pier. The Captain thought he
would bring the boat in by himself instead of calling out the
Pilot. Mr Thomson, but he learnt his lesson the hard way because
he had to wait for the tide coming in again.
The Harbour was infested with rats of all sizes and we would watch
from the side of the pier. We'd throw some bread injust to see
them fighting for it. There was an old boat in the harbour till
the very' last and we would watch them running about the deck.
When the sea was rough it washed away part of the bing then washed
it back in again. The beach was black with coal. We had a good
Fire when that happened.
Hard times, living at the Harbour but we all had good friends
and helpful neighbours. Grand days!
Prestongrange Miners' Welfare Institute