The countless millions of pounds of profit made from the coal fields of Lanarkshire, found its way into the bank accounts of a small select group of already wealthy and influential people. The coal miner received but a pittance for a wage and this was reduced even further, as the coalmasters, with a greed which is hard to comprehend, bled them dry, in the form of off takes, the truck system and fines.
When coal was difficult to sell, miners' wages were cut, never to be increased when the market improved. With this happening almost every year, the miners' wages were gradually reduced to starvation levels, while the coal masters and their families lived a life of luxury.
The suffering inflicted on the mining community by the men of wealth and power was incalculable. In the obscene race for money and power, humanity and compassion for their fellow men were pushed aside and the miners and their families were treated with contempt, by the very men who became extremely rich from their labours.
Health and safety at work was unheard of and thousands of Lanarkshire men died in pit accidents. In Hamilton parish alone I have managed to document the names of approximately 1200 men, boys and girls who were killed while employed both at the surface and underground. Countless thousands of others were permanently maimed by accidents and a great many more, including my own father, died prematurely, their health and lives destroyed by the appalling working conditions.
This book contains an eye witness account by Hugh Brown, survivor and explorer of the 1877 Blantyre disaster; an account of the 1878 overwinding accident and 1879 Blantyre disaster; the tragic story of the Dykehead/Summerlee disaster; the Greenfield Colliery boiler explosion with it's child victims; the Udston Colliery disaster and the names of 200 miners who were in the rescue teams; the eviction of 750 men women and children from Eddlewood Rows, Hamilton and many more true stories from the mines and miners' rows of Lanarkshire.
Also included, are the names of approximately 2000 Lanarkshire miners. Many of these names are instantly recognisable; men with the same names still live in the local towns and villages. These men are the descendents of the old time coal miners and their names have been passed on down through their families, from generation to generation.
Included in the book is a selection of “pit poems” which were written by local coal miners and published in local newspapers. The talent displayed by these men, is to say the least, impressive. The eloquence of their words is indicative of their high intelligence, as they graphically describe the lives of the Lanarkshire miners through their poetry.
Today, people still say with pride that they belonged to Allanton, Cadzow, Eddlewood, Earnock, Dixon 's, Ferniegair, Murray 's, Merryton and Summerlee Rows etc . The feeling of belonging is still as strong as ever, although almost all trace of the colliery rows have gone.
In essence, the book tells the story of the lives of these wonderful, hard working people and of how they lived, loved and died, in an era when there was very little they could do to control their destiny.
This collection of true stories and pit poetry enables us to look back through the mists of time into the past and feel a warm glow of pride for our mining ancestors, who lived and worked, in an extremely hostile environment. Wilma S. Bolton