Falkirk Community Trust has been collaborating with Sustrans on their wonderful Greenways project to bring some local heritage to life along the foreshore at Bo’ness. This is one of the stories from the project.
“Workers at Kinneil are shattered at the treatment they have received.”
Simon Martin, 1982.
Today it’s a haven for wildlife and walkers, but the site of Kinneil Nature Reserve was once home to the last colliery in Bo’ness. The National Coal Board started construction on new pit buildings at Kinneil in 1951. Works were completed in 1956.
The Colliery was described as a “major project in the great reconstruction programmes for the coal mines of Scotland.” It boasted a striking new design – inspired by a colliery in West Germany. One writer said it offered “excitingly modern sculptural shapes in reinforced concrete” – such as its two flare ventilator extractors. The buildings at Kinneil also included offices, baths, a canteen and medical facilities.
At its peak, the site employed around 1200 people and was designed to cope efficiency with 3000 tons of coal per day. It gained fame when miners linked underground tunnels from Kinneil to Valleyfield in Fife in 1965.The tunnel is remembered in a simple seat and mini tunnel memorial, located near Bo’ness Harbour. (There is also a memorial to mining in Bo’ness town centre.)
By the early 1980s, however, Kinneil Colliery was facing a bleak future. By 1982, the workforce had dwindled to 300 - and coal bosses announced plans to close the pit, citing geological difficulties.The Kinneil workforce launched a campaign to keep the colliery open, even staging a Christmas sit-in hundreds of feet below ground. Sadly, it was all to no avail. Fellow miners in Scotland refused to stage a strike to support the Bo’ness workers – or even a week-long walkout.
The late Simon Martin, the National Union of Mineworkers’ secretary at Kinneil (who would later serve as a councillor for Bo’ness) was quoted at the time, saying: “Workers at Kinneil are shattered at the treatment they have received.” He said there was a “very, very deep feeling” the Kinneil workers had been let down by NUM president Arthur Scargill and Scottish president Mick McGahey. The pit was officially shut down on April 29, 1983.
By the autumn of that year, demolition was underway. Some buildings were retained until the 1990s – including the winding gear and the fancy ventilator towers. However, the decision was made to fully clear the site. A concrete bridge from the complex in the only remnant of the pit to see today.