Bulldozer at work on coal bing
Progress across these centuries has seen the growth and decline of Fife’s coal mining industry. The words of Mr. Sinclair, an old resident of Cardenden, describes the changes since his childhood,
“The face of Fife has changed a lot,
O’that, there is nae doot;
The miners’ raws are aw awa’,
There’s nae pit bings aboot.”
(from Auchterderran of Yesteryear vol III)
Fife is the scene of one of Britain’s most ambitious and successful programmes of land reclamation, the focus of attention worldwide and already the winner of several conservation awards.
Fife County Council Planners first engaged in land reclamation in 1963. In 1947 there were forty-two pits employing 20,600 miners, with the west and central sectors of the land silhouetting their spoil heaps against the sky. By 1953, 25,000 miners were employed but in the next 20 years the mining industry has taken a massive decline in production and income. By themid-1970s when the Regional Council published a booklet called 'Fife Changing Face' there were only 8,000 miners still working in Fife.
'Dead spoil heaps, silent pit- winding gear and derelict colliery buildings, bordered by empty rows of miners’ cottages and many acres of the inevitable, flooded land created by subsidence caused by mining operations, were the place that sparked the challenge. It had urgency, for new industry had to be attracted to replace the old, and the men who led the County knew that the companies light engineering and electronics would not establish and develop where dereliction and ugliness prevailed.'
Plan of Lochore Meadows
These operations varied in resources and funding hugely, the reports on “Land Reclamation In Fife” show us this contrast of figures;
HILL OF BEATH
Total Area of Scheme - 23 Acres
Quantity Re-graded – 30,000 cubic yards
Cost of Reclamation - £7,500
Contractor – Parks Department, Fife County Council
Period of Contract – March 1963 – May 1963
Details of Grant – 50 % of cost eligible items under Local Employment Act 1960
Total Area of Scheme – 575 Acres
Quantity Re-graded – 845,000 cubic yards
Cost of Reclamation - £104,000
Contractor – Tractor Shovels Ltd Edinburgh
Period of Contract – November 1971 – October 1973
Details of Grant – 85% of cost eligible items under Industrial Development Act, 1996
The Lochgelly District – Waste & Derelict Land Survey was able to conclude that over 90% of people from these industrious areas wanted the spoils from the mines cleaned up. Below is the opinion of one member of the public taking the survey;
“It is a reflection on this present age with all it’s scientific knowledge, it’s earthmoving machinery and legal powers if the problem is not tackled. We can send bodies hurtling round the earth, but appear to be unable to keep the very doorstep of our industrial areas tidy.”
And another citizen’s viewpoint;
“The pessimists of today will no doubt ask “What could be achieved?”
The first achievement would be improved living conditions for all who have to live in our industrial areas. Many must feel looking out their front doors that they have to exist in a forgotten area – an area which has been left abandoned. It gives them little encouragement to improve their home conditions and in our areas such as these, such that the house holder is by nature encouraged to take a pride in the home.”
Fife’s first facelift operation was a project which stretched along 3 ½ miles of road between Hill of Beath and Kelty. Forty-two operations, from the removal of a 20-acre spoil heap to colour-washing older council houses, were identified and executed. Large flood areas, where coal extraction had caused subsidence, were drained and levelled.
As these schemes brought their transformation of landscape, the planners gained courage for the biggest one of all.
Set in the industrial heart of Fife was Lochore Meadows, This Meadow was changed for the worst by the productive mining industry and 4 square miles were made useless and could have been used for a variety of successful industries. To remove it meant shifting and discarding15 million cubic yards of pit soil, the changing of river courses, the demolition of derelict buildings and a massive programme of tree planting, re-seeding of grass and kindred work. All this, it was seen, could result in a new Lochore Meadows, transformed into farmland, woodland area and a highly popular regional park and nature reserve.
The Fife Archive has recently aquired new records and maps dating back to the beginning of this project, other than this have obtained a highly informative film on this project, all kindly donated by the Fife Council Archaeology Unit
For any further enquiries you might have you can get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01592 583 352 to speak with Andrew Dowsey or Lisa Wood.
The Fife Council Archive Centre is open (by appointment only) Monday to Friday, 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm, if you would like to come in and see the original records. To see what is available please do check the online catalogue maintained as part of the ‘Archives’ page on the www.fifedirect.org.uk site.
Date: 16 Jun 2012