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Workers safety?

The father of a Fife miner who was killed at a mine in New Zealand said he was "disappointed and angry" to hear the gas blast was preventable.

Scots Malcolm Campbell, 25, from St Andrews in Fife, and Pete Rodger, 40, from Perthshire, were among 29 workers killed at the Pike River mine in 2010. The miners' bodies remain in the mine

An investigation has found multiple warnings were ignored. Safety systems at the mine were inadequate, and reports of excessive methane levels were "not heeded". Workers were exposed to "unacceptable risks" because health and safety was not adequately addressed in a drive to achieve production created the circumstances for the tragedy, the report found. "In the last 48 days before the explosion there were 21 reports of methane levels reaching explosive volumes, and 27 reports of lesser, but potentially dangerous, volumes," the report said. "The reports of excess methane continued up to the very morning of the t…

Fife Anarchism

Socialist Courier continues its occasional account of Scotland's radical past. We do not lay claim to its working class history, or claim that it represented the views of the Socialist Party but feel that in many cases, our political history has been hidden away and needs to once again come into the open to spur debate and discussion.

Lawrence Storione
(1867–1922) was a Fife miner. He is best known for founding the Anarchist Communist League in Cowdenbeath.

Lawrence Storione was the son of the Italian stonemason, born in Italy in 1867. Storione later lived in Liege and participated in several miners' strikes in Belgium. It appears he was given pamphlets on anarchism in this period by the noted French anarchist Elisee Reclus, who was lecturing at the University of Brussels and Storione now began to identify as an anarchist. He ended up in Scotland in 1897 arriving in Muirhead, Ayrshire. He moved on to Hamilton in Lanarkshire where he was to marry Annie Cowan in 1900 and stayed u…

When miners were chattel slaves and not wage slaves

A system of servitude once existed in Scotland, sanctioned by the practice of two centuries, by virtue of which colliers and their families were fixed to the soil almost as effectually as if they had been bought in the slave-market of New Orleans or born in the hut of a negro on some Virginian plantation. It was not a relic of the social system of the Middle Ages, but was the result of express enactment by the Scottish Parliament.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, coal miners in Scotland, and their families, were bound to the colliery in which they worked and the service of its owner.  This bondage was set into law by an Act of Parliament in 1606, which ordained that "no person should fee, hire or conduce and salters, colliers or coal bearers without a written authority from the master whom they had last served". The cruel edict reduced the Scottish collier to the position of a serf or a slave. By that Act, workmen in mines, whether miners, pickmen, winding-men, firemen, or in…

No one is forgotten and nothing is forgotten

A few hundred yards from where missionary David Livingstone was born, stood five pits run by William Dixon Ltd. Together they produced hundreds of thousands of tons of coal and made wealthy men of the mine owners. In 1871, the first two pits were sunk in High Blantyre and by 1876 there were 8 pits in production in the area. The demand for an increased labour force was high, and there was reluctance among the local mill and farm workers to work in the new mines. This labour force was found principally in Irish emigrants who were refugees from the suffering and deprivation caused by the potato famine in Ireland (and later many Lithuanians both of whom the coalmasters exploited to full advantage, particularly in times of industrial unrest).  Blantyre was at this time; "a district of pits, engine houses, smoke and grime" and led to the nickname "Dirty Auld Blantyre". The miners and their families carried out back-breaking work for little more than a pittance and were …

The Red Union

"We will support the officials just so long as they rightly represent the workers, but we will act independently immediately they misrepresent them" - Clyde Workers' Committee

The United Mineworkers of Scotland - The Red Union


The United Mineworkers of Scotland (UMS), functioned for some six years in the few areas in which the Communist Party had a credible industrial presence. None the less, the UMS never recruited more than 4000 members and this had  fallen to 2000 by 1932, of which 65% were in Fife. Once again, as so often in Scottish labour history, religion had an influence. The UMS was strong in the pits with a history of more militancy but also with a higher level of Irish workers. Protestant Harthill was weak in Communist Party membership, whereas Catholic Blantyre support for CPGB ran high. Abe Moffat, the UMS leader, recalled that during a strike in the Shotts coalfield in 1930 that Catholic miners didn't want to offend the local priest by marching in front …

The Free Colliers - the original Bravehearts

Continuing our little bit of Scots history

Until the end of the 18th century the Scottish collier was a serf, bound in servitude to his master, the coal owner, almost as tightly as any slave on the cotton plantations of the Americas. Although he could not actually be sold as an individual, he and his family were ranked with any other article attached to the colliery to be bought and sold along with lengths of rail or stacks of timber. Once bound to a pit they had no right to move to another place of work and could be brought back to face severe punishment if they tried. Many did just that and were returned in manacles to face the wrath of the owners. Convicted criminals, beggars and other homeless people were gifted as 'perpetual servants' to the masters and, children born to collier families were, on payment by the owner of a small sum of money, bound like their fathers to the owner and his pit for life. No surprise then that few outsiders would volunteer to join the ranks t…

Not legal eagles but legal vultures

Two solicitors who took millions of pounds from compensation payouts given to sick miners have been struck off.
The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard the men acted "unacceptably" by charging clients even though the government was paying their fees.
Beresford, 58, said last year to be Britain's highest-earning solicitor, and Smith, 52, made millions of pounds from personal injury claims for miners under the government's coal health compensation scheme. Tribunal chairman David Leverton said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."
The lawyers were also accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients' best interests.The tribunal heard that up to 30% of a…