muirkirk in the hills of ayrshire - from the muirkirk enterprise group


Kames Colliery Disaster Audio Project

Nally Murray 's Story

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of happy times too. Lots of great laughs, great laughs. In fact believe or no; it was a pleasure to go to your work.  We used to leave the house at 12 o'clock on the backshift to play football on the slurry pond. You were soaking and black before you went down the pit. Then in the good weather you went up the pit, ten to six, up to the twenty one. A dook in the twenty one, back down the pit at half past six. Big Jock Vallance blowing that pithead horn. Get down here. You're out the twenty one swimming and back down the pit. All great times. All great times.

I was backshift, but I’d been asked for a swap by Tam Casey. Tam was going to ask me for a swap that day and I couldn’t, because it was something through the football. It could have been the other way about. If I had gave him the swap; you would have been talking to Tam Casey today. I think I was out with the dogs and I came back and my wife told me there’d been and accident at the pit, everybody’s away to the pit. You just throw your jacket on and away you go. So, they couldn’t make any decisions what to do at that particular time, so you just hung about and hung about til the decisions were made. There were hundreds at the pit head after it happened and then they were looking for volunteers to go in and bring them out. I brought out Jimmy Marshall’s father; I think Jimmys father was 68 at the time – still working. I brought his father out and then my job after that was wrapping the bodies up when they came to the pit bottom and taking them up the pit. That was my job then. It wasn’t a nice job wrapping them up. You wouldn’t believe how many I had wrapped up on that pit bottom.

I’ve got photos of the actual pithead that night. All the miners’ roundabout and the police; I’ve got those photos. It was a sad, sad time… My sister lost her man in it too; Bobby Smith, he got killed in it. Ronnie Grant, all young boys 18 and 20. That’s the downside of the coal industry isn’t it. You just can’t really take it in. In fact you don’t take it in for a long, long time after it.  I mean boys you stripped beside and washed beside, played football with and went to socials; all gone… Hard to take. The Kames claimed a few lives you know; quite a few lives the Kames. Very solemn and very quite, everybody was just completely stunned; They couldn’t take it in. There had never been an accident like that in the Kames before. But they said there had been warnings prior to that. I don’t know about that, I wasn’t at the coalface. But they said there were warnings prior to that.
They say the boreholes used to light up, maybe Tam Mackin would have told you the same. They used to be drilling the holes and it would ignite. The heat off the drill and the boreholes would be on fire.  That was the story at the time. Looking back now, obviously there were lots of lies told with officials and all the rest of it; because nobody wanted to take the responsibility. If I said to you “Their boring down there and the holes are on fire”. You’re no maybe going to trail away down there and trail back up and say “Oh aye, is it”  So the responsibility was never taken on. But there were lies told. I think it all came out in the report; everybody was ducking. But lies told everywhere, so it will be all one about that now.

Oh aye them all (Did you no fall off a motorbike)  Aye the day of the funerals I had a face like a pound of mince! I came off my motorbike. I went down to Auchinleck to get a black tie. Sunny morning, a wee touch of frost coming back up the road. I mind of it as if it was yesterday. Coming by the Sorn roadend, there used to be trees there and away the motorbike went, right in below the double decker. The double decker was coming down. I could see it coming to me. The two of us just stopped like that; A face like a pound of mince sir !  In fact that Jim Park your talking about: I think he fainted, Jim Park.  Because it was rumoured that I’d been killed at the Sorn road end. Of course I walked in with this face like a pound of mince. Aye Jim Park, I never seen it but he said he fainted that day.

Aye I was the chairman of the West Mine Ball, but I wasn’t the 1st chairman. Hughie Hill was the 1st chairman of the West Mine Ball. Believe it or no, believe it or no. The West Mine ball continued the following year. Hughie Hill said “The show must go on” It was a great night of course. It was a top sell-out – 200 folk. It was a brilliant thing, the West Mine ball; twelve and six a ticket. Twelve and six ! That was your full dinner and buffet at half time; probably a free drink. Institute to start with and it started away in there, then it went to the community centre. You booked your ticket coming out the door for the following year. Oh Aye there was a waiting list. Even up to the day of the social! As long as they got to the hairdressers on the Saturday morning.  They were prepared to wait til the day of the social to get it aye. Oh total sell-out! The health and safety boys, when it was in the community centre, 140 was the legal limit. I had 200 in there. 200. I mean 140 was no use to us. Big Ian Mitchell used to say “You’ll get me hung! You’ll get me hung!”  But aye Hughie Hill started the West Mine Ball.

That started away at the 9ft bench, they were all sitting waiting to go out the road at night off the backshift on Friday night. Know what its like on a Friday night. “Oh the dayshift boys will be away to the dancing, away here and away to Lanark! Hughie Hill says “ Just a minute boys, we’ll arrange a wee dance of our own” and it started away. It was a great success! We used to take the things off the telly and all that know: What’s my line and open the box. Tam Mackin was a regular to, Tam and Jenny. Big Jimmy Dempster, Geordie Taylor and Graham McCrorie. Unbelievable! It was a fantastic night! You don’t have that now, that’s gone, that’s gone…

The Bird Show was the top of the league for the West Mine Ball. Know where we saw it? The Benny Hill Show, it was on Benny Hills show one night. There up on the stage just with this board, 14ft long standing behind it naked, but with there pants on! We got Davy Broadfoots wife Anne; she was a character, to judge the birds. So she had a measuring tape and wee stick. There were over 200 people looking up at 12 bare naked men standing on the stage. “Mmmm! Aye He’s a braw colour! Aye he’s looking well this morning”. The Ornithological Bird Show, that’s what we cried it. That was my idea, it was a great idea. In fact we did it twice by public demand. So when they took the board away, the winner was standing with the pants on and holding a wee bantam! Nineteen whatever the winner was of the bird show this year. So we had to do that twice. Then we done “This is your life” No a dry eye in the house! This is your life. Hughie Hills mother who was well into her eighties at that time. Hughie Hill was the subject of “This is your life” and I brought his brother and sister on and the women responsible for all this, no a dry eye in the house, is Mrs Hill! So we brought her on, she was an old women by this time and presented her with a big bunch of flowers. Oh no a dry eye! Hughie Hill! Unbelievable!

Then we had “Open the Box”, know how you turn the key, open the box, the game. So we had it all worked out that it would be down to Jim Lockhart, he would be the winner. So we had this big chest wrapped round with chains from the pit. We gave the rest of them hard questions, but we gave Jim the easy questions. Where’s McAdams Stane? Next to his other one! All those kind of questions. So Jim was announced the winner, a big roar went up. The winner would you like to take the money? No! Would you like to, some other thing. Would you like to open the box? “I’ll open the box” he says. So this lashing chain, he gets it off and there’s a 56lb weight in it. So I lifted the lid and said “ You’re the winner and you’ve won £56 and he was delighted! See when he lifted the 56lbs weight out, Oh he wasn’t pleased. Do you know they got a bigger laugh of his expression. He thought he’d won £56. £56 to the winner! Then we did Miss World, we did all that. We had the walkway out and the men were all dressed up and they were looking well too! Matt Donnelly and Jim Murphy all dressed up! It was a great function the West Mine Ball: Absolutely fantastic…

Audio Memories

Nally Murray
Nally Murray Muirkirk

  1. (audio coming soon)

Gerry Boland

Tommy Mackin

Nally Murray

Robert Lowe

Dick Boland

Peter Fyfe