Nostalgia 1955: The miner who worked underground alone for 12 years

Fife Free Press, 1955 - the case of the lonely miner
Fife Free Press, 1955 - the case of the lonely miner

It sounds like the title of a Hank Williams ballad – the case of the lonely pitworker who ended up in the dock on a charge of theft.

It is, in fact, a true story with a sad narrative.

A miner who looked after a seam, spent 12 hours every day alone underground before taking some brass and copper.

It happened in 1955 and resulted in a court case which caught the headlines of the day in the Fife Free Press.

The paper reported the unusual background to the theft.

For the past 12 years, the miner had spent all his working hours at the bottom of a pit shaft at Michael Colliery watching a machine and switching it on and off whenever he was alerted by a phone call.

Apart from a visit from a fireman doing his rounds, he was all alone.

The tedium of the job was blamed for his appearance at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.

The colliery pumpman was accused of stealing four and a half yards of copper cable and a quantity of brass fittings from the Michael pit where he had worked for 44 years.

He appeared before Sheriff J.W. More who listened to a plea for leniency from his lawyer, Mr T.A. Wood who told the court the man had been employed in the same job for 44 years, consisting of looking after pumps and maintenance machinery.

The shaft he worked in was closed in 1943, and since then he had spent all of his working hours on his own without a single person to speak to at the bottom of the shaft except for a visit every five hours by a fireman on his rounds.

His lawyer told the court: ‘’He says that over all these years, he sat there doing practically nothing except watching a machine and switching it on and off when told to do so by telephone.

‘’Around him were bits of brass and copper which had lain about all these 12 years without anybody showing the slightest interest in them.

‘’More from boredom than anything else, he started to strip the covering of a piece of cable which was lying there, and took home a number of small, insignificant bits of brass. He accumulated these without any need to sell them for gain.

The sheriff said he was sorry to see him in this predicament and fined him 25/s