FP100: No. 5

Pithead, Lochore Meadows
Pithead, Lochore Meadows

Monument to mining

Lochore Meadows Country Park sits in the heart of the Kingdom and is a popular recreational area used by many people from Fife and further afield.

The park – known locally as ‘The Meddies’ – features a golf course, and is used for water sports, fishing, cycling and horse riding. There are also wildlife habitats and great walks, many on accessible paths around the water and beach.

But this area of countryside hasn’t always looked like this.

Lochore Meadows was created in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was reclaimed from the derelict collieries, pitheads and bings which covered the area for many decades.

Now the only obvious reminder of the area’s coal mining heritage is the winding gear from Lochore Colliery – Mary Pit – which stands as a tribute to the past and the men who worked underground, many of them losing their lives in mining tragedies.

Not just the miners who worked at the Mary, but those who worked in the pits across Fife and the whole of Scotland.

The Mary Pit was, at one time, the deepest mine in Scotland and had a very long life span.

It was opened in 1904 by the Fife Coal Company and remained in operation until 1966.

The mine had two shafts, the deepest sinking to 613m.

However, there were a number of tragedies during the sinking of the pit shafts.

A number of sinkers were killed in falls down the shaft, while others were killed when one of the sides of the shaft collapsed and they were entombed by the debris.

Another tragedy, reported in The Scotsman on September 9, 1904, involved about a score of men who were employed as sinkers on the night shift.

Minutes after entering the shaft, the paper reports they were “alarmed by a strange noise above, and immediately afterwards by a mangled corpse falling amongst them”.

It later transpired that a man had committed suicide by throwing himself down the shaft.

Further tragedies occurred periodically over the years the pit was in operation, although safety and working practices improved in later years.

At its peak, the pit was producing around 800 tons of coal per day. The workforce averaged just over 600, reaching a peak of 780 in 1957.

After closing in 1966, the pit was abandoned two years later.

The shafts have long since been capped with slabs of concrete.

Where there once stood a row of miners’ cottages there is now a visitor centre. The spoil tips have gone and have been replaced by an adventure playground, picnic areas and wildlife trails.

There is little indication this was once an industrial landscape where hundreds worked tirelessly in difficult and dangerous conditions. All that remains as a reminder of the past is the pit winding gear.