Remembering the shale miners of Winchburgh

Harry Sneddon(seated) - oldest man in the village of Winchburgh and Pat D'Alton both former shale miners at the unveiling of the plaque at Winchburgh Church
Harry Sneddon(seated) - oldest man in the village of Winchburgh and Pat D'Alton both former shale miners at the unveiling of the plaque at Winchburgh Church
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A monument to the shale miners of Winchburgh has just been unveiled in the village’s churchyard.

The project was guided by the church’s property convener, Bruce Burnside, in conjunction with the kirk session and the Auldcathie Trust.

Centrepiece of the memorial is the former font which was a part of the village’s original World War One memorial and which lay abandoned in the churchyard for many years.

Stirling based D Signs researched, designed and commissioned an anodised aluminium plaque documenting the history of shale mining in Winchburgh, Faucheldean and Niddry.

Bruce said: ‘‘The catalyst for the whole project was a request to have someone’s ashes scattered in the church grounds.

‘‘Things moved on from there and we got great co-operation from numerous sources as we tried to establish a memorial garden.

‘‘That all started with us getting 60 tonnes of topsoil from the contractors working on the games area at the local school.

‘‘Almost all of the work was carried out by members of the congregation with the support of the Auldcathie Trust who gave very generously.’’

The Trust had been trying for years to establish a memorial to shale mining in the village but every previous attempt had foundered through objections but, this time, no-one complained and the entire project ran smoothly with the cairn unveiled on February 23. The churchyard has been consecrated and ashes can now be buried or scattered there.

A side benefit of the plan was that Winchburgh Church also got a new roof courtesy of the Auldcathie Trust.

Shale mining commenced in the area in 1875 and continued until the early 1960s.

There are six surviving employees of the shale mines in the village, three former underground miners and three surface workers - all in their 80s.

Harry Sneddon (83), Pat (Sonny) D’Alton (80) and Sandy Sives (83) are the three surviving underground workers.

The former font is carved from stone from the Whitequarries near Abercorn.

‘‘Everyone concerned with this project is delighted to have brought it to a successful conclusion,’’ added Bruce ‘‘and we’d like to thank everyone concerned.’’