Listen to Episode 10.
Interviewer: Grant Stott (GS)
Interviewee: Jerry Durkin (JD)
GS: Hello, and welcome back to Tour Guide Tales brought to you by VisitScotland. I'm Grant Stott and each week I've been speaking to a different tour guide to hear the eclectic and often incredible rich history of Scotland through their knowledge, stories and experiences, and today, in our last episode of the series, I'm going to be joined by Jerry Durkin from the Summerlee Museum of Industrial Life it's based in Lanarkshire, and the museum commemorates Scotland's rich industrial and social history with a particular focus on the mining industry and its role in shaping the people and places of Scotland. So, let's chat to Jerry and get some more Tour Guide Tales.
Jerry welcome to our podcast Tour Guide Tales, I'm looking forward to this one.
JD: Good Grant yeah, it's a subject that's really interested me for a long time .
GS: Yeah it's one that I'm looking forward to digging into, if you pardon the pun, because obviously I know about Scotland's industrial history to a certain extent but when you find out more about how it was and how life was in these times and in this particular industry I think it's going to be really fascinating. What's your relationship with this period of Scottish history and how did you get involved at Summerlee?
JD: Well I got interested in kind of the Scottish industrial thing partly because I was brought up in a little village in Lanarkshire called Bothwell and Bothwell's got, it's kind of a funny place, it's got two very distinct parts. Bothwell has a very well-to-do area and has a not so well-to-do area and I was brought up in the not so well-to-do area and I heard quite a surprising little story from someone in the next village along if you like. There's a place called Blantyre and Blantyre's got huge mining history and apparently at one time the miners lived at Bothwell Hall, which is where Strathclyde Park is now, and they used to walk through Bothwell to get to their work in the morning and to get home at night but the good people of Bothwell complained to the mine owner that they had these working class people walking through their village so they actually built a tunnel under Bothwell which came out at Bothwell Hall so that the good people of Bothwell didn't have to be bothered by the miners.
GS: Oh that's incredible!
JD: I know it's great and as a child that grabbed me, this very idea that people objected to other people walking through their village, it was quite horrific and it got me kind of looking and things like that. As time went on I worked with libraries and we brought storytellers into the library and I got very interested in doing oral storytelling and then as part of my job in the library we would get emails from various other council facilities and one of them was from the museum saying they needed some people to come and work part time with the museum and that really interested me and I applied for it and I was lucky enough to get a part-time job with the museum and it's just kind of grown from there.
GS: So your background, your family background wasn't anything to do with mining?
JD: No, not at all. My father was a lab technician. [laughs] I'm quite sure, as you said earlier on using the perfect phrasing, I'm quite sure if I dug into it then somewhere, and everybody from Lanarkshire has got some sort of mining history in the background somewhere but I don't know.
GS: We see you're from Bothwell that part of Lanarkshire and you know, you do think of Lanarkshire and the mining history that goes with it, give us an overview of where Summerlee is and also you know, how big and busy an area that particular part of Scotland was with regards to coal mining.
JD: Well Summerlee is in Coatbridge. Now, Coatbridge didn't have a huge mining kind of background if you like, Coatbridge was mainly iron and steel and of course, if you're going to produce iron and steel, then you need coal and so the place to put your iron works, your steel works, would sensibly be somewhere that's got a plentiful supply of coal. Now, I believe that Coatbridge produced the vast majority of the iron and steel used during the industrial revolution in Britain. It was the biggest producer of iron and steel in Britain at the time.
GS: So that was why there were so many coal mines dug around that area, to back up the other industry.
JD: Well I think the coal mines maybe came first but yeah certainly the two of them were paired together. You know you can't have one without the other more or less.
GS: So there's obviously a lot of history there and there's clearly a lot of interest and a lot of interest to keep sharing the stories and letting people know of what went on and part of what Summerlee has is a replica coal mine and also you give us an idea of how people lived and what the conditions were like for life and for work.
JD: Yeah it's probably my favourite part of them of the museum. We have the replica coal mine and we also have some replica cottages which have been built there to show how the people would have lived and how they would have worked, so it goes from the kind of very early 1800s through to kind of well the cottages go right up to the 1980s. It's quite weird actually to walk into a museum and walk into a cottage that's set up so similar to your parents living room would have been.
GS: Absolutely and what was it like when the museum was getting built, I mean I can imagine you know getting things from the 1980s would be so difficult. Was there plenty of artifacts? Was there plenty of the existing machinery that you could keep and restore?
JD: They were very lucky yes. People hand in things that they've kept, things that they've found in the loft and all kinds of things, plus there has been a few of the older mines, the early coal mines were known as drift mines, and they were really just cut into the into the ground at an angle and they would only go down about 30 feet or so. They worked in a way called the 'stoop and room' mining method where they actually cut a room out of the seam of coal to work in and they left great big pillars of coal behind to hold up the roof, these were called 'stoops'. Now the interesting thing about that was when a lot of the time when these mines, when they mined as much coal out as they possibly could, they couldn't take away too much or the whole thing would fall on top of them. They just abandoned the mine, they just shut it down and walked away from it and it left all kinds of things behind, all kinds of equipment behind etc., and in recent times a lot of these mines were actually opened up to turn them into open cast mines and when they opened them up they found all kinds of equipment lying about and this is the main source of the kind of mining equipment that they've got there at the museum.
GS: You painted quite a picture there of what it was like going down in the mine. Give us an idea of when that was and when people were working under these conditions. I think we talked about the history that's covered in the museum from about 1800s to the 1980s, where about was that, what kind of time in history was that?
JD: Well yeah so yeah your early 1800s, your kind of Victorian era, if you like, the Industrial Revolution is happening and there was a lot of people brought from the countryside, from a farming background etc. farming had more or less been shut down to allow for sheep raising. Well there was a lot of people who were looking for work and these people ended up mainly working in the coal mines. The coal mines were really quite horrific places to work, the whole family would work there for instance because the miners were paid not an hourly rate, they were paid a certain amount for every tonne of coal that they brought out, so in order to maximize the amount of money that they could make, the whole family would work; mom, dad, and all the children. There's even stories of children as young as three years old being down the mine for 12 hours a day or so, just sitting in ventilation shafts wafting a piece of cloth to circulate air. In the mine there was young children pushing coal carts full of coal that could weigh up to half a ton around about in mines, children of five six years old working down these mines for 12, 14 hours a day just pushing these huge great, big carts of coal about that their parents were filling with coal, and they would push them to the entrance of the mine where the coal would then be taken to be bagged up and marked down as part of their family.
GS: It sounds utterly horrific to think that people were working in these conditions and obviously this was long before anything like health and safety. How dangerous, how dangerous was it for these children and adults going down the mine?
JD: Oh it was horrific, because of the way they were paid of course the actual mine shafts themselves were dug just quickly to get to the coal seam and they only dug out basically enough earth, enough ground to get to the coal seam to fit the coal carts through so these tunnels that the people were working in were often as little as three feet high so even children of a relatively young age were bent over. As you can imagine a working man working down a three-foot high tunnel. There are instances where people anecdotes of ex-miners telling us how they had to actually be dragged out of the tunnel that they were working in because it was so tight they couldn't turn around they couldn't move and when it came to the end of the day someone just had to grab them by the feet and drag them out of the tunnel that they'd actually been digging the coals out of.
GS: It's making me claustrophobic even just to think about.
JD: [Laughs] Oh you should be down the mine Grant!
GS: You've got to think, you've got people would you know you obviously you have to overcome your claustrophobia but panic attacks and things like that would be plentiful as well I would imagine.
JD: I would think so I mean people haven't changed that much in time so you know it would be horrific and of course there was other things. There was a lot of cave-ins, there was a problem with gas down the mine, there was problems with all kinds of horrible things. I mean the mines were infested with rats and mice. For instance they could be when you went into the mine in the morning, you're maybe going to work at four or five o'clock in the morning and you're not going back out again until 10, 11 at night, you know you're going to work in the dark you're coming back out in the dark you never get to see any light, you know you're down there that whole time so you're eating and drinking down there. So as you can imagine if you're eating and drinking down there, there's something else you're going to have to do as well.
GS: You're not going to be able to nip out the toilet, are you?
JD: Yeah exactly there's no facilities down there. You could be a mile away from the surface and you're not going to crawl back through a three-foot high tunnel to get up to the surface to go to the toilet, all that time is wasted time, you're not earning any money, you're not producing any coal so the miners just used to find a wee unused area in the mines, scrape a hole in the floor and do what they had to do, but their mines flooded regularly as well so as you can imagine that's all getting washed through the mine and mixing, it would just be an open sewer that you're working down there.
GS: It sounds absolutely horrendous. So what would be the health implications? You talked about individuals being down the mine for you know 14 to 16 hours, you're not going to see a lot of daylight.
JD: No, a lot of miners went blind by the time they were even still in their 20s because your eyes adjust very well, you know if those levels of light if that's what you're used to six days a week your eyes are adjust to it and it was very low levels, I mean so much so that you and I would probably find it almost completely pitch dark, but the miners could see well enough to work. Unfortunately what it did mean was when they were on the surface at any time during daylight their eyes were so sensitive to the light that the sunlight damaged their eyes and a lot of the miners actually would go blind.
GS: So I guess a lot of the stories that you account and you tell could have been passed on and some to a certain extent, I know we can't go obviously back to the 1800s but some living memory as well and I guess in the area that you're in, you're going to get ex-miners and family members of ex-miners who lived in that environment and they have stories to bring to you as well.
JD: These are some of the most enjoyable moments in my working day in the museum. There's a girl that works with me, I see a girl at work, she's in their 30s and her grandfather was a miner and she tells me how to this very day if her grandfather's eating a sandwich when he comes to the last bit of the sandwich he doesn't eat that but he'll fold up in a napkin or a paper hanky and put it in his pocket and he just does it out of pure habit. The miners would do that because of course there was nowhere for them to wash their hands and they're eating a sandwich, the bit that they're holding would get dirty and they didn't want to eat it and if they threw it away it would attract vermin so they used to wrap it up and put it in their pocket and he still does that to this day.
GS: That's fascinating isn't it, that's incredible, and also I believe that that you found out through visitors that came that people were still mining with pickaxes as recently as the 1980s.
JD: Yeah Longannet in Fife. There was a miner came to visit and we were chatting at the end of the tour and I had been talking about how in the 1900s, in the early 1900s, when they started the deep mining, the shafts they were digging the coal out of were tiny and they had to go back to using pickaxes again because prior to that there had been a time when they were using explosives but now because they were working in such small shafts they couldn't use explosives in these tiny little spaces, so we were back to using pickaxes and then I talked about the introduction of mining machinery and at the end of it this miner was chatting to me and he said you know I worked in Longannet he says just before it closed down they said, and I was in coal shafts, mining shafts with a pickaxe working, digging out coal with our pickaxe he said, because the huge machinery that they brought in were these great big, long rigid metal frames with like almost like a chainsaw at the end I said and often as coal seams would take a dip, a sudden dip out, almost at a right angle down into the ground where the ground had shifted, he said and you couldn't put these cold digging machines into the dip so they had to send men in and he was still getting sent. He was telling me how he was lying in a tunnel less than two feet high with a pickaxe and like I'm not sure now, I should be able to tell you exactly what year it was, but it was certainly the 1980s.
GS: Yeah see when I think of you know the films I watched over the years about you know that were around, there was a storyline that would take you down the mine and you know you think of the sort of trucks that would push the coal back up to the surface, but there was also the canaries you know there was always this aspect of get the canaries in just to check there was gas and you mentioned that gas was obviously a danger to those going down there but I thought this was something of old, sticking the canaries down but again you were made aware that they were using canaries in the 1980s.
JD: Yeah the same fella was telling me how the mine rescue teams in Longannet still used canaries in the 80s and he said it was simply because the canaries were more reliable than any technology that they had. He said they weren't routinely taking canaries down a mine where they had previously and the canaries, because the tiny little lungs and they're so sensitive to the gas, the first little whiff of gas in the canaries would drop to the bottom of the cage and he said it was just so much more reliable than the machines which took a while to react. By the time the machine told you the gas was there, you could have found yourself in a massive pocket of gas and not enough time to get out.
GS: It really is fascinating I mean you know you mentioned it yourself just that one way into this history and this whole world and I can absolutely see why you began to you know, learning more and find out more about it really is fascinating. So when we come to Summerlee, Jerry, what do we see we touched on? The fact that you've got the replica cottages, you've got the replica mines - how big a museum is it when it is open to the public and how much time can you spend, and what can you see when you're inside?
JD: It's an enormous area Grant, you have to actually go there to really quite appreciate how big the place is and there's so much there that we've had visitors who come back time and time and time again, and they'll say to us that every time they come they find things that they hadn't seen previously. You could spend a whole day walking around Summerlee Museum and not actually get to experience half of the place to be honest with you. There's so much there I mean there's stuff from daily life for the miners as I said, but there's all kinds of other machinery. There are steam engines, there are locomotives, there are transport exhibits, there's a beautiful old BSA motorcycle for instance, that if the museum ever doesn't want I would be quite happy to give it a nice home.
GS: So what's the mining connection with the with the motorbike?
JD: Well it was actually from, it was from a worker who worked in the steel works and this was his way of getting up and down to work until he had a crash on it one day and apparently he lived in a flat and apparently had a mate carry it up into the flat with the intention of sorting it and of course we all know what these intentions are like you really mean it you're going to fix the thing, and he never did and I think it lay in his flat for like 30 or 40 years or something until eventually somebody said it was there and he donated it to the museum.
GS: I love it, that's brilliant and it's these personal stories I guess as well around all these artifacts and pieces that you have there, and we've talked about the mine and you have this replica drift mine, give us an overview of this, I'm trying to picture a picture so what is, what's the visitor's experience with the drift mine?
JD: Well we have, we've created what looks very much like an old-fashioned drift mine that is under the ground, so you do, you come to in effect a huge wooden door on the surface and it's a door in a kind of slightly raised earthen area and when that door's opened you're looking down, maybe a 30 to 40 feet tunnel and almost complete darkness, so we usually brief people before they go in that there is going to be completely dark when they go in, we shut the door behind them and it will go pitch black for a while and that allows their eyes to adjust. However there's two tour guides with you when you go on a tour, one at the front of the group and one at the back and they both have torches with them. So we allow people's eyes to adjust for about 30 seconds or so and then we begin, we put on the lights and we begin the tour. So we'll take you down the entrance way which is basically a slope cut into the ground to an area where there is a water pump. Now this is called the lie of the mine and the lie of the mine was deliberately made to be the lowest point in the whole mine and it's designed that way so that any flood water would gather there and that's why they've got the water pump there and that water pump would be kept going 24 hours a day because, especially in the early days, the biggest problem with mining was flooding. Any time it rained, the water just flooded into the mine and ran down to the lie of the mine so that was a very important part of the mine and then there's a tunnel that branches off from the lie of the mine and it would take you to our first display, and the first display is from 1810. It shows you what mining would be like around about 1810 and it has a couple of mining figures in it so often quite a surprise to people because they look so realistic. There's a miner, the main miner there who would have been the father of the family and there's another miner who's called the 'prop setter' who would possibly have been the miners oldest son but quite as easily would have been the miner's wife, and their job was to look for anywhere on the roof of the room that they were cutting out the coal and they're looking for anywhere that's beginning to crack or sag and they would cut a huge great big, basically a tree trunk, a huge great big support timber and ram it underneath, upright as a prop to help to support the mine and stop the whole thing from caving in on them. And we do a little talk there and we talk about the conditions and we talk about the method that they used to dig out the coal and they talk about things like them eating and drinking down there and how they would have nowhere to wash their hands and the rats and the mice and things. We then move on to from 1810 to 1840 and things had changed by 1840, that's when they'd started to introduce explosives. In the mines, this was an extremely dangerous way to mine but it was more productive, it was quicker to get the coal out and the main miner was now using a hand-turned drill when he would drill into the surface of the coal. He would then let his colleague take over and his colleague, he was the charge setter, the shot setter and he filled the hole with a certain amount of gunpowder. Now it had to be the right amount, if he puts too much gunpowder in these holes, they would drill maybe half a dozen of them, if he puts too much gunpowder in these holes they could bring the roof down and kill everybody, if he doesn't put enough in then they don't get enough coal out and they're maybe not able to pay the rent that week, or they're not able to feed their family that week, so it had to be the right amount of gunpowder. Unfortunately he's got to judge this amount in almost complete darkness just by weighing it in his hand, so as you can imagine this was a very scientific way to go about things and there were a lot of deaths happening at that time. They're using pieces of soaked twine, soaked in paraffin for instance as a fuse so they're not particularly well timed things or anything, they would stick some fuses in, seal it up with a bit of wax or a bit of clay, and set fire to these fuses and they would simply move back at maybe five or six yards and watch and listen for the explosion. Now if all your fuses go off and you return back, you dig out your coal, you've had a successful morning, if five out of those six fuses go off and one's a little bit slow and you return to dig out the coal just as the last one goes off, you've had it you know, it was an extremely dangerous way to work and a lot of people were killed doing this.
GS: Fraught with danger I would imagine, absolutely fraught with it every single hour of every day would come with dangers being down there in those conditions, and do you get a real sense of that when you're taking this tour at the museum?
JD: Yes and it's something that you've got to be quite careful with because remember we're not always taking adults with us, so yeah it's a fine balance to make sure that you're giving people an idea of how dangerous it is, but you're not absolutely terrifying them either.
GS: [Laughter] Oh I can just imagine. Talk to me about the idea that you give to visitors to the museum about what life was like away from the mine, for the family life, for the domestic side of a miner's life. What was it like? I mean I would imagine it would be pretty basic.
JD: Yes I mean that's where the cottages are wonderful because you can take people in to, for instance there's a cottage there that's set up as it would have been about 1910, and I think it's just one of the best places in the whole museum. It's got a range in it - I say a cottage, it's a room you know, that's the first thing that we tend to say to people you know, what do you think of the size of this room and they'll say oh it's pretty small you say, but that you know this is your whole living area this is your house this is where everybody lived, there's two set in beds, there's a range there's a little built-in cupboard and maybe a table, could be a chest of drawers and that's you, that's your worldly possessions if you like. There's a tin bath for when the family would have a bath and the family would have a bath, the children would be sent out to the well to bring water, mum would heat the water up on the range and pour it into the bath in front of the fire and dad would have a bath in it, and once dad was finished mum would have a bath, and once mom was finished it would work its way down from the oldest child to the youngest, and so of course you can imagine if your father's a coal miner by the time you, if you're the youngest child, by the time you get in that bathwater not only is it filthy but it'd be pretty cold I would imagine.
GS: Yeah grim at work and indeed at home as well. So you were touching in the mid-1800s and then the use of explosives was rife in the mines and that comes across, what was the sort of life expectancy you know, we talked about the dangers of setting these explosives and explosions going off and people die. What was the average life expectancy of a miner at that time?
JD: Well it did vary, I'm going to say vary quite a bit, not particularly, for instance you wouldn't expect to, a coal miner wouldn't expect to live much past his 40th birthday, and that was just mainly health reasons. Down the mines, they're breathing and cold so they're getting you know lung problems, they're constantly being cut and scratched and there's rats and all kinds of things running about, so they would get infections and whatnot, a lot of them as I said earlier, a lot of them would go blind. The health problems that they suffered were absolutely dreadful and even if you didn't get killed in an explosion or a cave-in, the chances were that by the time your mid-30s, your body would be so badly affected by the work that you wouldn't be able to work anymore and that's when your children would be expected to take over from you and very, very few of them would live past their 40th birthday.
GS: So you're talking there about the dangers of being down the mine, the health implications that going down the mine that has on you as a human being, so there's danger but also, just looking at my notes here, in the 1900s there was approximately a thousand miners a year that died from being in the cage. Now this absolutely sends shivers down my spine. Give me, tell us about this aspect and the danger of mining?
JD: Well the cage was introduced when the deep mines came about, so yeah in the late 1800s, early 1900s the drift mines were really starting to have been mined-out, all the coal they could get from them was already taken out and they started to go really, really deep looking for coal, so you're talking hundreds of feet down into the ground. In some cases you could be like the length of three football pitches you know, down into the ground to get just to look for the coal. So to get down that way to get down that deep they dug enormously deep shafts and they would lower the men down in what was called a cage which is just basically a very, very primitive form of a lift and it was a box which was open at the front and the back and it would be attached to a reel at the top with a cable or a rope and it was a single cable or rope, so I'm quite sure at some time Grant you've been on a rope swing and you found it wasn't particularly steady, well you can imagine these things are not particularly steady when they're going down the shaft and also the method that they use to lower them was horrific. They basically just had a brake operator on the surface who would release a brake and these things dropped by gravity, so they could reach speeds of 40 to 50 miles an hour in some cases as they're falling.
GS: So hang on. The miners are in the cage and it's going down the shaft about 40 miles an hour?
JD: And there's no front and there's no back to these cages and you're in pitch darkness, if you lose your bearings and lean out any at all you're going to get snagged on the walls of the shaft and you just get pulled out and killed. There was a lot of miners lost limbs doing that, in fact there's a photograph, which I find particularly horrific, in the in the museum and it's a miner standing in one of these cages and he has a wooden leg and it turned out he actually lost his leg in an accident in the cage previously and he's back working in the mine knowing that that had happened to him previously and he's going to work in one of these cages again, I can't even begin to think how that would mess with your mind.
GS: It's utterly terrifying, it really is. We talked about as well, about how families, again just to maximize the income, everybody was sort of sent down the mines from, you know mum and dad and to the kids, to the very young kids. When did that stop? Because that must have been made illegal at some point for sending children down the mines?
JD: It wasn't in Scotland. In the mid-1800s they passed a law banning women and children from the mines - what you've got to remember though, is that children were considered up to 10 years old. Once you were 10 you could go and work in the mine so I think about my boys, I've got three sons, I think of them at 10 years old, they could then go and work a full day down a coal mine alongside the adults you know, so it wasn't, plus as you know, banning something is not going to stop it. The mine owners, they wanted as much coal out as they could. They employed foreman to make sure the men were producing the kind of the amounts of coal that they needed and the foremen were paid according to the productivity of their mine so they wanted as much coal out as possible, and the families often depended upon getting as much coal as possible to pay their rent and feed their family, so in a lot of cases a blind eye was turned you know and there were still women certainly working down the mine up until the outbreak of the second world war even.
GS: And is that when things changed? I'm just reading here that it wasn't until after the second world war that health and safety really became part of the part of the business.
JD: Yeah it was never really of any importance whatsoever until they nationalized the mines basically. Once they nationalized the mines things really began to improve. They gradually introduced things to look after the miners you know, until then all the equipment the miners used for instance was all their own, the miners had to buy everything you know. Okay the mining companies would provide the great big machinery, that was fair enough, but anything that the miners actually use, their own tools etc., that was all provided by the miners. The miners had to buy things like Davey lamps for instance. A Davey lamp will tell you if there's gas present and these safety lamps things like that, they weren't provided by your employer, these all had to be bought by the miners themselves until nationalization and the National Coal Board started providing things like this for the miners. It was also when things like, you know I was talking about them just releasing a break to drop the cage down, you know it was quite feasible to produce an engine that would lower the cable at a reasonable rate but it cost money and it all emptied profits, so again it wasn't really until the National Coal Board came about that these things were being introduced and there was controls put in place to look after safety.
GS: Tell me about the miners tattoos. This is something I'd never heard of until I was getting myself ready to do this podcast. This is absolutely fascinating, tell me.
JD: I find it quite fascinating as well. We were, we were told about them but when we started to do the tours we were told when you are for instance, when you're working in the deep mines when you work especially in deep mines you're lying in a shaft, you're lying on your back, it's very, very hot that far down into the earth and you would be sweating and you would be getting filthy and wet because the shafts are very wet and so your clothes would get soaked, so very often that would restrict your movements and it would ruin your clothes as well, so the miners worked on the whole almost all the miners worked stripped to the waist for instance, but this meant that their upper body was now getting, as they worked their way along these little tight tunnels, they were getting scrapes on their shoulders, on their back, sometimes on their cheeks, on their chin, certainly on their elbows and their arms, their whole upper body were getting scraped and bruised, and cold dust is incredibly fine powder and it gets into these cuts and bruises and as you pull yourself along the tunnel it gets forced further and further into your skin, until it's so deeply embedded that there's nothing that you can do to get it back out again, and miners ended up with these grey and black marks all over their upper body, some of them would even get them, as I said, on their faces and once they're there they're there for life and that's why they became known as miners tattoos. Now you might remember these things as well. There used to be village gala days and things like that, quite a big thing in Lanarkshire, the village gala day. Well a lot of the time the miners would have a kind of parade through the village on the gala day and the men would strip to the waist as they did at work and they would show off their miners tattoos because basically if the more tattoos, the more miners tattoos that you had then the harder worker you were considered to be, you got those, might have got those tattoos by working hard and not bothering to stop and so there was a kind of bravado about showing and saying look at me.
GS: A bit of pride these have all been earned and worked for. And you mentioned gala days there and again you know that sort of evokes sort of the community spirit of this particular industry and that's something that I do associate with the world of mining is these mining towns and villages around them and that massive community spirit as well. Is that featured in the museum?
JD: It is indeed yep. There's a couple of little film shows actually in the in the main body in the museum that you can go in and watch and they talk quite a lot about that and there's people's memories, there are people on film they are talking about you know the spirit of the place and however they pulled together and everybody supported one another and if somebody what didn't make their quota and were suffering, were needing a bit of extra food, they were needing something for this or something for that, and people would club together and make sure that they were okay. You know there was a definite community spirit, they all lived in these same conditions, they all lived in little tight streets of miners cottages etc. and they looked after one another, they looked after one another's children, they fed one another, they just generally looked after one another in a kind of wonderful way really.
GS: And the decline in the ultimate demise of the mining industry, the miner strike and things like that, is there is room for that?
JD: We don't really cover that on the tour Grant some of some of us, some of the tour guides will mention that to you when we're on the tour, but it's one of those things where you've only got a certain length of time, you've got another tour group waiting for you and you just have to try and get as much information as you can and that's a little bit later than really our remit covers.
GS: Yeah and there is, you're absolutely right there is so much to get through, we're just literally just you know in the short space of time that we've got it's fascinating but I'm looking at a list here of other things that you have there, artefacts and bits from you know the mining industry in that part of Scotland. We talked about the motorbike but there's also a carpet beater as well in there, tell me about that because this is a genuine one that obviously came from a real house, but wasn't just used for the carpets.
JD: No of course not, they use things for lots of purposes in those days. Yeah it's in the 1910 cottage, actually that's one of my favourite places and it just sits on a chair and often the kids will come in and they'll see it and it looks quite fascinating because there's what looks almost like a tennis racket and you get the kids kind of looking at it funny and I'll say to them you know 'what do you think that is' and then comes lots of different, you get lots of different answers from the children. Of course some of them do think it's a sports thing etc. and then I tell them how you know people would have a little rug and they would take it out and hang over the washing line and whack it with this carpet beater to get the dust out because they didn't have vacuum cleaners of course, but then inform some of the children, depending on the ages of them I suppose, that it could be used for naughty children because if you didn't do what your mum and dad told you, you could very swiftly get a whack on the butt, on the bottom with the carpet beater and that would teach you a lesson.
GS: You probably wouldn't be doing that again.
JD: No I wouldn't!
GS: Well listen, Jerry it's absolutely fascinating so many, you know wonderful stories and as I say we're just, you know I think that's what was brilliant about this podcast it just gives people a little overview and a little appetizer and hopefully encourage people to come along and visit museums like yours. What's been your experience of meeting people who have come to Summerlee and who have perhaps got mining anecdotes and stories and interest you know from their own family. What have you had any I know you mentioned a couple already but has there been any other sort of standout memories of that have come from meeting visitors?
JD: Oh definitely, I mean there are almost every week there'll be somebody who comes in and it maybe something to do with the mine, but as I said before we've got so much stuff there. There's some things from all kinds of industries, from mining, from steel works, from engineering, even down to making sweets, there's all kinds of stuff. There's all kinds of artefacts there and people come in and they'll say 'oh look that come from such and such a factory my gran or my mother worked there' and then they go on to tell you some lovely anecdotes and stories about how you know their parents worked in a factory and they met so and so and this person came, and it happens every week I would say. Somebody comes along who opens things up, I mean we had, and you can make mistakes in museums as well, we had a an artefact sitting, which looked like a wheel but it always puzzled me because it had kind of spikes on it and it was advertised, it was actually, there was a card on it saying it was a wheel found in a building site or whatever and there was an engineer who was in and this man was easily in his late 80s, maybe even early 90s, and I was talking to him and he said that's not right you know. What do you mean he says that's not a wheel he said - have you ever seen a building when the wall sags out the way and they'll put a kind of prop against it to drag it back in again they said that's what that is, they'll put an enormous screw through the wall and they'll screw that on from the outside and it drags the bricks back into line again, they said it's not a wheel [laughs] and we had to take it from display and re-label it again.
GS: [laughs] Well every day I guess it's a school day as well, even for someone who's got as much knowledge as you Jerry.
JD: Oh there's a lot of people who've got more knowledge than me Grant. The museum's absolutely jumping with people that know all kinds of stuff.
GS: Well, we started to give a sort of overview just how big it is and people need to come back so I mean what would be your ideal recommendation if you were allowing a bit of time to come to Summerlee? Don't try and do this obviously in a couple of hours, you need a plan for this, don't you?
JD: Yeah I would say so. I would say arrive for as close to opening time as you can get, so at the moment opening time, well when we're open, opening time is 10 o'clock in the morning. I would then, to get there for 10 o'clock in the morning, plan your day out if you want to bring a picnic with you for instance if the weather's decent there's picnic tables, there's some lovely grassy areas, we've actually got a portion of canal running through the museum so you can go down and have a walk along the canal, on the canal there is a replica of the very first iron boat made in Scotland and it was used on the canal to transport coal about, originally called The Vulcan, it's a wonderful thing to see. If I was going for the day-
GS: Sorry to just sort of interrupt, you've also got a tram as well that takes visitors around.
JD: Got a tram, yeah we've got, well there's, at the moment there's three actual operating trams, they can only use one at a time as we've only got a small section of track that we can run it on, but there's a tram from Glasgow that works there. There's what they call the Dusseldorf tram and there's a double-decker tram as well, so they bring the tram out and you can have a little shot, a little ride on the tram down to the back of the site and back again. You know, it's such a wonderful area, the kids love it, there's a wonderful play area for the kids and there's all kinds of things for the children to do. The museum regularly runs craft activities and things all related to industrial life that the kids can join in with. It's just, it is a fabulous day out, it's my place of work and you would think people can sometimes go 'oh it's just work' but in actual fact, it's a great place to visit, it really is.
GS: Well having spent just a short amount of time with you Jerry, I can tell this is a real labour of love and it's something that you really, you're really passionate about and I've got a real sense of that as well and yeah definitely when time allows I will be there and I'll make sure that you're by my side to guide me around.
JD: I'll take you down the mine Grant and I'll let you get a good tour down the mine absolutely.
GS: Just keep the carpet beer away from me.
JD: Oh aye!
GS: So there you have it another fascinating Tour Guide Tale this time in the company of Jerry Durkin from the Summerlee Industrial Museum and that's it for this series of Tour Guide Tales. You can catch any of the previous episodes wherever you get your podcasts, leave a review and spread the word. Thanks for listening, you've be listening to another Tour Guide Tale brought to you by VisitScotland.