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Gartliston Brickworks, Glenboig
P&M Hurll

A personal recollection By Bob McMillan


Gartliston Circa 1920                                                          Picture courtesy of Falkirk
Note the mill tower (dark colour) sticking up to the right of the pit head gear.  Note the pit head gear to the right of the single chimney on the left, the winding ropes are visible on the north side as the steam winding engine was still in use.  Gartliston farm can be seen on the hill beyond. In the foreground, below the mill tower but right beside the railway is the air shaft & fan building.

Index
1. The connection 3
2. Glenboig and brick making. 4
4. Hot stuff! 10
5. A failed venture. 12
6. A childs puzzle and an awesome sight! 18
7. Lifes ups and downs 20
8. Family connections. 22
9. A bit of a grind! 24
10. The Saturday trek and science. 26
11. Workwear 27
12. High class Dining 28
13. Time please Gentlemen 29
14. Another trek, safety and education 29
15. All gone. 30
16. Maps and photographs 32
17. Sundry pictures 50
18. Credits 62
19. References. 63

1. The connection

My father Robert, or Bert as he was always known, came from the village of Glenboig, about 6 miles north of Coatbridge. Like most of his family, male and female, he worked in the brick works in Glenboig. Most of them worked for P&M Hurll. P&M (Peter & Mark) Hurll owned two brick works in the area, in fact they were separated only by a railway line and a field. There was Gartliston (opened 1888), where my father worked, and Garnqueen (opened 1895) which was closer to Glenboig village, being about 1 mile south east of the village. The company manufactured fire bricks, a special type of brick for high temperature uses inside furnaces etc. The standard bricks were made in Bradley & Craven and Fawcett semi-automatic machines however the specialised bricks were made by hand by men like my father.

This account is based on my many visits to the works circa 1953 - 1957.

The partnership of P & M Hurll Ltd, Glenboig, was established around 1887 . Mark Hurll, a firebrick manufacturer from Glenboig, Lanarkshire, leased Birkhill mine at Manual Junction near Boness from Hamilton Estates in 1908 and the company took over the mine in 1916. P & M Hurll went into liquidation in July 1980.

P&M Hurll also had a mine & brick works in Drumchapel in Glasgow in the late19th. Century and they also, unusually, made chimney pots!

"Scottish "lum cans" are different again, in terms of their name, their shapes and even the fireclay's colour. Most are a pale creamy buff, thanks to the famous Glenboig Seam in Lanarkshire which was mined heavily and continuously until it was worked out in the 1970's. - but there were perhaps fifty other firms which once produced chimney cans and the last survivor, P&M Hurll, passed into the hands of the receiver in 1980."

In addition to the two brickworks the company had an area of housing beside the village of Glenboig, adjacent to the loch.

An extract from "The Housing Condition of Miners" Report shows that in 1910 :-

"Peter & Mark Hurll Ltd

Gartliston Fireclay Mine - Situated near Glenboig

The employees mostly reside in mine owners' houses situated at Glenboig, known as Gartliston Square and Garnqueen Square

The new houses are described as follows: - 20 houses - 12 one apartment, rental 5 19s 2d including rates and doctors attendance; and 8 two-apartment houses, rental 7 13s 10d, including rates. Seventeen of the houses have a scullery - These houses were erected about 16 years ago - One storey, brick built - no damp-proof course - Outside walls strapped and lathed - floors wood, ventilated - internal surface of walls and ceilings in good condition

  • No overcrowding
  • No gardens - wash house in common with other houses - coal cellar for each house.
  • Privy midden with two seats, not sufficiently private
  • 1 house with sink and water supply to same - surface channels, thence underground to loch
  • Gravitation water supply from standpipe at west end of property
  • Scavenged at owners' expense
  • Repairs have been carried out from time to time at the request of the Public Health Department"
     

Incidentally, Mr. Mark Hurll, the co-owner, never owned a car he said it was cheaper to use taxis. His wife was a ferry pilot during the war, flying RAF planes from America to Britain via Gander, Iceland and Prestwick.

We lived in Sunnyside in Coatbridge and Dad left for work at 5.30 a.m. six days each week and, after visiting the paper shop (at Sunnyside Cross in Coatbridge) to collect papers for himself and other workers who did not pass a shop, he travelled by bus (Highland Omnibuses) from Sunnyside Cross to Glenboig. Here he left the bus at the railway bridge where the road divides to go straight on to Glenboig or right to become New Road for Annathill via Greenfoot level crossing.

From the main road it was a fair, and totally exposed, walk along a blaes (burnt coal mining waste) covered road to the brick works. Dad finished a very hard day's work as a hand brick maker at 5.00 p.m. and walked back to the bus. He would get home about 6.00 p.m. covered in grey dust from the fire clay, often unable to straighten his back from having spent a day bending down to punch holes in the semi-dried bricks laid out on the floor. (Who knew about Repetitive Strain Injury in those days!)
 

2. Glenboig and brick making.

There were four brick works in Glenboig at that time, the Star Works, the Union Fireclay Works and the two Hurll's works. The Union Fireclay works were right in the middle of the village, adjacent to the railway line and the Garnqueen loch. The Star was, if I remember correctly, at the other end of the village, behind the picture house and close to the main railway line that runs parallel to New Road. The works wrapped around the back of the buildings on Main Street and were separated from the other works by little more than Chapelbank. (Both works later known as the "Old works" and the "New works" and ultimately combined under the ownership of G.R. Stein).
 

The two Hurll's works, Garliston and Garnqueen sat either side of the Glasgow to Perth railway line. Garnqueen lay on the top and south east side of a hill to the south of the village of Glenboig while Garliston lay in the slight hollow to the south west of Garnqueen and to the south of the housing area of Ramoan, about one mile from Glenboig on the Coatbridge side. (See map at the end of the document) Tucked away some mile or so west of the main Glenboig to Ramoan road, the Gartliston works could hardly be seen by those who didn't know it was there. Only from the train did you get a good look at it. A distant view could be obtained as you drove up the hill to approach Ramoan from Coatbridge. Both works had originally had their own deep mines but the Garnqueen one closed many years before I came on the scene. The air shaft, capped by a vented steel plate could still be seen on the south side of the site near to the Mine Manager's house. According to the mining maps this was only some 90 feet (27 metres) deep.

The Gartlison brick works consisted of the following :- a pit (a deep mine some 200 feet, (61 metres deep) [1] which provided the fireclay, a boiler house which used coal to provide heating (needed for the bricks and other equipment, not the workers), the crusher, grinding and mixing mills, the sheds where the semi-automatic machines [2] produced standard, uncomplicated bricks and the hand-brick-making sheds (known for some reason a "stoves", though I guess the bricks were "baked" dry!). The latter buildings were single storey but the sloping roof space, or loft, space was also used, in the case of the "big stove" for brick making / brick drying and in Dad's stove for mould storage. Thus the upper floor became know as the "Loft" or "Laft in local parlance. A railway track of about 18 to 24" gauge ran from the mixing mill along the floor at the "Loft" level of the big stove [3] with a branch (see later comments about junctions) over a small wooden bridge in to the stove where Dad worked [4]. (Numbers in square brackets within this section relate to the building layout drawing later in this document. In other sections they relate to document references at the end of the document)

In the first "stove" Tom and Jim (my cousins) worked as brick makers. The northern end of this shed also housed the automatic brick making machines, a mixture of Bradley & Craven machines and Fawcett machines. In the second "stove" my Dad worked with at least two others. Another, very tall, man who appeared quite often was Archie Campbell, a general labourer. Archie was always known to be desperate for overtime. He would work nights at the kilns, clean the boiler flues or any other job necessary. There was also a dark skinned man, Jimmy Rammapru, a very quiet courteous and smiling person. My uncle James, know as Jimmuck, and my aunt Lena (Helen, but always called Lena) both worked on the automatic brick machines.

The supply of mixed clay "dough" was delivered to the hand brick makers along the track referred to previously [4] on a hand-pushed wooden bogey with cast iron wheels. This was, when necessary, turned and pushed across the wooden bridge and in to the upper level of "Dad's" stove. Here the clay was tipped off the hutch and dropped down a sloping wooden chute to the lower floor level where it was caught on the wooden top of another wheeled wagon. Here it was covered with sacking soaked in water to keep it moist and malleable. (5) note :- The photo referred to as reference 5 is my Dad's actual work place.
 

With the economics of the time and the "simple but effective" development of many things in that era, the hutch railway tracks both at the pit head, and at any other location where a hutch may have to change direction, had no points or junction, it was a simple steel plate laid in to the floor. The rails simply stopped slightly over the edge of the plate and the last six inches or so of rail was angled outwards on top of the plate to guide the hutch wheels back in to the proper place. While on the plate the hutch ran on the narrow flanges of the wheels and could be turned with relative ease, then guided in to the relevant rails again. As I've said before, simple but effective.

 

 

Note the mill tower (dark colour) sticking up to the right of the pit head gear.

Note the pit head gear to the right of the single chimney on the left; the winding ropes are visible on the north side as the steam winding engine was still in use. Gartliston farm can be seen on the hill beyond.

 

In the foreground, below the mill tower but right beside the railway is the air shaft & fan building (silhouetted by the lighter spoil heap).

The two buildings in the right foreground are the old "Retort".
 

3. Specials and hard work
 

An order for hand-made bricks was given to the brick makers complete with the special wooden moulds. These were indeed special as they were sized to take account of the shrinkage that occurred in all three planes of the bricks as they dried and subsequently burnt in the kilns. I seem to remember my father talking about someone who worked in Gartliston who had developed the first "Brick-maker's rule" on which all measurements took account of the shrinkage. It could have been Mr. Devoisen (my spelling) who was, I think, the Works Manager. A mould would normally be a box that formed the predominant shape of the brick. It had no top or bottom, only the four sides forming the box. The mould was placed on a wooden board or form if the brick was not flat on the bottom, to be filled with clay. The brick maker worked at a wooden table but was constantly bending up and down as the bricks were placed on the floor to dry.

The skill in hand-brick making was to get the clay in to all parts of the mould with an even density and such that there were no air pockets, no gaps and no unevenly wet bits. Once the mould was filled and well tamped, to ensure an even and complete brick, the top was levelled, or shaped to follow the top profile of the mould, using a "Bow". This was a simple wooden "H" shaped frame with a wire stretched across one end of the "H". This was tensioned by a loop of cord at the other end. Through the cord was a piece of wood long enough to be trapped against the crossbar of the "H". Once the strip of wood was used to wind up the cord it tensioned the wire, thus providing a straight and even cut. By sliding the "Bow" wire across the top of the mould the excess clay was removed and recycled. [See also 5]

 

A Brick Makers Bow

The brick was turned out on to a wooden board dusted with dry clay powder, or directly on to the floor, again dusted with dry clay powder, where the wet brick was allowed to dry until "green". These bricks were very soft and fragile and had to be laid out with care so that the maker could walk between the rows without touching the bricks. Remember you got paid by what you achieved (piece work) and rejects did not count.

As the bricks dried, their shape changed a little with a slight bulge appearing in the middle of each side. This may have had to be trimmed in to a slight hollow so that when fired in the kiln the surface became level again!

Some bricks (known as "Perforated bricks") had holes running through. Remembering that the bricks were laid out on the floor, you can imagine the back breaking job it must have been to stand bent double for hours at a time punching holes in row after row of bricks. The punch was a simple block of wood with thin-walled brass tubing of the appropriate size and spacing to form the holes. This job could only be done when the green bricks had dried a certain amount or they would have collapsed in on the holes. Even after this was done the company name and, in many cases, the brick type had to be stamped in to the soft brick. This was done using a metal stamp attached to a block of wood. This was again a skilful process as too soft a touch and no imprint was made while too hard a tap and you had a crumbled mess of useless brick. Individual hand brick makers had their own stamps and some used tricks so that their bricks could be identified. Dad's stamp, which I kept for many years until it was stolen, had the letter H in Hurll as little farther apart than the other letters and at a slight angle. If you look at the photos of various bricks at the back of this document you will notice on one photo that the two letters "L" in Hurll are different sizes. Thus any alleged complaints could be traced back to the individual maker.

Many different bricks were made by Hurll, with and without perforations. These ranged from the "scone" bricks, which were flat and rectangular, to curved bricks for furnace linings etc., tapers and something called a "Puck" which was about 6" x 3 1/2" x 1 1/2" (at home we used them to line the fireplace for a coal fire). Special tapered shapes were made to form an "keystone" arch over kiln doorways and other special openings.

I remember one order where the bricks curved in two different planes. If I remember correctly these were for the blast furnace in the iron works where they formed the top of the blast furnace lining. The circular lining required bricks that were curved in one plane to form a ring, but as the furnace narrowed near the top the bricks had also to curve in the second plane. Bet they couldn't do it now! There were also special bricks that covered the "Bell mouth", the special opening at the top of the furnace through which the iron ore, coke and other ingredients entered the furnace. This consisted of a metal cone fixed to a vertical shaft. The cone tapered from its flat base at the bottom up to its narrowest point where it joined the shaft at the top. It had to be lined with bricks on both the flat bottom face and all the way up the cone. This had to mate with the brick lining of the furnace top to seal in the heat and flames yet open cleanly and without damage to allow the ingredients in to the furnace. As a furnace was only cooled down and relined after many years of service, the firebricks had to be strong, hard wearing and reliable. One broken brick and the iron wall of the furnace could melt, allowing molten metal to escape in the wrong place.

There were also different types of clay, the locally mined stuff seemed to be used for the regular fire bricks but there was also Klinit which came from the Hurll's Birkhill mine near Boness. This was for extra high temperatures and was high in Alumina. Dourie bricks were made using a mixture of poorer quality Ayrshire clay and local fire clay to provide a cheaper, poorer quality product for less demanding applications. They also made "Feather" bricks which were exceptionally light for their size. I don't know exactly how they were made, though it was alleged that sawdust was mixed with the clay and burned out during the firing process, thus rendering a much lighter brick with a higher insulating property.
 

Several lots of very special bricks were made over the years for a particular customer in the construction industry. These were very tiny, but critical for many building projects in the west of Scotland. Matchboxes filled with clay were produced and fired specially for yours truly on several occasions. (Standard matchboxes made bricks about 50 mm x 25 mm x 15 mm while Swan Vesta boxes made much longer, wider and thinner bricks) These, together with scone bricks, provided the building blocks of my childhood and they were turned in to railway stations for my train set, garages for my cars and many other things limited only by the imagination of a child. At least once a complete tunnel for my train set was produced, fully shaped to look like the real thing! (Sorry Mr. Hurll, they didn't cost much!) Simple toys that produced an inordinate amount of entertainment and pleasure, so different from the high-tech toys expected by children today!

Bert outside the "Stove" and on the banking of the drift mine hutch-way beside the "Stove"

4. Hot stuff!
 

Other parts of the main brick-making shed served as the drying shed, where the machine-made bricks were set out on the floor to dry before being kiln fired.

The "Loft" of the big stove with bricks drying on the floor.

Note the hutch-way going over the little bridge (wooden railings just visible on the left of the picture). Many times I played here with an empty wet clay hutch. You will note from the floor that no time was ever wasted in clearing up or keeping the floor clean!

Hot air was pumped out of steam heated air ducts along the walls of the stoves.

Then of course there were the kilns themselves. The kilns or firing ovens were built of brick and consisted of many little arch-roofed rooms about six or seven feet high with very thick walls and an arched door about three feet wide by five feet tall. There were two lots of Hoffman kilns, each inside a different corrugated iron shed. One lot were fired by gas (an invention of Tom Dunnachie of the Union Fireclay Works in Glenboig) and had 10 chambers while the others were fired by coal and had 32 chambers [6]. The coal kilns had a corrugated tin roof but were open to the elements along both sides whereas the gas kilns were fully enclosed except for the top of each end, which was open for ventilation. Kilns were normally built in a block of two rows back to back. Thus one rectangle housed double the number of individual kilns. Not all of the kilns were fired at the same time, and it was a clever scheduling job to get kilns side by side either firing, heating or cooling in the right sequence to avoid affecting the contents of their neighbours, minimising the use of fuel and maximising the use of spin-off heat.
 

The bricks were stacked in layers in the kiln with an air space between each brick in the layer to ensure even firing. A "Model" layout was devised for this to ensure repeatability and reliability. [7] Once the kiln was full, the door was bricked up and sealed with clay, all except for a small spy hole at about eye level. Once the gas was lit the kiln was kept at a controlled temperature for a preset period depending on the type of bricks inside. A "pen chart recorder" was used to record the temperature continually on to a paper disc. At the end of this period the bricks were left to cool down under controlled conditions, first in the sealed but cooling kiln then with the door broken down and large blower fans pointing in to the aperture. The gas kilns had a small wall inside them to the left and right of the doorway. It was into these spaces that the gas burners injected the heat (I think) and this, I assume, caused a more even heat to be created. Under the floor of the kilns was a continuous duct some 2 feet (600 cm) high. This would allow a controlled draught to pull down through the kiln, ensuring even firing of the contents. A tall chimney at the end of the kilns, and probably a fan, would promote the air flow. Sitting up where it could be seen via the spy hole when the kiln was sealed for firing, usually on one of the walls referred to previously, was a cone made of unburnt fireclay. This was about 8 inches high and about 3 inches in diameter at the base, running to a point at the top. The distortion of the point was used, via the spy hole in the kiln door, as an indicator of the state of the firing process. (The "Model" layout drawings shows this as a half ball sitting flat face down with a long, pointed "pintle" on top. [7])

 

The coal fired kilns were packed with straw and coal dust as the bricks were stacked inside. Firing was aided by compressed air blown in to the kiln from a pipe that ran along each side of the kilns. The compressed air manifold is visible in the picture above the kiln doors. The kilns had to be topped up with coal continuously throughout the firing period and it must have been a monotonous job during the night, trudging about in the fierce heat of the kiln tops with barrow loads of coal fines. Remember that the kiln top would be some twelve to fifteen feet up and the coal had to be barrowed up from ground level. The coal came in by railway wagon with the shunt ( a railway track ending in a dead end) running between gas and coal kilns. A crushing plant for the coal was located west of the gas kilns.

There were two buildings, shown on the map drawn from my memory as being made of yellow brick which I have now found to be listed as "Retort". From this I assume that they originally housed a gas retort to extract gas from coal before a mains gas supply was brought on to the site. The gas of course being used for the gas kilns. This could also explain the third chimney which still stands to the west of the coal kiln chimneys as coking ovens would be required to extract the gas from coal. The chimney has stood on its own as long as I can remember.

A substantial amount of coal would probably have been mined on site at one time.

5. A failed venture.

Way at the back of the works, on the side nearest the Townhead housing estate in Coatbridge ( between the brick works and the road from Heatherbell level crossing to the main Glenboig / Coatbridge road at Gartliston farm [see maps later in this document]), they sunk a drift mine, running roughly to the south. This mine adit had to go down through a lot of peat moss and so was always wet. Sadly they got little clay from it in relative terms and it was later abandoned.

The twin-track hutch-way ran from a working platform adjacent to the main pit-

head southwards [8] towards the Heatherbell level crossing, more or less parallel to the railway line and at almost right angles to the road running from the level crossing to the main Coatbridge to Glenboig road near to Gartliston farm. Inspection of the mining plans in 2005 revealed that they also made roadways to the east & west, at more or less a right angle to the main haulage. Old mine workings in the vicinity of Gartgill and deep peat deposits (up to 27 feet (9 metres) may have forced a halt to their continued progress to the southwest. Test bores 150 to 200 metres west of the workings west-most point showed only blue clay, blaes and peat.

At least one much earlier pit sat between the Hurll workings and the railway near to the crossing. A further "sit" in the field to the south of the road from the level crossing to Gartliston Farm would indicate yet another working although this only appears on one of the maps I have been able to find. This old coal working is undated. A further two pits, noted as 50 fathoms (1 fathom= 2 metres), are known to exist, one to the south but on the other side of the railway and one to the east, close to the Coatbridge - Glenboig road, south of Gartliston Farm.

The area at the rear of Gartgill became an open cast mine in the late 1990's, and subsequently a landfill site full of rubbish. From here they extracted coal but ignored what clay was to be found in the old Kiltongue seam that had been worked via the old Gartgill pit. In June 2007 it was noted that the area north of the old opencast is being opened up to form yet another opencast with workings that seem to be going to include the field across the railway from the Hurll No.2 mine. If this is so, I wish them well as the old test bores showed only blaes, sandstone and blue clay there, to a depth of 150 feet (50 metres). (2010 aerial photos show that they only found extractable deposits in an area forming a triangle some 200 metres each side.)
 

To understand the importance of the drift mine venture to the viability of the brickworks it is necessary to understand what lay beneath the ground in the form of workable reserves. To the north of the area the mineral strata being worked was divided up in to two levels of clay with sandstone in between, while at the southern end it reduced to one layer of clay with coal on top of it.
 

This would not of course all be at the same level, indeed the workings varied in depth from 145 feet (44 metres) to 582 feet (177 metres) in the main pit. The pit shaft itself was 226.8 feet deep with workings in to clay seams known as Glenboig Lower (worked on two separate occasions many years apart), Mill Coal Fireclay, Mill Coal, Kiltongue, Virtuewell and Netherwood coal seams. The workings spread mostly to the south and east of the Gartliston works but none went under Ramoan at all, it was completely bypassed. The area to the east of Ramoan was heavily worked and here the workings wrapped round towards the north of Ramoan.

Running roughly east / west in a slow curve a natural fault caused vertical shears of up to 10 feet (3 metres) in the ground. Now to most of us that won't mean a great deal, however a shear in the ground (part of the ground drops vertically, or lifts vertically, compared to the bit next to it) means costly digging and searching to find the clay again. It also means large amounts of work, and useless waste to be removed in backtracking the tunnel far enough to allow it to dip up or down to meet the clay again. The clay of course did not go on for ever; the clay field had a very well defined edge where the geology of the area changed.
 

A trial shaft was sunk within the works area, between the big stove and the canteen building. At 84 feet down it was abandoned as no clay was found.

The main pit covered an area of some 1300 metres east to west and 900 metres north to south with a large chunk taken out of the rectangle at the south east corner and a smaller one to the north west where the workings headed for the bad ground towards Garnqueen pit and hit "troubled ground". Interestingly, on the surface this area was always low-lying and a bit boggy, though not as bad as the area further south which was moss and peat. An estimated 1,170,000 square metres is covered by the workings. Remembering that at best the seam was 108 inches high and at worst was 29 inches high and only about 50 to 60% of the available clay could be removed (Stoop and room working), then some 1.5 million cubic metres of clay could have been removed (including making the road ways etc.) While this does not take in to account the six levels that were on top of each other (the maps don't make it too easy to calculate how much each individual level covered) I'll leave any reader who wishes to do so to calculate the tonnage (raw clay has a density of about 85 lbs per cu. ft.). (Over 3.9 million tons by my finger-in-the-air guess).

This mining was all done on a "Stoop and Room" system where "Stoops" or pillars of ground were left in place to support the roof and the land above as the "Rooms" were dug out around them.

 

This left vast underground cavities almost like a rectangular honeycomb. In later years many of these workings were revisited and the stoops pruned to extract more clay and allow the roof to gradually collapse in the now unused areas. Surprisingly at least one area in the Lower Glenboig Clay seam, north of the pit shaft was revisited as early as 1891 and "Stooped out". Thus as the clay became worked out, and the outer edges of the clay field were reached, other sources of raw materials needed to be found and so the pit workings crept east around Ramoan and extensively under the area between Ramoan and Greenfoot. Here the Inchneuk mine (cement clay workings), the Chain mine, Star mine and Gartverrie mines limited the available area to be worked. The Gartverrie quarry, while a surface operation, cut in to the subsurface sand deposits, showing that the clay seam had run out or gone deep in that area. The ground surface here was very boggy as the peat was so deep. In fact New Road was built on a raft of birch logs, an old Roman trick to give support for roads on unstable ground. You could drive over this road two consecutive days and the ripples in the road surface would be in different places! This was probably due to rise and fall in the water level within the moss and displacement of the moss as heavy traffic moved over the road. Such a deep deposit of moss precluded mining unless very deep underneath it.

Extracts from the mining accident records for the Hurll mines show:-

"22 June 1933

Clay Miner Killed At Glenboig - A clay miner named John Gardner Fowler (23), who lived with his parents at 16 Gartliston Square, Glenboig, was firing a shot of compressed powder in No. 15 clay mine, Gartliston, when the shot suddenly went off, and he was caught in the flying debris. He sustained a fracture of the skull and other injuries, from which he died in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. [Scotsman 23 June 1933]"

"8 February 1926

Clay Miner Fatally Injured - Peter Wolfe, clay miner, Glenboig, was fatally injured in a clay pit at Birkhill, near Manuel Junction, owned by Messrs Peter & Mark Hurll, fire-brick manufacturers , Regent Street, Glasgow. Workmen were excavating clay when a fall of several tons occurred from the side of the pit. Wolfe was pinned against a standing hutch, and he sustained severe internal and other injuries, from which he died soon afterwards. He was of middle age. Three fellow workmen had a narrow escape. [Scotsman 12 February 1926]

NB Deceased was also known as Baltrus Wilkas"

Records show that there was another small mine in the corner of New Road and Coatbridge Road just where New Road turns off to head for Greenfoot, though I don't know the age of the mine.

Interestingly, records shown that in 1896 there were 36 miners employed in the Gartliston pit. (20 in Donald McDonald's time) I would have expected more than that!

There was another band of clay closer to the surface to the south of the works and it was this that was exploited with the drift mine. Interestingly the British Geological Survey records show conflicting information on exactly what seams were exploited in Gartliston No. 2 mine. On the one hand they state that it was the Mill coal Fireclay seam yet on catalogue number S3505, quarter sheet LK7NE they state that Virtuewell, Kiltongue and Mill Coal fireclay were worked. I suspect that No. 1 pit and No. 2 pit (the mine) are mixed up. Mill Coal Fireclay is the most likely seam worked in the mine. The Virtuewell coal seam extends well up to the east of Airdrie and shows up in old records of the Greengairs pits and the Kiltongue seam shows as being at 50 fathoms (300 feet or 100 metres) just west and north west of the limits of the drift mine. See the extract from "A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885." At the end of theis publication.

The initial test bores showed a clay seam varying from 52 inches (132 cm) high to 72 inches (182 cm) high at a depth of between 27 feet (8.2 metres) and 59 feet (17.9 metres). Given that there was 27 feet (8.2 metres) of peat moss above the clay you can see that not all of the clay could be safely removed without causing an inrush of water similar to that which occurred at Knochshinnock in Ayrshire in 1950 with the loss of thirteen lives. The ground around the portal of the drift mine [9] was mostly dirt with blaes, coal and ironstone deposits (see photos later in this document). Sadly, some 328 feet (100 metres) later they ran out of the clay and in to dirt [10].

The end of the road in the drift mine.

Note the water pouring in through the roof and the slope of the roof.

Two other roads were dug, one running some 100 feet (30 metres) east and one running 400 feet (120 metres) west. Two smaller ones were attempted to get at the last of the clay but these were very short lived. Abandoned coal workings lay adjacent to the mine, almost in line with the main roadway, and these also limited its development. The drift mine, Gartliston No2 if you want to check the Abandonment Plans [see references], only had a life of some 22 to 27 years, being commenced in the early 50's and last surveyed in 1967. With the moss and peat being so porous and soggy, the mine was very wet and flooded very easily. I remember it being taken out of use temporarily in the lat 50's and the water filling it to within a few feet of the portal in a matter of weeks once the pumps were turned off. It was later pumped out and reworked but with little success.

For the sake of completeness, the main pit mine manager in 1896 was Jno. Campbell with Geo. Crichton as under Manager. The Manager (Underground Manager) from the mid 1920s to the mid 1960s was Donald MacDonald. He was succeeded when he retired at the age of 72 by Willie Cook who lived in the Mine Manager's house at the Garnqueen works. The main pit winding enginemen were at one time in the 40's Jimmy Penman and Johnny Keir. There was also a fireman called Johnny Johnston.

The air shaft of the drift mine. Note the two roads cut in on the right of the tunnel (you can see the metal screw jacks) and the 4" water pipe on the left.

 

 

A bend in the roadway of the main pit. Note the guide on the rails and the pulley blocks for the haulage cable. The large pulley to the left is protection for the wall if the cable jumps off the guides rollers on the corner. Air fans are just visible at roof level.


 

 

6. A child's puzzle and an awesome sight!
 

The excess water from both pits was pumped in to a pond at ground level, on the winding house side of the roadway, a few yards from the pit head, via an overhead pipe which formed a rectangular arch over the pathway and via a cigar shaped receiver tank.

 

 

The head gear has been butchered but the water receiver tank and winding house are still the same.

 

Note the fence around the location of the old pond.
 

As a child it always surprised me that there were goldfish (carp) in the pond. How did they get in to the mine? Ah, the innocence of youth! When I eventually had the good fortune to be taken down the pit I was amazed at the sight of a vast (to a child) lake so far below ground. The water was held back by a dyke about 3 or 4 feet (1 metre) high and the excess pumped to the surface. This seemed to be quite close to pit bottom but doesn't show up on the mine maps. [11]

 

This picture of the dam is recorded as being in the drift mine but the rock structure would indicate it was in the main pit.

Note the remnants of the primitive, but effective equipment (a rope over a bicycle wheel) to operate a float switch and control the water pump.

 

As you exited the cage at the underground level (assuming you were facing south, i.e. you entered the cage at the surface and turned round to face the loading bank) you were faced, about 30 feet away and slightly to the left, with a huge fang-shaped boulder extending down from the roof. This thing was so big that the haulage road had to dip under it and a man could barely crouch below it. The cost, and risk, of splitting it or removing it was too high and so they just worked round it or, in this case, under it. The road was being worked just beyond this boulder when I visited the pit. The main road went off slightly to the right of this central area not far from the pit cage and disappeared in to the dark with only the moving haulage ropes to indicate that anything existed in that stygian blackness .
 

Looking to the right as you left the pit cage you faced a dark tunnel running more or less west. This ran eventually down to a forced ventilation shaft and emergency escape which came to the surface about 100 yards down the hill from the three cottages, where the works road came on to the site from the main Coatbridge to Glenboig road. A single-storey brick building, with a flat concrete roof, housed the top of the shaft and a huge ventilation fan. Outside the building was a hand operated winch which was always rotten with rust. Heaven help the miners if that had ever been needed. The original steam winding engine, for the main pit, adjacent to the boiler house had by then been replaced by electrical winding in a new winding house to the east of the pithead.

7. Life's ups and downs
 

The pit head was a thing of great fascination for a boy and many hours I stood watching both the pit head crown wheels and the cages in operation. Hutches were lifted up the shaft in the cage two at a time. Unusually, this was side by side, as opposed to one on top of the other as in most coal pits. (I think I'm correct in this. I recall being in the cage and four of us standing comfortably side by side, something I don't think could have happened if the cage could only carry one hutch. Certainly they were not two-level cages.) A working platform, or bank, about eight feet above ground level served as a loading / unloading point where the hutches were manhandled out of the cage [1], wheeled round to the west of the pit head gear, over a wooden bridge with three rail tracks on it and tipped in to a screening plant where the clay and stones etc. were separated [1]. (A short track ran the other way, towards Ramoan, and this led to the spoil heap which was beyond the top of the haulage road for the drift mine). Watching the consummate ease with which the men handled the loaded hutches belittled the hard graft involved. (The hutches from the drift mine came to this same screening plant and mixing mill.)[12] As far as I can remember two cages were employed in the pit. When one was at the top the other was at the bottom, thus a continuous flow of full and empty hutches could be maintained. This is borne out by the old photo of the works viewed from across the railway but the electric winding house is surprisingly small for one that should have handled two winches (unless the rope simply passed around the winding drum and back out to the other cage). The rectangular pit shaft also carried wooden guides to keep the cages in line. There were two levels worked, Kiltongue and Lower Glenboig fireclay (worked twice at different levels) with, I believe from the maps ,Mill Coal clay and Mill coal also worked but not as separate levels ,however only one was operational during my time, Kiltongue I believe, as this seems to be equal to pit bottom in level.

 

A view up the drift mine hutch-way .

Note the brick making stove on the left and the mill beyond.

 

A view south down the drift mine hutch way. Note the haulage ropes and the two hutch arrestors to stop run away hutches. The brick making stove is on the right with the gas kilns further down the hutch way and the coal kilns far right. What looks like a cottage at the end of the gas kilns was the kiln office where the clock was taken at weekends (see section 13).

What's left of the headgear and (right) the tension run for the drift haulage.

View roughly east from the crusher / mill area.

A series of electric bell signals were used to communicate between the winch man on the surface and the operator below. The cage ascended and descended at a slower speed if "men" was signalled as the cage load.

Down below, an endless rope was used to haul hutches in the main "road" or tunnel of the pit. This rope ascended to the surface via the side of the pit shaft and thus to the winding drum, then back down again. Thus all of the haulage below ground was controlled from the surface. (Note:- The presence of only two crown wheels on the pit head somewhat denies this but I can find no other evidence of an "engine room" below ground.

If I remember correctly the miner's lamp room was at ground level somewhere close to the boiler house, between it and the brick machine area of the "big stove".
 

8. Family connections.
 

My father's brother and his family lived in the first of the tied cottages mentioned earlier in this narrative. These ran at right angles to the works road coming in from the Coatbridge to Glenboig road. (See drawing) As I recall there were three cottages, two with two bedrooms, a living room with a set-in bed and a large scullery and one larger cottage, the one nearest the pay office. My uncle Jock (pronounced Joke in local parlance) [his correct name was John], wife Nan, sons Jim and Tom and daughters Margaret, Annie and Jean lived in the one nearest the work's road and the railway.

In the picture below my uncle John is on the left and uncle James on the right.
 

Note the self-provided workwear.

 

Next door lived the Miller family. My uncle was the boiler man and Willie Miller was the works engineer. As both could be needed at very short notice, both lived on-site as it were. The last cottage, the largest one, housed the Gelately family. This was converted later to make an office. Next came the works office, with the pay window screened by a wooden lean-to built on to the northern end of the building. The blacksmith's shop and the engineer's workshop were on the left after the work's office and the joiner's shop on the right. These took up both sides of the road before you got to the point where the boiler house sat at right angles to them, separated by an un-metalled roadway and one of the railway shunts, and more or less facing down the road.

The pathway between the offices & workshops then passed to the left of the boiler house and kinked slightly to the left around the pit head gear. It then led past the right side of the pit pond and the winding house, and onwards across the fields to the explosive magazine and the housing estate of Ramoan. The magazine was a brick building some six feet by ten feet with a steel door. It was situated in the corner of a field about half way between the end of Whitelaw Avenue in Ramoan and the brick works. The sloping roof was made of concrete and there was a lightning conductor on a pole at one corner.

Behind the boiler house was the pit head [1]. To the right and above the level of the boiler house stood the clay screening plant, crusher and pan mills [13 & 14] where the clay was prepared. Next, back at ground level, came the automatic brick making machinery [2] and the drying rooms. Along the northwest side of this was a railway shunt which, I assume, brought in coal for the boilers and the Klinit or other clay supplies. A separate shunt passed between the coal and gas kilns where the coal crusher was located.

9. A bit of a grind!
 

The clay mills had to be fed with crushed clay and so the clay lumps that came up from either mine would be passed to a riddle system to remove stones etc. before being passed on to a crushing plant. The much finer output from the crusher would be sent to the required mill. The pan mills were just that, three huge metal containers [13 & 14] with sides about eighteen inches high, one of 7 ft. (2.13 metres) diameter, one of 9 ft. (2.7 metres) diameter and one of 8 ft. (2.4 metres) diameter. The first two were dry mills while the third was a wet mill. Rotating in each pan were two large rollers or grinding wheels probably about 2'6" in diameter (just under 1 metre). These were mounted on a horizontal shaft supported on a central pivot, and moved round in a circle and rotated at the same time, thus the clay was crushed to a fine powder. Some designs of mills had rotating roller and a static pan while some had static rollers and a rotating pan.

 

The "Dry" mill. Note the damaged and pitted rollers and open drive gearing at the top.
 

In due time the powdered clay from the dry mills moved on to the auger mixers attached to the Fawcett brick making machines [2].

 

The Fawcett machine.

The screw mixer has the platform in front of it and the brick making part is to the right. The rubbish lying around is from the demolition & salvage work.

Here two interlacing screw-bladed (auger) mixer shafts rotated while water was added to the clay, thus forming a coarse paste with the consistency of bread dough.

(*** see note) The facility to mix the dry clay actually at the machine allowed the mix to be varied depending on what was being made. I believe the Bradley & Craven machines were fed with wet clay.

The wet mill fed clay on to hutches to be taken to the hand-brick makers. Clay from the dry mills was also fed to another semi-automatic machine, known as the Pug Mill or "puggy" which had a similar screw mixer and extruded the wet clay through a mandrill (a shape-forming tube) under pressure to form the shape of a long brick. The long sausage of shaped clay was then fed on to a table where a series of hand operated cutting wires (similar to a giant cheese cutter) was used to cut the sausage in to individual bricks. These were then placed on to boards laid on the floor to allow the bricks to dry to the "Green" state. The Bradley & Craven automatic machines had a mould (interchangeable for different sizes of brick) built in to the operating table of the machine (see photo later in this document). The inside of the mould contained a close fitting piston that descended to allow the mould to be filled with clay. A top lid was then applied by the machine and the clay in the mould compressed as the piston moved up. Thus a brick was formed. With the lid retracted the piston move up to eject the brick.

 

 

The "Wet" mill. Note the clay "spoil" lying around was an almost permanent feature.
 

 

10. The Saturday trek and science.

Most Saturday mornings about 10 am. I followed my Dad's route to work. I would spend the rest of the morning with him and his colleagues. I always took a tin of Kit-e-kat to feed his pet cat Tibby who kept the mice and rats at bay. Tibby was followed by his son Tibbs and in spite of all the good food I brought for him, Tibbs would never come near me.

 

Dad's actual workplace.

Note the brick maker's bow, the sack covered clay on the hutch, the clay delivery chute in the background and the rows of drying bricks. The chute, and the steps in the background, go up to where the little bridge comes in to the stove.

It was here in the "Stove" or brick making shed that I experienced my first science lesson! In the back corner of the stove stood a steel 40 gallon drum acting as a rain barrel. This collected the rain from the roof and served as a source of hand washing water for the workers [none of the facilities available in modern factories!] and "wetting" water for the fireclay awaiting use ( as this dried out with time and became unworkable) . Rather than contaminate the whole barrel each time they needed water they had a "U" shaped piece of metal tubing, about 12" long, which they filled with water by submerging it in the barrel. They trapped the water inside using their fingers on each end of the tube. This was then draped, U shape downwards, over the edge of the barrel with one end in the water. This siphoned the water out until the level dropped below the end of the tube when the flow stopped by itself. Simple but effective, a fitting way to sum up many aspects of that period.
 

11. Workwear

For most brick makers the most desirable garment was a piece of sacking and a bit of string. This formed a crude apron to be tied round your waist. This kept the wet clay away from your own clothes, keeping you a bit drier and allowing you to wipe your hands on something. The usual male (and often female) attire for work was a pair of trousers from an old suit or rough serge trousers from a hardware store. Shirts were usually heavy cotton work shirts worn with sleeves rolled up. It was common for a sleeveless sweater to be worn in the winter. Women usually wore an apron, wrap-over overall or bib-brace overall with the sack apron on top and a headscarf worn as a turban on their head.

Manual workers hate having anything around their lower arms even in the coldest weather and rough, chapped (red and abraded) and cracked skin was quite normal through most of each winter. Having your hands and arms covered in cold, wet clay all day, and having to wash in icy cold water with nothing more than old sacking to dry yourself with, would have been little fun in the winter. I recall many evenings when my mother applied "Wintergreen" ointment to my father's hands and arms to ease the hacks and red raw skin.

Work shoes were what ever you provided yourself, no such thing as safety boots then! Still, standards were all and an old pair of shoes worn at work would not have been acceptable to travel home in and so my dad always changed in to his polished shoes before travelling home.
 

For the journey to and from the works an old suit jacket and a long, thick cotton coat would be worn. Many men wore flat caps but my Dad never seemed to wear a hat. In the depths of winter the beret he wore in the stove would be pressed in to service if the weather was really bad. The only cleaning materials that I ever saw available were pieces of sacking for towels and the rain barrel in the corner.
 

12. High class Dining
 

While adding drawings etc. to this document I discover that there was actually a canteen (an eating hall only I would guess)!

Meals for the men in Dad's stove were taken where they worked. Simple benches were made from the brick boards raised to a comfortable (Hmmm) height on some waste bricks and, if you were lucky, some sacking to add a bit of padding.
 

Food was brought from home in the form of sandwiches and I remember it was always plain bread that Mum used. The waxed paper wrappers from the bread loaves were kept to wrap Dad's sandwiches (know locally as a "piece").
 

Tea was made in a "Tea Can". This ubiquitous contraption was either purchased ready-made from a hardware shop or made from an old soup tin with a wire loop handle added. Water from the rain barrel was used and someone from the work squad took all of the tea cans down to the gas kilns before the meal break was due. Here they were illegally placed in an opening in a kiln door (the heat emitted from the spy hole or the gas burner damper hole was sufficient) until the water boiled.

Dry tea leaves and sugar were carried in a special double-ended tin. This was oval in shape, had a separator across the middle with a push-on lid at each end. Enough was carried for two meal breaks, breakfast and lunch. Some people kept the tea and sugar separate, using half of the contents at each meal, while others mixed them up and used the whole of one end at each meal. With the tea stirred in to the water either before it was boiled or afterwards, a thick odious brew was made. Given the continual build-up of tannin inside the can and the twice daily boiling of it, you can imagine the strength and taste of the resulting brew! The can was never cleaned inside, to do so ruined the taste of the tea as it became metallic due to the fresh surface of the tin can thus exposed. A new tea can had to be broken in before the brew tasted right! In due course, when I started work, I had my own such kit so I speak from experience! Nothing tasted as good as that can of tea at break time!
 

13. Time please Gentlemen

As no one would dream of wearing a wrist watch to work, if indeed many people actually owned such a luxury, my father kept an old chiming mantelpiece clock in the stove. As this had to be wound up each day it was carefully carried, without upsetting its rhythm too much, down to the wee office / control cabin of the gas kilns at the end of work on a Saturday. Here it was nurtured until Monday morning when it would be retrieved for another tour of time keeping duty.

If memory serves, there was a wireless (radio) set in the kiln office which allowed time checks (the famous Big Ben chimes) to ensure the clock kept time (at least over the weekend!).

 

During my visits I had the run of the place, provided none of the bosses spotted me. I would wander freely up and down the drift mine haulage way, across to the pit head (but only at ground level, never up at bank for safety reasons) or across to the ventilation shaft, with frequent visits to the side of the railway line in between. Occasionally a steam loco would bring wagons in to the shunt or take loaded wagons away and this was always of interest. If no one else was around I could run the clay delivery hutch around the tracks in the upper level of the big stove. On the way in to the works on a Saturday morning I would always meet workmen who had knocked off (stopped work) early and were heading for the bus. No one ever passed you without saying "Hello", albeit that in local parlance "Hello" transmuted in to "Yus"!
 

14. Another trek, safety and education

At the end of his shift, 12 noon on a Saturday, we walked 2 miles or so to Wilton Street, in the Townhead area of Coatbridge, to catch a bus home. The bus times were more convenient on this route. No one minded walking then. As we had to cross the railway shunt and a very busy main line railway, safety was dinned in to me; and the correct way to approach and cross a railway line featured largely. This may have been the original "Look, listen, look again" lesson! The "singing" of the rails would herald the approach of a train long before you saw it coming and the state of the old mechanical, semaphore railway signals, up for an approaching train and horizontal when it passed, had also to be checked. The signals were operated by pull-wires that ran along beside the tracks on little uprights with pulley wheels for each wire. The creaking of a moving wire also heralded an approaching train. As the signal cabin at Gartgill had to be passed on the route it was not uncommon for time to be spent there and the delight of being allowed to operate the levers that controlled points and signals can still be recalled as I write this. I was never allowed to use the bell signalling system that the boxes used to communicate train movements between each other as, like Morse code radio operators, each signalman developed a recognisable "fist" or signalling technique and individuals could be recognised in distant boxes, the outgoing signal from a box being heard in several boxes each side of the sender. A sudden change to an unknown "fist" would have caused great concern in the neighbouring boxes.

During the summer we would collect a selection of things to eat as we walked along. In the railway cutting to the west of the works there were Brambles, Raspberries and Tayberries while the fields provided black beans that were mixed in with the corn and wheat growing there. Wild peas could also be found. These could only be picked when ripe or they were hard to chew and gave you indigestion. The simple lesson of "use your eyes and you'll always find things of interest on any journey" has stayed with me as my family will confirm.
 

15. All gone.

Sadly I didn't get to revisit the works before they were demolished however the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments did do some recording. Sadly much deterioration had occurred and much of the demolition begun before their visit. The main pit had been closed and the shaft filled in. This is evident by the removal of the ropes and crown wheels from the head gear in their photographs. These had been replaced by a large cigar-shaped tank on top of the headgear frame, probably a water tank for water from the drift mine. A visit in 2003 revealed little that was recognisable except by the relative position of a few landmarks. The ground level had been changed in many places as the buildings were flattened and the rubble spread about. The pit shaft, air shaft and drift mine adit had been filled in with the attendant loss of location accuracy, however these were deduced from other factors. Only the coal kiln chimney stacks, retort chimney and the drift mine bothy remained intact. Vegetation had rendered much of the site unreachable and other parts were unsafe due to the haphazard collapse of large chunks of rubble. I have recorded what I could and the photographs attached can be checked against the surface plans to provide a better picture.

In November 2005 a visit to the site showed a "sit" where the portal of the drift mine would logically have been and also a "Sit" when the roof of the main haulage road had collapsed some 30 feet (10 metres) from the portal. Collapses in the drift mine main road and air shaft were opened up and backfilled by contractors acting for the Coal Authority in early December 2005. Interestingly, they knew there was another shaft on site but didn't have a clue where it was. I was happy to point out not one but four they had been driving their 30 ton JCB over for several weeks!

The land where once stood a thriving brickworks, source of fine products and source of a living for many families, is now owned by a local farmer who views it as a landfill site and who has over the years fed most of the buildings through a crusher to be sold as infill materials for building sites, road making etc.

No doubt in years to come the site will disappear under new houses though I pity anyone buying land around Glenboig as it is a warren of old mine workings and the ground is liable to collapse without warning (as the residents of Castlecarey found out in the late 60's).

Note:- in 2007 banner signs have appeared at the side of several main roads around the west of Scotland advertising "Building land for sale, investment opportunities at Glenboig 12,000). Compared to the average plot of building land at 30,000 to 60,000 why so cheapI wonder?

If I have "gone on" a bit about the brickworks I make no apology. I have tried to add as much detail as I can since places like this no longer exist and I doubt if any archive of the place was kept.

This work is dedicated to Bert, the man who took the time and gave me the memories. Thanks Dad.

Copyright R.McM 7/4/2011

16. Maps and photographs

A rough layout of Gartliston works from my memory

(See later mining plans for the actual surface layout. After all these years I wasn't too far out!).

 

P&M Hurll Gartliston Brick works from the air 2005

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan showing the building layout.

Note the representation of the railway line and its junctions (running vertically to the left of the work's buildings, with the shunt forking off to the right and in to the works.

 

Extracted from a plan provided Courtesy of JWH Ross & Co. Glasgow.

 

 

 


 
 

 

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