Where Iron Runs Like Water!
A New History of Carron Iron Works 1759-1982
by Brian Watters
Houses were built for the miners and included the Red Row at the village of Carronhall and nearer to Kinnaird on the "Longdyke", there was the "Red Houses" and the "Square of Houses". As late as 1871, there was the village of "Old Engine", on the north side of the Bellsdyke Road close to the eastern entrance to Kinnaird Estate. This was the site of the "Engine Pit", used for many years to pump water from the Kinnaird coalfield. Some of the miners lived at Back 0' Dykes and at Bensfield, the latter at that time was a small "steading" to the east of the present day farmhouse of that name [which today stands opposite the site of Back 0' Dykes]. Another village complete with a school was established near to Cuttyfield Farm and given the name "Kinnaird"; it was built by James Bruce. In Carronshore itself, the Bothy Row was home to many miners. Both villages at Carronhall and Kinnaird had their own friendly societies, early forms of insurance schemes. These operated independently from the main "Carron Founders Friendly Society” at the Works, as Carron Company had refused the miners entry to it, believing that it would encourage absenteeism at the pits.
As the coal became exhausted at the early pits, the workings were moved nearer to the harbour with the Carronhall Colliery Pit No 6, at the far end of Carronshore, the Carronhall Colliery Pit No 5, and the Blackmill Pit. In the 1860s, the Carronhall Colliery "William Pit" was opened, with housing provided for the miners. This was the largest of the Company's mining operations and remembered for its pit bing which was known locally as "Garabaldi". To the south of Falkirk, Carron Company had for many years obtained coal from a multitude of small pits including those at Blackbraes the Parkhall Estate, Croftandie, Shieldhill, whose first manager was James Fish, formerly of Quarrole and Kinnaird, and Lochelridge and the coal was transported by a train of seemingly endless carts, down through the narrow streets of Falkirk, churning up the roads on their way to the Works. In the 20th century, Shieldhill, Jaw, Gardrum and Craigend were the main suppliers; Shieldhill, the largest, was equipped with its own coke-ovens and serviced by a railway link. In the west, early supplies of coal and ironstone were brought from the Banton estate of William Cadell and then from Nethercroy and Cadder, the latter, the scene of a mining disaster in 1912 following an underground fire. Of the 26 miners who were on that afternoon shift, only four survived. A memorial stone was erected in memory of those who perished.
A pit at Letham was opened in 1913 and. like the others at Carronshore, was served by the Carron Branch Railway. Many houses were built for the miners there, who numbered 400 in 1927, which would suggest that this operation was intended to have a long life. With the exception of Kinnaird, Quarrole and Blackrnill, all of the previously mentioned pits were still in service at the beginning of the first World War, the total yearly output being approximately 700,000 tons. At the beginning of the second World War, the only pit being worked near to Carron, was the Carronhall "William" Pit. It had always been the most profitable of the Carron Company mining operations, with its annual output at the turn of the Century being between 100,000 and 150,000 tons, with equal amounts of its coal going to the blast furnaces and to the Carron ships. Coke-ovens at Carnork estate, near Airth belonging to the Alloa Coal Company had long supplied the needs of Carron Company. When the owners wanted to modernise this operation they were obliged to take note of the needs of their major customer, the ironworks, which in turn decided to purchase the concern.
The last collieries to be operated by Carron Company, Bridgeness [bought from the family of the late HM. Cadell of Grange around 1936], Carronhall, Pimhall and Bannockburn were nationalised in 1948. In 1949, the area around the Carronhall pit, and the village of Skinflats was immortalised in the murder mystery novel by John Drummond called Behind Dark Shutters. It was set in the period around 1890.