Towards the end of the 1800’s coal miners in Kelty, Fife, Scotland, would run home with lumps of coal, ‘rakers’ & ‘clugs’, at the end of their shift.
In remembrance of these hard times and the brave men who spent their lives, hundreds of feet under-ground, ‘the Kelty Coal Race’ was born.
The race was a one kilometre hilly climb through the town. Starting out by the Smiddy and ending up at the primary school. Each man would carry upon his back, a 50 kg sack of coal. The women ran with 25 kg bag and the children hefted sacks of 10 kg each.
This race was first run in 1995 and it was free to enter.
Kelty was just a little village located on the ‘coach’ road from Edinburgh to Perth, via the ferry. Once they extended the railway line from Cowdenbeath to Kinross in 1860, the coal mines around Kelty flourished. By the time, ‘The Fife Coal Company’ was created in 1872, three pits were fully functionable.
The Kelty 4/5 pit, which was later known as ‘The Lindsay Mine’, had its pit head near the railway station, just east of the village. 820 men worked there and were kept in work until 1965, although, it was completely deserted, two years later. The largest pit of the area was the ‘Aiken Mine’. It hired 1300 men & boys and was in operation from 1899 to 1963. There were several other pits sunk during the late nineteenth century as there were many good coal seams all around the area.
However, by the 1960’s these were all starting to close. Kelty’s population decrerased rapidly by a third, at this time. Men leaving to find jobs elsewhere.
A large statue of a coal miner was unveiled outside Kelty’s library, in honour of all coal miners, especially those who lost their lives.
‘The Lindsay’ pit had only two minor explosions prior to 1957, resulting in one fatality and two injured. However, on 14/15th December 1957, 790 men were working 1,260 ft. below the surface when an explosion occurred.
Unfortunately, miners in all pits, throughout the country, would slip cigarettes into the shaft, to smoke at rest times. After an inquiry on the disaster, it was found, it was the result of a match being struck in order to have a smoke.
More than one body removed had forbidden cigarettes & matches in their pockets. Any loss of life is tragic but, on this occasion, Kelty did a lot better than most. Nine died between the ages of 32 – 64 and eleven were injured ranging from 20 – 58 years.
Checks were increased on all pit men descending the shaft.
The inquiry had put it very harshly, ‘a man is neither bold nor bright carrying matches below. He is demonstrating a complete untrustworthy, contempt and indifference to his work mates and to the well-being of their families’.
They hoped the men lives were not lost in vain.