Bo'ness Real Ale Appreciation Society

2013 Real Ale Festival Theme
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 16:00

2013 Bo'ness Real Ale Festival Theme

We must have been lucky since starting out way back in 2001 when the festival was a ‘one-off’ event to celebrate the Bo’ness 400 the anniversary of Bo’ness in 1601, being designated an official port on the Forth.

It seems that since and each year there has been something going on that could be used as the festival theme. Why that was important no-one seems to be able to remember; it just seemed like a good idea at the time and has now become an almost expected tradition!

Almost missed this year’s theme!

This year was a wee bit more difficult as a theme had been suggested and worked on but needed agreement with a third-party was delaying progress.

We had to bite the bullet and try and find an alternative 'tout suite’ and hair was being pulled out left, right & centre and unfortunately couldn’t think of anything to celebrate!

But, all is not lost and we still have something to commemorate!

As panic set in a quick search on the internet presented a couple of options:-

  1. a 55 year anniversary and
  2. a 30 anniversary

Saved by the internet again and after a quick nod round the table the theme was decided!

And, we have a good idea what might be the 60 year theme in 2018 now as well. What do you think it could be?

2013 Theme – Closure of Kinneil Pit in 1983

Kinneil Pit Closure ThemeSomehow the anniversary had been overlooked and more surprising was that a talk, by Robert Jardine, on the history of Kinneil Pit, until it was finally closed, had been given in the Corbie Inn last June.

How it was overlooked first-time round is one of those mysteries.

Coal and Bo’ness

In the 12th Century Monks of Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, were granted a tithe by William Di Vipont to dig coal from his Carriden estate.

The coal was then carried to Holyrood in panniers strapped to the backs of their horses; later it was taken to Leith by sailing ship.

In 1291 monks from Dunfermline Abbey were also given the right to dig coal from outcrops around Bo'ness and since, Bo'ness has always been associated with coal.

Aeneas Sylvius, the future Pope Pius II, visited the area in 1435 and wrote in his journal "the poor, who almost in a state of nakedness begged at the church door, depart with joy in their faces on receiving stones as alms"!

This account reveals that although coal was commonly used as fuel in Scotland it was yet unknown in many parts of Europe. This is reinforced as in another account of his visit to Scotland the future Pope wrote, "A sulphurous stone dug from the earth is used by the people as fuel".

Wherever you go in Bo’ness you are not very far away from one of the old pit workings (this writer has one in his back garden which is regularly inspected, every 5 years or so, by Coal Board Authorities).

Kinneil Pit

The closure of the pit in 1983 was a major blow to Bo’ness as it had had a long relationship with coal and mining and in its heyday, a major employer in the area.

It was a shock at the time as new developments had been started by a National Coal Board (NCB) reconstruction programme started in 1951, described in the new colliery brochure as marking `the beginning of a major project in the great reconstruction programmes for the coal mines of Scotland envisaged in the Board's national plan'.

Kinneil Colliery links up with Low Valleyfield

And, on April 30th 1964, Kinneil Colliery was linked up with Low Valleyfield, at a depth of 1800 feet below the Firth of Forth at 10.33am.

Kinneil manager, David Archibald, shook hand with his opposite number Norman Wallace, reportedly saying "I hope you have plenty of coal for me."

The 1 1/4 mile link between the two colliery workings took 27 men 18 months to complete at a cost of £500,000. The annual output from Kinneil was about 240,000 tons, principally from one seam named "Seven Feet Coal" situated in the seaward area.

Total reserves of coal under the Forth basin, at depths down to 3,000 feet, are still estimated to be around 50,000,000 tons!

But, rightly or wrongly it did indeed close!

All that is now visible on the foreshore at the site of the colliery is the capped pit head.

All is not lost- Kinneil lives on!

It was announced earlier in the year that the former, now abandoned Kinneil Colliery, had been given official local nature reserve status as Kinneil Nature Reserve by Scottish Natural Heritage (report in Bo’ness Journal).

An area of land stretching from Bo'ness Harbour to the former Kinneil colliery is to become a haven for wildlife and plants.

The new status marks the end of an era for the site, which until the closure of its central colliery in 1983, spent almost 200 years being used for heavy industry.

It is not a wholly surprising outcome as parts of the area already had been recognised for their environmental importance. The mudflats and "island" off the foreshore are designated as a Special Protection Area for their conservation value.

So, maybe, rather than just a commemoration it is also a Celebration for the future.



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