Miss Agnes Rennie

Miss Agnes Rennie, NCB. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Miss Agnes Rennie, NCB. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

I was put in touch with Miss Agnes Rennie by her niece, Anne Stewart, who lives in Machrihanish. Agnes, now 94 years old, was born in Helensburgh in 1920. Her grandfather, whom she never met, was a miner, as were some of her maternal uncles. As I understand it, her Grandfather Shearer was from the Dennyloanhead/Longcroft area in Falkirk.

As a young woman Agnes studied Institutional Management at Glasgow College of Domestic Science, popularly known as “The Dough School” which was situated just next to Kelvingrove Park. Her first jobs were in hospitals, including Gartnavel Hospital, in the west of Glasgow. She then spent approximately 30 years with the NCB (National Coal Board). Agnes was based in Alloa and was in charge of supervising the catering/canteens in collieries all across Scotland. The area manager at the time was a Mr Lang, who had worked his way up from being a miner and, according to Agnes, was a very considerate person to work for. This work involved Agnes and her assistant, Pat Angus, visiting Argyll Colliery roughly every 6 weeks. She made the journey by plane and thinks that she stayed at the Argyll Hotel in Campbeltown.

Miners Rescue Team Coatbridge/Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Jim Fowler.

Miners Rescue Team Coatbridge/Argyll Colliery. Photo courtesy of Jim Fowler.

When in 1958 spontaneous combustion caused a fire to break out at the Machrihanish mine, a dedicated rescue team was brought from Coatbridge by the NCB to assist the Argyll Colliery workforce. This operation meant keeping the canteen open 24 hours a day, so Agnes and her assistant were told to pack their bags for the long drive to Kintyre to organise the opening of the canteen. Here she worked alongside the local women who ran the canteen on a day-to-day basis and served the men who were fighting the fire. Agnes describes how the team who were brought in were catered for at the expense of the NCB. Agnes, off her own bat, also supplied the men from Coatbridge with writing paper, envelopes and stamps so that they could write home to their families.

Typical meals provided were soup, mince and potatoes, stew; followed by tart and custard. “Pieces” were made up for the men to take underground. There was home baking in the canteens too; scones, pancakes etc. Agnes thinks that on this occasion she was there for three days and that she stayed at the Ugadale Hotel in Machrihanish. She also remembered that she visited the Argyll Colliery when it was in the process of being closed (1966).

Agnes says as a young women she never imagined that she would end up working with miners but went on to say that she loved her job, and that, although many people looked down on colliery workers, she thought that they were “the salt of the earth”. She remembered the men as always being very pleasant and that she enjoyed her visits to Campbeltown and was at pains to say that the women who ran the canteen at Argyll Colliery did a very good job.

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The Road to Drumleman: A Documentary Film by Jan Nimmo

Video

http://www.jannimmo.com/TRTD.html

The Road to Drumleman tells the story of Kintyre’s last coal mine, The Argyll Colliery (1947–1967), the most remote coal mine in Scotland. Almost no physical traces of the mine remain and now it is hard to imagine that the well run mine thrived just behind spectacular Machrihanish Bay.
When artist Jan Nimmo’s father and former Argyll Colliery shot firer, Neil Nimmo, died, Jan realised that there was an urgency to gather the stories of the remaining miners. Through their personal narrative the film gives an insight into working life 50 years ago; of its hardships and camaraderie. The stories span the life of the mine and pay tribute to all of the men who worked invisibly beneath the wild and unspoiled shores of western Kintyre.

“The Road to Drumleman is a tribute to the miners of Argyll Colliery and a rich oral history of a hidden Scotland. Not just Kintyre, but the whole country is enriched by this moving, witty, compassionate landmark film”.

© Jan Nimmo 2014

Jan Nimmo

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

I am a Glasgow based artist and filmmaker. My work is essentially about sharing peoples’ stories through artwork, film and writing. I am especially interested in agriculture, the lives of working people and Latin American popular culture.

I have worked with banana and pineapple workers in Latin America and Central Africa since 2000. I want workers’ testimony to help us, the consumers, to understand that the work is backbreaking, that a 12 hour day may be routine and that workers are often exposed to harmful, toxic chemicals. It is often difficult or impossible for workers to join a trade union in order to defend the most basic of rights so international solidarity is important. My work has been to make portraits (both woodcuts prints and photographs), installations, documentary films and to write about the experiences of banana workers.

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

I have travelled extensively in Latin America and am interested in Mexican and Guatemalan popular art and Cuban traditional music. Because I have a great affection for Mexico and am concerned about human right violations so I make artwork in solidarity with people and campaigns there. Since 2014 I have been making portraits in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero Mexico. These took a year to make and I continue to make work about Ayotzinapa. The portraits have been exhibited in the Scottish Parliament and thanks to human rights activist, Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo, my has work reached the parents of the missing students. The work has almost taken on a life of its own in Mexico and is frequently seen in the hands of the families at meetings and marches or decorating the Normalista college in Ayotzinapa, where the students were studying to become primary teachers. Recently I have made work in collaboration with with the families of miners who worked in a coal mine in northern Mexico, Pasta de Conchos, where 65 miners were killed in an underground explosion. Their bodies have never been recovered so the work is about naming them and remembering them.

GiovanniGalindrezGuerrero

Yo, Jan Nimmo,Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Giovanni Galindrez Guerrero. Artwork: Jan Nimmo ©

I am making portraits and gathering the testimonies of the agricultural workers in the Sierra de Huelva, a place I know like the back of my hand, thanks to my horse, Chaparro. Cork oaks are the backdrop to my rides there so I have gradually become involved in gathering moving and still images of cork, cork oaks and the people who work in this slow burning, sustainable but precarious industry. More drawings here:

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Closer to home, I have been involved in an oral history project “The Road to Drumleman” about the coal mine in Kintyre where my father worked as a young man. I made a film but want to continue to gather people’s stories about the Argyll Colliery. I have made a series of portraits of people associated with the mine and am currently leading a heritage/arts project in Kintyre. Here is the blog and you can view the drawings here:

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

I am interested in sustainable growing and food. I share an allotment, “Plot 16” with my husband. We also like to forage both in Scotland and in Spain.

My “bread and butter” work is facilitating community arts projects, educational work and graphic design. One of the most recent projects that I facilitated here in Scotland was A View From Here with Scottish Refugee Council, where I worked as Visual Arts Coordinator.

http://www.jannimmo.com