Danderhall child miners memorial wins award

Tuesday November 29th 2022


Danderhall Guerilla Kids collect the prestigious David Welch Memorial Trophy from Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A volunteer gardening group which, created a memorial statue to honour child miners in its community, has won a prestigious award for its work.

Danderhall and District Guerrilla Gardeners formed during lockdown after it united against the use of pesticides by Midlothian Council.

In its first 18 months it created an army of volunteers of all ages to maintain green space across its community. And when it discovered an old mine wall lost in weeds, the group began researching the area’s history and uncovered the plight of child miners who were enslaved to pit owners and the lives they faced.

Now a statue the group worked to have put up in the community has been awarded the David Welch memorial trophy by Keep Scotland Beautiful judges. And the group’s overall work in its community saw it given a Silver award in the annual competition.

The David Welch trophy is a discretionary award from judges in honour of a life long member of the Royal Horticultural Society whose family gifted it to Keep Scotland Beautiful for “something special.”

Judges visited the memorial at the weekend to present the trophy which was received by junior members of the Guerilla Gardeners.

Helen Graham, chairperson of the Guerrilla Gardeners, said: “We told the child miner slaves story and everyone including this wonderful community got behind us and made this development possible.

“The Coalfield Regeneration Trust, Midlothian Council and Shawfair LLP all invested in this site working closely with the Guerrillas to do this site justice.

“Huge fundraising efforts were supported by our community and the end result gets its justifiable award.”

During the gardening group’s work they uncovered part of an old colliery waggonway and began researching Edmonstone Colliery.

They read the 1840 account of a Childrens Employment Commissioner’s inquiry into conditions in the mines, which described Newton parish, where Danderhall is, as having pits that were the worst in Scotland.

The heart-wrenching accounts given to the commissioner from children working in the mines helped bring about new legislation changing conditions in the mines.

The group raised funds to build a statue in their memory and the youngest members went along to the site on Sunday to collect the trophy from the judges.

Helen said: “The Guerrilla Kids, were invited to accept the trophy on behalf of the child miner slaves of Newton Parish whose strife and struggle and bravery changed the future for miners’ conditions, working rights, and working age.

“Thanks to Keep Scotland Beautiful for choosing this memorial and for their support for our group.

“All of our Guerrilla kids were presented with a beautiful medal for their hard work in this community, and it is in those children that we trust to keep our work going, and to keep the history and heritage of this community alive in this ever-growing community.”

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