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30 September 2017

Prestonpans: The Mine

Coal was mined in Prestonpans. Annemarie Allan and her husband, Jim, gave me a tour of the local mine, now long closed and turned into a museum.
My life folded over on itself as I was reminded so vividly of the Ducktown Basin Museum in Tennessee and the copper mine there that inspired my book, A BIRD ON WATER STREET.
We hooked up with a tour (Annemarie knew the employees there from her extensive research for her novel, CHARLIE'S PROMISE), and were able to go into the pump house that drove the enormous industrial-era machinery.
It was filled with Victorian iron-work and ghosts from the past.

Annemarie commented how nothing was meant to be black and dreary in Victorian times. The enormous machines were painted in bright colors. It was only later, after years of soot that the machines became the beasts that scared children who lived at the mine. Can you imagine its grooooowl?
     Next to the Pump House, was the Power House. I swear it was an exact duplicate of the one in Ducktown.
     Like in Ducktown, housing was built for the miners who worked there, and they didn't just work the mines. They manned the kilns for the brick works, they kept the fires burning to get salt from the sea water, they even had Italians come in to make Venetian glass.
     None of the houses are there anymore. They were torn down and trees planted in their place. The old WWII shelter remains, and the old train and trolley tracks. (Yes, Edinburgh - there was a trolley long before this new one! It ran from downtown Edinburgh, through Leith and all the way out to Prestonpans!)
     But what was perhaps most haunting was the coal mine itself. Imagine the buildings still standing near the lift.
This wheel and others like it pumped in fresh air and hauled the lift up and down into the mine. But it was also surrounded by stairs. The men did the breaking up of the rock, as they had the backs for it. But it was the women and children who carried the coal up in baskets on their backs. Turned out that making the grueling journey gave the men hernias. It was the women, so used to carrying babies, who were better built for the labor of carrying the coal on their backs up the stairs. And the children, of course. Good lord.
Needless to say, the air around the mine is full of whispers of what was. It's a haunting place to visit. And we haven't even made it to the story of the witches yet...

5 comments :

Jane Yolen said...

Witches? Witches? Get to the witches already.(Though am thinking about a picture book about the children carrying coal. There's something for you (and Anne-marieto write!!!

xxxJane

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

HA! :) e

aldhammer said...

I always imagine a shiny little black beetle crawling through the darkness with a great load on its back. Don't know why. Perhaps I think one day they will open their wings and fly?

aldhammer said...

and also, I am working on my witchy novel right now!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Yay! Can't wait to read it Annemarie! :) e

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