Collier Tracks is an arts project, organised by writer and organiser Ewan McVicar with administrator Iyaah Warren and singer Siobhan Miller.
As its first venture, Collier Tracks created 'Bonny Collier Lads & Lassies', a two performer touring music and story show founded on Scots miners’ songs and stories in Scotland and Cape Breton, with a particular focus on the life and songs of miner’s wife Mrs Annie Cosgrove of Newtongrange and of miner Hughie Reynolds of Plean. Both Annie Cosgrove and Hughie Reynolds were born in Blantyre. Hughie was a miner and community activist in Plean from 1902 to the 1970s. Annie’s husband was a miner in Hamilton, Whitburn and Newtongrange, and in Glace Bay in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the 1920s, returning to Scotland in the early 1930s.
Traditional song was central in both their lives. Annie’s songs were recorded by Alan Lomax in 1953 and Hamish Henderson in 1958. Ewan McVicar learned of her through the Alan Lomax Archives, and is researching her life and family in Scotland and Nova Scotia. Hughie Reynolds was Ewan’s maternal grandfather, and a noted social singer of traditional Scottish songs.
The show is founded on specific towns of the coalmining communities of Scotland - Blantyre, Newtongrange and Plean. Performances in these three communities, [in David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, in Newtongrange's National Coalmining Museum, and in Plean Community Centre], celebrated aspects of each community, so that the performance emphasised local culture and history, and included local miners’ songs and poetry and the participation as guests of local singers and writers.
We workedg to augment the core effect of the show through schools and community oral history collection, associated exhibitions, and this website on the topic that complements existing websites, and a schools teaching pack.
Collier Tracks aims to continue taking performance and linked work to other Scottish coalmining communities - in the initial three local authority areas of Midlothian, South Lanarkshire and Stirling, but also to West Lothian, Fife, Ayrshire and Falkirk.
An important secondary aim of Collier Tracks, through the impetus of the initial show then by ongoing developmental work, is to develop awareness of and interest in this little known social and cultural connection between Lowland Scotland and Nova Scotia. The Gaelic cultural connections are now well-known and developed, but not the non-Gael connections. Collier Tracks hopes to eventually engender active cultural and social links between mining communities here and in Cape Breton. The Cape Breton coalmining communities initially focussed on are Glace Bay and Inverness NS, which both have miners’ museums and active interest in local history.
Developing awareness within Scottish mining communities and the wider public of the richness of our miners’ songs and unique cultural heritage.
All three members of Collier Tracks are strongly committed to high artistic standards allied to community relevance and active participation in the arts, and the artistic track records of Ewan McVicar and Siobhan Miller demonstrate their achievements and sense of integrity.
In addition to the aims given above, the three target communities and key groupings within them have had an active experience of identification with and involvement in a celebration of their cultural heritage, and the website and teaching materials are an ongoing resource.