App users can stroll through Scotland’s coalmining legacy

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A smartphone app that shares secrets of Scotland’s coalmining heritage – through interactive guided walks – has been created by a University of Stirling academic.

Dr Catherine Mills devised the app to explore how coal shaped different local communities, with users able to follow a series of curated heritage walks.

Dr Mills, of Stirling’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, told how she was looking forward to developing the app further, by featuring users’ content.

She said: “The app allows you to not only explore but also to connect and engage with local and historic coalmining sites. Users are encouraged to share their stories and images, discover additional features in the landscape for inclusion on the app and suggest ideas for new routes.”

Dr Catherine Mills

App deviser Dr Catherine Mills

Scotland’s once-booming coalmining industry, primarily located in the country’s Central Belt, shaped local landscapes and the lives of those in mining communities.

Dr Mills, Lecturer in Modern British Environmental History, said: “It’s not so long ago that coal had a place in everyday life in central Scotland. At its peak in the post-war period, the industry employed around 140,000 workers and met roughly 90 per cent of the nation’s demand for fuel.

“The local landscape of the colliery towns and villages were dominated by the bing, headstock, railway sidings and associated buildings, housing, clubs and bowling greens.


“Rapid decline from the 1960s brought closure, demolition and subsequent repurposing of the colliery sites, which erased much of the industrial archaeology or one of Scotland’s foremost industries.

“Our project aims to establish biographies for these ex-colliery sites – understanding how they have been remembered, or forgotten, by local communities, from closure to the present day. To achieve this, we’ll be tapping into archival research, historic maps and images, oral histories, and industrial archaeology.

“Our other objective, working with our students and local community volunteers, is to identify, record and celebrate this often hidden – but valuable – legacy through a series of curated heritage walks that narrate the story of coal, through the physical remains that are left.”

Coal app on mobile devices

The app currently features ‘Polmaise’ and ‘Devonside’ site routes, with ‘Gartmorn Dam’, ‘East Stirlingshire Villages, and ‘Dollar’ routes in development. The plan over the next two years is to expand across the Scottish coalfield.

Further information is available on the Landscape Legacies of Coal Mining webpage, Facebook page and Twitter profile. To download the app, search for ‘Landscape Legacies of Coal’ on Apple and Android devices.

Dr Mills will officially launch the app at a free event at 4pm on 18 April, at Creative Stirling.

The app was generously supported by the Macrobert Arts Centre as part of their community heritage initiative in September 2017, which was based around the theme of coal.  

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