On September 29, 1984 the National Mining Museum in Newtongrange opened its doors for the first time, just as the industry was staring into the abyss.
Based at Lady Victoria Colliery, which closed in 1981, the tourist attraction plays a vital role in not only preserving the mining heritage, but has become a key cog in the local community.
Opened by Alex Eadie MP, the museum was originally based on two sites – Newtongrange and Prestongrange in East Lothian- until 1992.
Don Mockett, the former chairman of the National Mining Museum Trust from 1996 to 2008 and still convenor of the museum’s Collections Trust, took a trip down memory lane to recall the museum’s beginnings, he said: “The story of the museum begins in 1981 when the colliery closed. Shortly afterwards Lothian Regional Council decided to go for a mining museum in the Lothians, and chose Lady Victoria as a good example of a Victorian colliery.
“They took over in 1982 did some work and then created the Trust in 1984, as they realised the council couldn’t look after the mining museum.
“It’s had some difficult times. The changes to the council structure in 1995 meant the support from them wasn’t the same anymore.
“Midlothian Council was the sole funder to begin with so it was tough to find new streams of funding. But with Lottery money and other charitable organisations we built the museum as it is today in 1999.
“When it first opened in 1984 there was nothing on the colliery site except for the steam engine. So the same year the Trust, with Lothian Regional Council, built a display in what is now the office block on the east side of the A7.”
The museum will be busy for the rest of the year as it celebrates it’s birthday. Keeper Ellie Swinbank added: “We have a programme of events over the summer, including a family fun day on July 27, that’s going to be our 30th birthday party. But it’s a year-long celebration. We are going to have an exhibition celebrating our birthday and the history of the museum and the pit.
“We are also encouraging people to send us cards so we can put them up in the museum and to give us their tales about the museum.”
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