During the early years of nationalisation the Government met with the unions and the National Coal Board to determine a future for the welfare system in the coal industry. In other words they wanted to continue the work of the Miners’ Welfare Commission and Welfare Fund. This as achieved by the Miners’ Welfare Act of 1952, which established the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation or ‘CISWO’ as it was to become known. Its main role was to care for the sick, elderly and injured in the industry and to supervise the nationwide network ofMiners’ Welfare institutes, halls, playing fields and other leisure facilities. CISWO also coordinated the provision of desperately needed Pithead Baths, Medical Centres and Canteen facilities, which improved dramatically the mineworkers’ quality of life throughout East Lothian.

Voluntary trustees carried out the management of the Schemes, with specific responsibilities laid out by constitution under the authority of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation and the Scottish Charity Office. Over the 55-year period (and beyond), Miners’ Welfares existed to improve the life of the community they served. CISWO’s vision was (and remains) for these community facilities to continue to develop a wide range of services ‘under one roof”: always welcoming, accessible, empowering and enabling: responsive to need, to change and to vision: based on partnership, to include the public, private and voluntary sector, assisting in combating social exclusion.

So social activity in many of East Lothian’s towns was based at the miners’ welfare, and families would take full advantage of all the facilities, the range of which continued to expand. Countless grants were made to miners’ welfare schemes to improve the provision and community facilities were built, many with concert halls with stages, which were very popular with amateur dramatic groups as well as professional entertainers. It was not unusual to see names like Shirley Bassey, Frankie Vaughan and even the Beatles appearing in a miners’ welfare. The 1950s and 1960s were good years.

In the early 1960s the Miners’ Welfares began to install bars from which they were able to generate income to provide yet more for the community. CISWO was agreeable to clubs being registered to sell alcohol on the understanding the bar would be ancillary to, and help generate a surplus to promote, the many community and charitable activities the Welfare supported and encouraged. The bar related activity was always to financially support the charitable community activities and not to be the primary activity of the Scheme. Group Welfare committees were made up of representatives of CISWO and local Miners’ Welfare Schemes, providing a wide variety of inter-community activities at local level for retired mineworkers, their wives/widows and those in the wider communities. Activities included angling, bowling, golf, pool, darts, dominoes, whist, and quiz and talent competitions.

In the active coalfield of East Lothian, the policy of developing Miners’ Welfares as social and community centres continued. For example, in 1958 CISWO added on to the already significant list of miners’ welfare schemes, the Musselburgh Miners’ Welfare, which included the acquisition of Prestongrange House and the Royal Musselburgh Golf Course. As a result of careful stewardship by successive Management Committees, this Welfare Trust developed one of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the world. In 2000 the Welfare Management Committee entered into discussions with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to host an international event at Musselburgh Miners’ Welfare; a fitting recognition of the quality of the Welfare facilities and the people who gave of their time voluntarily in service to their community. CISWO also began to look at the cultural and educational needs of mining families. In 1969, the Mineworkers’ National Educational Fund was created out of the merger of two pre-existing funds, and began assisting higher education students. The brass bands continued to be encouraged and an area Youth Development Initiative was formed.

Changes from the mid 1960s

Closures of collieries began to accelerate during the middle 1960s, and with them the local Miners’ Welfares often struggled. Many closed: for example Pencaitland, Prestongrange and more recently Tranent. Many of the welfares’ recreation grounds, play parks and facilities were handed over to the local authority on condition they were maintained and the community usage was protected.

Social care of increasing importance

Towards the end of the 1970s, the spending slowed down due to the contraction of the coal industry and CISWO began to concentrate more on developing its social work services – a service that continues beyond 2000. Paraplegic mineworkers had always been cared for very carefully through Convalescent homes and Rehabilitation Centres, but it was now time to give just as much attention to mining’s other victims – the asthmatics and bronchitis, amputees and the simply worn out. Over the years, skilled social workers offered a wide range of assistance, providing a confidential home visiting service, available to anyone living within a coalfield community. The social work team were available to assist on a wide range of personal difficulties, including bereavement, illness, debt and financial concerns, alcohol dependency, mental health problems, family, marital matters and welfare benefits. In addition, the social workers were responsible for evaluating and administering applications to the Coal Industry Benevolent Trust (established 1976). Referrals to the CISWO Social Work Services were made by a variety of organisations and agencies, including East Lothian Social Work Department, Trades Unions, colliery personnel and medical services, as well as from voluntary organisations, MPs, MSPs and directly from individuals and their families.

During the 1980s, the other aspect of CISWO’s work became more professional with kills, advice and experience being offered to support the management of Miners’ Welfares as they faced the economic stringency of the Thatcher years. CISWO Operations Team offered a broad range of advice and assistance on their ‘business’ (ie the Welfare itself), charity law and how it affected Miners’ Welfare Schemes; trustees’ obligations under their trusts, financial control systems, employment law and licensing law; developing trading activities and the charitable function, and managing productive partnerships; encouraging networking with other organisations in the community to help develop joint projects to meet the needs of the community; and gave assistance in mounting bids for funds to improve the Welfare facilities and the services offered.

As each colliery and mine closed in the Lothians, the impact on the Mineworkers’ Convalescent Home at Whatton Lodge, Gullane, (opened 1949) where many mineworkers and their families enjoyed respite holidays became more and more pronounced. The Home’s income from voluntary contributions from the shrinking number of mining employees and Welfare Clubs continually reduced to the point where by 2000, the Home was mainly dependant on volunteers to operate for a twelve-week period in summer. CISWO encouraged the merger of the Lothian Mineworkers’ Convalescent Trust with similar Trusts in Fife/Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, in an effort to secure convalescent provision in the long term for the many beneficiaries in the Lothians and the rest of Scotland.

Throughout all this time, one should not lose sight of the dangers in mining and some of the many disasters, which have occurred. In every case, help was provided by CISWO or its predecessors together with the various trusts and benevolent funds, which sprang up all around the coalfields. Sadly there were accidents at most collieries. Tribute is due to the work of the Mines Rescue Services and to the skilled work of the social workers and staff from CISWO in the aftermath of these disasters.

Privatisation 1995

Following privatisation of the industry in 1995, as the clock of history comes round full circle, CISWO was converted by the Government into a charity (Number 1015581) and continued to work for the mineworker, his family and his community despite the drastic reductions in the numbers of collieries enforced upon the nation by political ideology. And so, all around East Lothian, the Scottish Area and the UK, Miners’ Welfares survive and flourish where there is hardly a colliery in sight. In the year 2000 there are presently over 350 Miners’ Welfares in the UK, 57 in Scotland, six of which are in East Lothian. At the start of a new millennium, only one deep mine remained in Scotland, with the bulk of Scottish Coal production now from opencast.

CISWO’s ongoing role

CISWO continues to support the ongoing development of Miners’ Welfares and community development in general. One of CISWO’s key objectives is to improve the quality of life in mining and former mining communities and this implies involvement in all aspects of community life. Economic regeneration goes hand in hand with a rebuilding of the social infrastructure and the Organisation, in partnership with Miners’ Welfares, statutory agencies and the voluntary sector, remains committed to a policy of continued support for all efforts to bring both elements to a reality in hard hit mining areas such as East Lothian. Grants are still made to help the poor, the sick, the aged and the disabled. A Recreation Development Scheme is in operation. The National Mineworkers’ Brass Band Competition still takes place thanks to mining sponsorship. There is no longer a great amount of money about and development must come from sponsorship and grants which are hard earned from the Lottery, various trusts and assistance from the European Union.

CISWO goes on into the future as a caring national charity with a broad remit not only to help the present mine working beneficiaries and communities, but to care diligently for the vestiges and remnants of the industry in East Lothian or wherever they may be.