The first time I visited, with my husband and brother-in-law and his two children, we stood on the cliff above the Firth that was glittering in the sun, looking over to the distant Galloway coast. Now, and a few years on, the wind-turbines of Robin Rigg are the fixed signs of human intervention in the Firth but, fifty years ago, there would have been hundreds of men working deep beneath the sea.We had parked near the great spoked wheel of shaft No.5, which dominates Haig Pit's red-brick buildings, and we walked past a shed where two locomotives stood waiting; past a metal cage that once carried 20 men at a time down the shaft, and coal-laden “tubs” that transported the coal; past another great wheel, now propped against the side of the building – and through a small door into a vast well-lit hall, crammed with machinery, models and photographs.
There are the stories of the young children who pulled or pushed the laden trams and stood in the dark to control the ventilation doors; the women who worked down the pit and the gangs who worked at the face, boring, firing and filling; the tunnellers and the ones who cut and placed the props.
Note: since writing this 'story', Haig Colliery Museum closed for refurbishment with the help of HLF funding, re-opened in 2015 with a visitor centre and cafe then, sadly, closed again in early 2016.
In March 2016, the liquidators have agreed that West Cumbria Mining should take on a 2-year lease to use the Visitor Centre as office space.
There are the stories of the men caught and killed, or who made almost miraculous escapes from the many explosions and fires.
The centenary of the terrible fire, at William Pit in 1910, was recently commemorated by, amongst other things, the production of a handsome Memorial Book in which 1700 names of the men and boys who died in the pit during its 150 years, are written in beautiful copper-plate writing.
"People come to look at it and find the name of someone they knew - one couple even came from America.