Mayfield Explorers Celebration Exhibition

I have been coming to Y2K since June 2018 when I went into S1 at Newbattle HS. Straight away I joined in with the summer programme activities and really liked the evening drop-ins.  I was in the first Helfy Guid 2 Go programme and we did lots of stuff during Saturday sessions including Outdoor Combat, the ‘Colour Run’ at Loanhead, trips to Aquadash and Easterbush for a Science festival open-day as well as lots of different workshops with guest speakers and plenty of cooking and baking activities too.  We rounded off the programme with a residential to Innerwick centre which was great fun.

I got involved in the Mayfield Explorers as soon as it started up and was really interested in the photography workshops which Vicki from the Mining Museum did with us.  We got some good cameras and quickly learned how to set up good shots for close-ups and how to use grids to frame shots on the cameras.

The group members went out and about in Mayfield and during trips and tours taking photographs and we have put some of our favourites into this celebration exhibition.

It was good to get the tour round the old Easthouses Colliery site, Jim who used to be a miner and is now a tour guide at the Mining Museum was brilliant at telling us what life was like working in the mine.  We looked at maps, but it was a bit confusing because things have really changed. We took lots of photos and one where we tried to re-create the picture taken in 1961 with the miners waiting outside.

I liked the bus tour we went on round lots of different places – Arniston, Temple and Newbattle Abbey. It was raining heavy, but we still got out of the minibus and took photographs.  I liked the graveyard at Temple with the ancient gravestones and Al, our driver was able to tell us stories about all the different places, so we got some of the history. 

By the time we got to Rosslyn Chapel after lunch the rain had gone, and the sun came out a bit.  This is where we got some great photographs which you can see in the exhibition.

One of the best things about the Mayfield Explorers project is that we learned that the place we live in is full of stories and history.  Sometimes we think this is a bit boring and there is nothing much to do but when we were at Rosslyn Chapel you could see how many tourists and visitors come to find out about these places.  It is the same with the Mining museum, you learn a bit about it in school, but you don’t always think that the place you live is as important or interesting as others do.

Our group was invited to join in with the ex-miners and their wives to pay respects to the miners who had died working in the Easthouses mine.  We were able to talk to them and ask questions that we had prepared. They were very nice to us and answered our questions, telling us their stories which made us think about how much life has changed for young people leaving school now.  It used to be that they would go straight to work in the mine and whole families did this, it was expected.

“I felt quite overwhelmed when I first became a miner, I was just a young boy and suddenly I was working with all these men, it was overpowering… you had to grow up very quickly but the friendships we made were amazing.  We got really close because we were working so closely together day in day out.”

“Living here being down the mines was a family thing and you just had it in your blood.  My dad told me don’t worry there’s a job for you as soon as you leave school so even when I was a young boy, I knew that I was sorted.  As soon as I left school at 16, I went straight down the mine and it really made me grow up… you went in a boy and soon became a man!”

“My father was very badly injured in an accident down the mine and he swore that none of his sons would become a miner.  I think we were the lucky ones…”

We also had the chance to speak to ex-miners in our own families – my grandad worked in the mines and I think it was a very hard life! One of our Board members at Y2K, Robert Hogg, came along for a brew and blether session with us to talk about the things we had been finding out about. The group asked lots more questions.

My favourite thing about the Mayfield Explorers exhibition is the photos because I took lots of them.  I am pretty confident with the cameras and during the bus tour which was one of the best parts of the programme I took loads. 

You can see lots of photos of me in the collages we made, and I think this shows that I enjoyed taking part.  Now I am a new Youth Champion and will be doing marketing and publicity for Y2K.  I am really looking forward to this new role and there will be lots to do in the year ahead.

Alexa McGowan

Mayfield Explorer and Youth Champion

Feb 2020