A special date in history of Free Colliers

Willie Allardyce with the certificate
Willie Allardyce with the certificate

The history of a social movement in the Braes dating back 150 years will be celebrated this year.

The ‘Pinkie March’ in 2013 will ring in a century and a half celebrating the tradition of fighting for workers’ rights by the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Free Colliers.

The annual 10-mile parade is a fiercely guarded tradition in the area surrounding Reddingmuirhead and symbolically marks former colliers’ rights as free men and the legacy they left behind.

Present Grandmaster of the lodge Willie Allardyce says this year will be especially poignant as they mark the milestone with plans for events before and after the march.

He said: “It will be an extra special celebration of the legacy our forefathers left behind.

“The march is always held on the first Saturday in August and it still helps to bring unity and community spirit to the area.

“It’s important to keep alive the spirit of the people who all stuck together for the benefit of their communities. We are losing that these days.”

In the 18th century miners and their children in Redding and the surrounding villages were treated as slaves, bound to pit owners for life, until they won their freedom in around 1798.

The brave miners kept fighting for better working conditions. The Free Colliers movement was born in 1863 and the pit workers joined their pinkie fingers as a show of unity and strength on the march from colliery to colliery.

The march, which will take place on August 3 this year, is also used to remember the miners who perished in the 1923 Redding Pit Disaster.

Alex Salmond will be a guest speaker on the day and Provost Pat Reid will be in attendance. Falkirk historian Ian Scott is also in the process of charting the history of the organisation.

There will be a celebratory dance in the Craiglea with a special meeting taking place the following day, July 21, to mark the exact date of the Free Colliers’ formation 150 years ago.

Members will also walk over 16 miles from the Wallace Stone to the Wallace Monument on Saturday, September 21, to mark the date of the 90th anniversary of the Redding Pit Disaster.

Provost Reid said: “We owe a great debt to the miners and the other workers who fought and won the battle for freedom and emancipation on our behalf.

“The parade is still of relevance today and serves to remind us to be alert to any threat to those hard won liberties from whichever source that danger may appear. It is also an occasion to express our thanks to those who went before.

“The parade reminds us of the struggle of working men to break free from what was virtually slavery and to stand firm together with dignity.”