Skip Navigation To Main content

Jimmy Johnson Born: 1911 Irvine, North Ayrshire

Me in ma army uniformI was born on the High Street in Irvine on the 17th of December 1911, but we moved to Fullertown when I was three. I lived with my grandparents and I was an only child. I was an illegitimate child, my mum refused to marry my dad. He died in a snowstorm, when my mum refused him. When my mum came to visit I was told she was my aunty Annie, and I was made to hide when she came around in case she wanted to meet me. I met my mum a year before she died, and that was it.

We lived in the attic of an old farm house with three other families in Dinghorn Ayrshire. My granddad worked in the pit head, the pit was about five hundred yards from the house, and it was my playground. I used to climb up the big wheels when I was a boy.

I went to Dinghorn primary school as it was the only school there. We had 7 classes. It was a big a school because it took people up to 14 years of age. I left at 13. I started work at the pit head, I got paid 13 shillings and thrupenceIn 2005 this would be worth about £24.50p a week. The trolleys came up the cages, and I had to stop them on the weighbridge so all the coal could get weighed. The men had tokens and got paid for how much coal they got.

Jessie Ellen, Elsie, Edna, Jim and meI left when I was 15 and went down the pit to dig the coal. I was constant day shift. I was working when the 1926 strike happened. I got half a crown from the miners union during the strike. I did laboring during the strike, but my colleagues didn’t call me a scab. I did jobbing on the farms tattiepotatoe picking and things. I also worked in an iron foundry. There was a spell when it was hard to get a job anywhere. I joined up before I left Irvine and joined the Territorial Army to get a job at the Jessie Ellen and me getting wedammunitions factory in Ayrshire, I made TNT. I was there from 1937 to the start of the war. Then all the Territorial Army were called up as regulars. In 1940 just before Dunkirk a whole division was sent over to France. My battalion went; we were 60 miles from Paris. We made our way to Brest and got home. The Lady of Man took me over and I bunked down on the boat in whatever place I could. We ported in Dorset and came round from Weymouth. I was on the same boat when I came home for leave. There were five ministers on the boat!

Throughout my working life I worked in different small pits. I moved to Gorebridge and worked in the LadyLady Victoria Mine pit and then onto Dalkeith. When I finished at the LadyLady Victoria Mine I moved to Staffordshire, and had some nasty accidents. I still have the scars on my legs.

Pittin coal on the pot bellied stoveI married my wife Jessie Ellen when I was 19, but I met her when I was 17. She was originally from near the Moray Firth. We met at the Salvation Army when we were going to the Salvation Army hall. I wore I red jersey with a hat like a policeman. My wife was in the choir and I was a trombone player in the band. We went away for the weekend for our honeymoon to Ellen’s uncle’s and when I went to bed that night I found a half bottle of whiskey under my pillow.

Me with the brassband

getting of an air-plane the old wayAfter the war I became a cook in the army. After that I went back to the pits for a weeSmall while and had my accidents. I went to London after that to be a cook in the hospital near my sister in law. I was ten years in London. We left London and went to Dorset, and then we sold that house and came to live in a caravan in Nivensknowe. I was the cook in Green Leaves, an older people’s home in Edinburgh. Then I came to Woodburn and I’ve been here for 30 years.

I had two daughters Elsie and Edna and three sons Jim, Leonard and Ian. My daughter lives in Cyprus and I go there for my holidays. I have 5 grandchildren, 2 of which live locally.

My life now is better than it’s ever been. I never had a high paid job but life is definitely easier now. I’m quite happy. I’m fit, I potter about the garden, listen to my music (brassbands are some of my favourites), and I watch videos and the TV.




Back to top

information for screen reader users or keyboard users.To return to navigation please press F5 key

Adapted by Iain Tait