Silver Darlin's And Black Diamonds

by Anice Gilland

They rode the swells and troughs intae the night
Crawled on their bellies wi only candlelight
But the fire in their herts kept them oan the trail
Tae feed their weans, they dare not fail
An silver darlin's and black diamonds
Filled their lives, filled their lives

At Polkemmet where the men fell, sinking shafts and digging roads
"The Dardanelles" destroyed them wi each and every load
And in Whitburn when ye pass by ye can smell the pit stench still
Their closing doon served up a bitter pill

At the time when there were “Garvies” throughout auld Bo'ness toon
The boats were set for Russia and the Baltic ports aroon
Did they ever think tae see a time when the fishing widna be
And the trawlermen jist couldnae pit to sea

So these working men whose lives were filled with herrin, dross and damp
Will fade intae legend, lit by a sepia lamp
An oor children will wonder how it ever came tae be
That Scotland was supported by pit props and the sea


Garvie: sprat, formerly found in huge shoals
Sepia: colouring associated with photographs from 19th and early 20th C photographs

Anice Gilland says this song “is a story of declining industry and doughty personalities, who day after day went to the sea and the pit when they knew they had a good chance of never making it home again.”

Anice who writes, performs and teaches amongst other musical activities was “singing before she could stand at family gatherings in her native Port Seton.” She has been a member of Sangschule for at least 15 years, runs the Almond Valley folk club in Midcalder and the West Lothian Songwriters group. Her website is


Polkemmet was Scotland’s most important pit, in terms of longevity and numbers of workers, according to the website During the industrial dispute of 1984/85, pumping stopped leading to damage in the pit. Although the unions argued that restarting the pumping would save the mine, it was closed in 1986. After closure, persistent spontaneous combustion problems in the remaining spoil-heap, ‘Bing 3’, led to the noxious fumes recognisable to travellers on the M8 motorway.

According to Mining in the Lothians by Guthrie Hutton, “coal had been won on the Polkemmet Muir, near Whitburn, for decades, perhaps centuries, before one of Scotland’s largest coal companies, William Dixon and Co., started sinking their new colliery just before the outbreak of the First World War. The second shaft was begun in 1916, but stopped because of wartime restrictions. Dixon’s tried to have the shaft sinkers exempted from conscription when it was introduced, but failed because the pit was not producing coal. Sinking Polkemmet was therefore a bit of a battle and its nickname, ‘the Dardanelles’, reflected another more terrible battle that was raging at the time.”