Johnny mines a rich seam of memories

Centenarian John McDowall with two of his sons Ronald (left) and Robert.
Centenarian John McDowall with two of his sons Ronald (left) and Robert.

A FORMER miner toasted an event-filled century at his 100th birthday celebrations in Balloch yesterday (Tuesday).

Johnny McDowall who lives in Ben Nevis Way marked 10 remarkable decades with family and close friends.

The birthday boy, a former Cumbernauld Development Corporation gardener, hails from Kirkintilloch but has lived in Cumbernauld since the 1960s. He made the new town his home after returning from a three year stint Down Under.

Johnny had been working at the Auchengeich Colliery in 1959 when Scotland’s worst ever mining disaster claimed the lives of 47 men.

Son Ronald said: “There were two pits and dad was the night manager of the square pit when there was an explosion in the round pit. He went down with the rescue services and remembers the bodies on the bogies.”

A year after the disaster he swapped the coal mines of Scotland for the gold mines of Australia - working in the city of Darwin for around three years before returning home.

Back in Scotland he moved to Cumbernauld where he set up home with wife Jean who passed away in 1994. Married life brought the couple four sons. In addition to his work at the CDC, Johnny also spent part of his working life as a handyman at the Marks & Spencers depot in Blairlinn - and was 89 before he retired!

Yesterday John’s three surviving sons, John, Robert plus Ronald, spent the day marking the occasion - with Robert coming all the way from Australia for the landmark date.

Johnny still enjoys good health but has to pace himself.

Ronald said: “Although I still take my dad to Kilsyth for a haircut he doesn’t go out so much. He told us that he didn’t want to go out on his birthday so a lot of family and friends came to see him instead!’’