Douglas Simpson, Colliery Manager, Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of Douglas Simpson, Colliery Manager, relating to Nantgarw, Abernant, Llanharan and Cwmgors Collieries; papers relating to Simpson's position in the South Wales Institute of Mining Engineers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Douglas Simpson was born in 1920 in Ceylon where he spent his early childhood. He was educated in Ceylon and England, including Ellesmere College, Shropshire. In 1938, he signed indentures with the Powell Duffryn Co. promising "…to work diligently and to keep the Company's secrets" in return for a six year scholarship to gain an honours degree in Mining at University College, Cardiff and his Colliery Manager's Certificate. At University he met his future wifeTryfana (Tarzi) and they married in October 1941.

In 1943, they moved from Cardiff to the mining village of Llanharan where Douglas worked first as a junior official underground and then, after gaining his 1st class Colliery Manager's certificate in 1946, as under-manager. The next year they moved to Ystrad Mynach and following nationalisation of the coal mines, he became manager of Abercynon Colliery at the age of 26. In 1949, Douglas was appointed to Nantgarw Colliery and they moved to Caerphilly. In 1953, he was appointed Mining Engineer in charge of the new sinking of Abernant Colliery at Pontardawe in West Wales where their first daughter, Mary, was born. They later moved to Radyr near Cardiff, where their second daughter Angela was born, followed by their son James. In 1959 he was appointed Deputy Area Manager in charge of planning and development in the Rhondda Valley area. During this period of his career, Douglas was involved in two mine rescues (Lewis Merthyr 1956 and Six Bells 1960) and lost several friends in mining disasters.

In April 1964, the family moved to Meath Green in Horley, Surrey, following Douglas' promotion to the National Coal Board headquarters in London as Head of Mining. He ended his mining career as Chief Major Projects Engineer, retiring in 1984.

His career as a Mining Engineer in the coal industry more or less coincided with the life of the National Coal Board as he became a Colliery Manager just after nationalisation of the coal industry and retired just before the miners' strike of 1984. During his career he pioneered a number of engineering techniques designed to improve work practice and production. He made many visits abroad to consult on mining techniques, including Canada, Poland, South Africa and Switzerland. In 1978, he delivered a paper on "Recovery of Hydrocarbons and Coal in the UK" to the World Energy Conference in Istanbul. In 1979, he was in one of the first British delegations to visit Communist China to sell British equipment and expertise to the Chinese.

He was an active member of the South Wales Institute of Mining Engineers including a term as its President, and also of the Institution of Mining Engineers, becoming its President in 1983. He was a founder member of the Honorable Company of Engineers in the City of London and was made a Freeman of the City of London shortly afterwards. He took an interest in the training of young engineers, chairing the Mining Advisory Committee of the City & Guilds Institute and sitting on the committee of the Technician Education Council.

Both Douglas and his wife became involved in the local Conservative Party and he was a Surrey County Councillor (1987 -1993). Douglas was an early campaigner against the building on floodplains and in 2006 was awarded the CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) countryside medal for services to the community.

Douglas Simpson died on 19 November 2008 in Horley, Surrey.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Ms Angela Simpson, daughter of Douglas Simpson, June 2009. Further deposit made in Feb 2010.

Other Finding Aids

Box list available - see attached file

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Harvey Thomas for Glamorgan Archives and Laura Cunningham.