Coalman who kept Flying Scotsman on track retires

David Pagan of Pagan Coal Merchants of Spittal is giving up his business and going into retirement. Pictured on the back of his lorry at Tweedmouth Station where his business was located along with six other merchants one time.
David Pagan of Pagan Coal Merchants of Spittal is giving up his business and going into retirement. Pictured on the back of his lorry at Tweedmouth Station where his business was located along with six other merchants one time.

A COAL merchant who helped to keep the Flying Scotsman on track has retired.

David Pagan, of Main Street, Spittal, served the local community for 39 years and had a reputation for keeping his customers supplied, whatever the weather and over the last two harsh winters continued to battle through.

“It was sheer determination. I knew the customers needed coal to keep warm and I did all I could for them,” he said.

A Spittal man, David began work with the Co-operative Society in Berwick and then moved to John Rutherford and Sons of Coldstream.

In 1973, with the health of his father Walter beginning to fail, he offered to help out and took over the firm in 1975 after Walter’s death. They had a large number of local customers, but he also delivered to the villages of Reston, Coldingham, St Abbs, Swinton, Leitholm, Goswick, Beal and many farms.

David said: “The most difficult time of all was the year-long miners’ strike which began in 1984. I just did not know where supplied were coming from.

“For two or three weeks I delivered bags of peat from the Highlands but then supplies of coal came in from all over the world. We bought from Australia, South Africa, Colombia, China, France, Belgium and Germany, and the business survived.”

He also kept it going successfully throughout recent years, when local authorities started to install gas and electric heating into their thousands of properties.

In 1994, David took over the Norham-based business of Peter Short.

“There was a family connection and I was provileged to be able to run the business,” he said. “It was in 2006 that David saved the day for one of the world’s most famous trains - the Flying Scotsman.

“She was bound for Edinburgh and running very low on coal as she reached Tweedmouth. I was contacted and asked if I could give them four tonnes,” he explained.

“My yard was right beside the railway and my assistant Eddie and myself loaded the coal into bags and took them on the lorry alongside the tender and hoisted them up. I was very proud to help out.”