John Marshall Davidson was born in New Battle, Scotland, on
10 September 1898 and went to work in the coal pits at age 14.
He enlisted in the Royal Engineers at age 17 and soon found
himself commissioned as a lieutenant with a tunnelling company.
Upon discharge in 1918, the 20-year old officer attended
Edinburgh University where, in 1922, he graduated as a mining
His first job was to survey and help to open mines on the
island of Spitzbergenmines, ironically, that were blown up by
Canadian troops when the island was occupied by Germans in the
Second World War.
Davidson returned to the collieries at Arniston, where he had
started his mining career, but this time as a section overman.
He worked on the evening shift, teaching mining to second-year
university students during the day. In July 1924 he decided to
leave Scotland and to seek employment in Canadian metal mines.
He travelled directly to Edmonton but his plans to work in a
metal mine did not materialize. Instead, he was forced by
economic necessity to dig coal at the face for the Black Diamond
Coal Company of Edmonton.
His qualificationsa university degree and a first class mine
manager's certificate from Great Britaindid not go unnoticed.
In May he was made mine manager. Two years later he was
transferred to the Jasper Coal Company mine at Drinnan, also as
mine manager. In 1933, R. G. Drinnan, consulting engineer for
North American Collieries, which operated the mine at Coalhurst,
induced Davidson to come to Coalhurst as mine manager there. He
remained in charge after the Coalhurst property was taken over
by Lethbridge Collieries Ltd. in 1935. He was made mine manager
at Galt Mine No. 8 when it was brought into production in spring
1936. He became general manager of Lethbridge Collieries Ltd. on
31 March 1946, upon the retirement of Chris S. Donaldson.
Davidson had impressive credentials. He had a B.Sc. in mining
engineering from Heriot-Watt College of Edinburgh University, a
British first class mine manager's certificate, and a first
class mine manager's certificate from the Province of Alberta.
He was a member of the Mining Engineers of Great Britain, the
Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the Engineering
Institute of Canada, and the Professional Engineers of Alberta.
This article is extracted from Alex Johnston, Keith G.
Gladwyn and L. Gregory Ellis. Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry
(Lethbridge, Lethbridge: City of Lethbridge, 1989), Occasional
Paper No. 20, The Lethbridge Historical Society. The
Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner
Consortium (of which the City of Lethbridge is the lead partner)
would like to thank the authors for permission to reprint this