George Rollingson was born in Northumberland, England, on 10
April 1881. He went to work in the coal pits there as a boy of
ten. With his brother, John, he came to Lethbridge in 1902 where
they got a job with George F. Russell in his Pothole Coulee
mine. In 1904 there was a business disagreement between the
brothers, the upshot being that John remained at the Russell
mine while George returned to England.
George Rollingson continued to work in the coal mines in the
Old Country but found time to marry in 1904 and start a family
with the birth of his son, Henry, in 1906. (Another son, Albert,
was born in 1923.) In 1913, probably sensing the opportunity for
a better life, he returned to Canada and to Lethbridge.
He got a job as overman at the Malloy Mine near Picture
Butte. But he spent much of his spare time trying to get started
in a mine of his own. He secured a coal lease on a tract of land
in the Pothole district from rancher Wm. D. (Curly) Whitney,
paying him 50 cents per ton of coal mined. And whenever he was
able, he put in time trying to develop the property. As soon as
it looked as if the new mine might be a commercial success,
Rollingson left the Malloy brothers and started on his own.
The new mine was located near the junction of the St. Mary
and Oldman Rivers. Rollingson registered the name of the mine as
"The Twin River Coulee Mine" and the brand name "Whoop Up Coal"
for the product. The Mines Branch assigned a number, Mine No.
738, to the property. Although occasionally leased to others,
this was Rollingson's most important holding over many years. He
opened at least four entries along the length of the outcrop on
Rollingson was to be involved with other mines over the next
40 years. They included: Mine No. 55, which he and John
Rollingson had worked from 1902-04; Mine No. 977, held briefly
by Rollingson in 1922; and Mine No. 889, leased by Rollingson
and his son in 1950-56.
By the late 1950s, Rollingson had become a legend in the
Lethbridge coal fields. Mine inspectors pointed out that he
continued to operate low-producing mines because he had always
mined and it had become "force of habit." They marvelled that,
even when well into his seventies he could "handle a miner's
pick with the best of them."
When he finally retired in 1955 at age 74, George Rollingson
had put in 64 years in the coal mines, about 20 of those years
in England and 44 years in the mines of the Lethbridge area.
In 1963, the Lethbridge Historical Society and the Lethbridge
Miners' Library Club unveiled a marker railed "The Miner's
Cairn." in the river bottom. George Rollingson, along with
oldtimers Matt and Mike Homulos and J. A. (Jack) Foster, played
a prominent part in the ceremony. In 1988, the cairn still stood
in front of the Coalbanks Kiosk, the latter a later tribute to
the coal miners of the region.
George Rollingson died in Lethbridge on 7 July 1967.
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 material.