IT is 1978 and my grandmother proudly holds me in her arms, squinting into the sun on a scorching summer afternoon.

There are other images too, a sea of faces smiling towards the camera. People lounge on the newly planted grass, chatting and sharing stories.

The joy is evident as old friends and long lost kin embrace. It is the first annual "Pailis" reunion.

I have no memories of that particular June day – I was only six months old – but I grew up hearing stories about Bothwellhaugh, the former mining village in Lanarkshire affectionately known as the Pailis, a fond colloquialism for the Hamilton Palace Colliery.

In my mind's eye it has since achieved an almost mythical status akin to Atlantis, not least because much of the site where this beloved tight-knit community once resided now lies beneath the waters of the loch in Strathclyde Country Park.

After the pit closed in 1959 – the last of the tenement rows demolished in 1965 – those who worked and lived here were scattered to the four winds.

While some were rehoused nearby in Bellshill, Motherwell and Hamilton, others put down roots around the world emigrating to Australia, Canada and the US.

Yet, each year on the first Saturday in June – always the traditional date for the Miner's Gala Day – they would faithfully return to congregate around the stone memorial cairn erected where the heart of the village once stood, the decades melting away as former inhabitants were reunited.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Bothwellhaugh Ex-Residents Committee being formed. My late gran, Mary Currie, was among its enthusiastic founders back in 1977. Their goal was to keep the memories and camaraderie of the village alive.

Today, though, those who remember first-hand life in the Pailis are dwindling fast. It is a real fear that large parts of this rich oral history could be lost forever. One idea mooted by the current committee is to create a museum with a potential site earmarked within Strathclyde Country Park.

While still in the early stages of drawing up plans to secure funding, it is hoped that a facility – proposed to be housed in a former farm cottage – could open as early as next summer.

The village of Bothwellhaugh stood on the banks of the Clyde and was purpose built in 1884 for miners employed by the Bent Colliery Company and their families.

The coal produced here was high quality and sought after for industrial use, particularly as fuel for steam trains with much of it exported to Argentinian railway companies. The Flying Scot's record run to London is reputed to have used Pailis coal.

By 1911, the colliery's initial crew of 14 miners had swelled to a thriving community of 2,500 people. There was a church, two schools, a miner's welfare club and 450 homes.

Life was hard and the work dangerous. Families lived cheek by jowl. But while people had little money, they made up for it in generosity of spirit.

Strathclyde Country Park was officially opened in 1978. The Clyde had been re-routed and the former Calder Pond incorporated into the new Strathclyde Loch, while the bing had disappeared to build the M74 motorway.

Only a short walk from the cairn is the former farm cottage, currently lying empty and in a state of neglect, that it is hoped could be renovated museum. It is the only man-made structure that remains of Bothwellhaugh.

Former Pailis resident Pat Ryan, 69, who comes from a family of coal miners – his grandfather, father and four uncles worked at the Hamilton Palace Colliery – is among those backing the project.

"It has always felt unfortunate that there was nothing left of the Pailis," he says. "They had pulled everything down. This is the last standing solid building that remains. I think it is important to keep that."

The cottage holds special significance for Alistair Griffiths whose mother Isabel lived there as a child when his grandfather Sandy worked as ploughman at nearby Raith Farm.

Alistair – whose late father Joe was a founding committee member – would love to see fresh life breathed into the Pailis story.

"I was 13 when we left the village to move to Bellshill – about six months before it was demolished," he says. "I was sad when it was knocked down, but it affected my dad even more. He never forgot his roots and didn't settle anywhere else.

"In his later life, when he had dementia, my dad would say he wanted to go home. And by home he meant the Pailis, rather than the house in Bellshill where he lived for 32 years.

"There was a real sense of grief. It was a big wrench leaving Bothwellhaugh because everyone knew and helped one another. Things were different in the big towns."

His father, a plasterer and slater, captured everyday scenes on 8mm cine film. The poignant home movies show people going to church, the Co-op closing, residents moving out of their tenements, children sliding down the bings and the last wedding in the village.

Alistair, 65, reveals his father gave up cigarettes to save enough money to buy a camera and later organised a surprise screening of the footage at the miner's welfare club.

This collection was restored by historians at the Scottish Film and Television Archive in 1999.

There have been copious rumours over the years that the village still lies under the man-made Strathclyde Loch, but Alistair swiftly puts paid to any such romantic notions.

"Unfortunately that's not the case. The whole village was knocked down – the bing used as bottoming when the M74 was built – and the only thing that remains is the Raith Cottage. That is why we would love to see it turned into a permanent and dedicated museum to Bothwellhaugh."

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