Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mining Memories

Memories of the Nottinghamshire Coalfields - David Bell - Countryside books

This fascinating little book, which NSB borrowed from Nottingham Central Library, describes the working and community lives of miners in Nottinghamshire.

The book includes a section on the banter that the miners enjoyed, perhaps the best example of whih relates to Ralph Richardson, one of the engine men at Thoresby Colliery, who used the quiet periods during the day to cut the hair of colleagues who were in the know. This worked well until the day that Mr Thorneycroft, the manager, happeded to catch him in the act. . .

"I pay you to wind, not to cut hair. Explain yourself" demanded the manager

nter "Sir , this hair had grown in company time so why can't I cut it in company time?" replied Ralph

"It didn't all grow in company time, did it?" retorted the manager

"I know, so I'm not cutting it all off" responded Ralph, winningly.

Keith "Scouse" Pruden recalls how, at Rufford Colliery, they had a delivery of wooden blocks from Russia. Unbeknownst to the miners, the wood had hornet larvae in it and in the heat of the mine they were soon boring out of the wood and flying around as 2-3inch long hornets!

Pit Ponies
One of the tricks of the pit ponies (who were extremely well looked after, btw) was to steal miners food from unattended jackets that were hanging up, especially if the food was not in a tin or plastic container. Keith Stanley comments that "I've actually seen a pit pony suck an orange through the fabric of the coat. And when the miner came back for his orange, all that were left of were a mosh. The pony had sucked all the juice out through the coat pocket""

The Best Of It
The universal answer was that is was the friendships and camaraderie that was the best thing about working in the pit. But some also commented that the money was also an attraction. Roy Mills, a coal face machine driver who was not afraid of overtime, managed to earn nearly £50k at Ollerton in 1991.

The Worst of It
The image of a coal mine that usually comes to mind is one that is dry and dusty - but this was not always the case, and difficult conditions were one of the hardest aspects of mining. Roy Mills commented that "Sludge is a horrible thing to work in, especially if you have to kneel in it or shovel it cos your machines are bogged down"

Keith Pruden comments that, as a youngster at Rufford he was "working in mud up to my knees, carrying material through mud and water. And the heat, it was like 100 degrees (F)

Miners recalled some of the more serious injuries they had seen. Keith Stanley recalled what happened when a large side of coal fell onto the back of fellow miner Terry Noone ". .I shot over the chains to him and helped the coal off him but he said "I'm sore down here" So I lifted his shirt up and he days "Is it all right?" It had gone that deep that you could actually see inside him. I could see this purple thing moving in his back, some blooody internal organ. But I just shoved his shirt back and I said "Neah, Tet, it's not that bad, it's just a scratch" I bandanged him up and he went out of the pit. He was in hospital for two or three days for that"

Ron Booth gave an account of an accident he was involved in which occurred in difficult working conditions at Bestwood colliery "there was a coal cutter coming round, and in the fast end it were real bad work. I was bringign the coal cutter into the fast end , and the roof was shaley and soft. It all collapsed and buried me. One of the chaps. . had the sense to run back and scrape all the clay and clag off my face, else I would have suffocated"

According to Bob Bradley "It was usually somebody doing sometihng worng that caused 99% of accidents - it was very rare you got a true accident in the pit. It was usually somebody taking a short cut or something. Invariably when it comes out it's put down as an "act of God" so that people get compensation"

The 1957 Sutton Colliery Disaster
Bob Bradley was part of the rescue team at the Sutton Colliery disaster of 21st Feb 1957 and describes what happened ". . the panzer motor had got an electric cable going through it, a great thick cable. This great big piece of rock dropped out, hit this cable and chopped it off. The rock had brought gas with it. There was a flash. Bang! It cleared the deck, killling 5 people and injured numerous others. . . The part that I remember was the smell. It must have been burning flesh. The smell was slightly different to a rotten egg, slightly different to a dead rat, slightly different to a gob fire, but it was the smell of burning.

"The other thing that fascinated me was when I picked up a "bacca" tin, I opened it to look inside and there was a silver file, usually containing a twist of pigtail, but inside there was only a wisp of ash. The force hadn't melted the tin, but it had burnt what was inside. That's incredible, isn't it?"

The 1950 Creswell Colliery Disaster
One of the worst mining disasters of recent times, this occurred on 26th Feb 1950 and was caused by a fire started by a worn conveyor belt. Ninety-Nine men were trapped beyond the wall of flames and, of these, only 19 escaped and 3 bodies recovered before the order to seal off the area was given. The seals were broken after 12hours and 44 bodies recovered but the area had be be resealed and it was not until a year later that the remaining bodies could be recovered. A memorial garden in Creswell village cemetery lists the names of the men who list their lives in the disaster.

This is one of a three part series of posts on Nottinghams Coal Mining History:
Coal Mining in Nottingham
Mining Memories
History of Coal Mining in the East Midlands
All were originally published in the Building For The Future Blog in May 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment