Coal Mining R.I.P.


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I lived in Nottingham back then, in the Meadows area, Hucknall was the NCB's number 6 area training centre Blondie, I served my apprenticeship at Clifton and Cotgrave Collieries.

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Typical shift, pack me snap, throw it in me snap bag, "see yer later Mam" Off out onto Kirke-White Street, get me a fag out of the packet, light it and cross Arkwright Street, ontowards Queens Drive,

I worked at Newstead and Annesley pits , 22 years in total. The job was hard and dangerous but it made you figure out any way to make it easier . The danger element taught you to be conscientious a

Strip away the sentiment and it was a wretched existence for men down the pit too. Pit closures were always going to happen. The way it happened was far too swift, it was far too brutal but it was in

Sadly a way of life probably lost for ever in this country. To a lesser extent it was like that on the railway. As I said on another thread. I loved the old nuts and bolts railway. It was hard work and dangerous but we had to move on. Imagine if everything that burned coal in the 1950s still did.

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I worked at Cinderhill Laboratory from 1959 to 1969, we were required to go underground for sampling purposes, so I did my underground training at Hucknall No.1 (Top Pit), I then went down Babbington, Bestwood, Calverton, Cotgrave, Gedling, Hucknall No.2, & Linby. I also did various sampling at all of the previously name collieries plus Clifton, Radford, Wollaton and later after area mergers Moorgreen, Pye Hill, Bentinck & New Hucknall. After I joined marketing dept visits to collieries were fewer and the last two pit sufaces I visited were Betteshanger and Snowdown in Kent.

I did go to many NCB office sites including Eastwood Hall & Hobart House where I worked others being Sherwood Lodge, Scottish HQ in Edinburgh, Gateshead, Doncaster, Anderton House at Lowton, Stoke, Cannock computer centre, Llanershen Cardiff, Coal House Harrow and the Dover office.

It was a privilege to work in such an interesting industry and with such decent people.

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Scriv (#54), your comment, 'Strip away the sentiment and it was a wretched existence for men down the pit too.' was quite correct but the difference being that the miners had a choice whereas the ponies didn't.

It was good to learn that the miners treated them well, though.

Up to a point. Back in the depression years between the wars, for many in mining communities it was either the pit or the dole. It has to be pointed out though that with the considerable advances in mining technology, far fewer miners were needed in the latter days of deep mining, so the suggestion that by closing all the pits, many thousands of future jobs were lost is a bit of a red herring.

I have no desire to offend those who worked below ground, for it's a job I'm thankful I never had to do; but it also has to be said that the pit workers, the NCB, and later British Coal, contributed massively towards their own demise by virtue of poor management, slack practices and inefficiency. A job I used to do regularly when driving for West's via Jock Kelly, was to collect crates of machinery from one pit and take them to another; a month later, I'd pick up said crates (unopened and unused) and take them to yet another pit. this could go on for months. The purpose of this was to use up allocated transport budget, which wouldn't come back if they didn't use it. There were hundreds of similar "fiddles" going on, and pilfering of NCB stuff was rife, and regarded as an unofficial perk. Much of this of course ended up being paid for by the taxpayer as the industry was ridiculously over-subsidised. Once Thatcher sent the bean-counters in, a lot of this came to light and in my opinion hastened the industry's demise.

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Scriv, take it from me, private enterprise was just as bad in mining, I worked for two UK mining companies, British Gypsum and Cleveland Potash, the wastage underground was just as bad as my days with the NCB, plus other things that went off too. I also worked for three mining companies in Australia, nothing changed!!

When I was at Renison Bell tin mine in Tassie, everyone had big snap bags. I'll let you guess why!!

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I wasn't particularly singling miners out mate, it happens everywhere, but you and I both know full well how badly British Coal (and in fact virtually every other state monopoly) was managed.

I supppose it bugs me a little that workers in the mining industry seem to be singled out as a particularly deserving case when many other workers in many other industries went to the wall with much less compensation in the way of redundancy payments, re-training schemes and the like; not to mention the "vibration white finger" scheme which enabled blokes who'd never been near a coal face in their lives to claim thousands. I'm not inferring that miners didn't deserve good terms; just that it should have been a far more level playing field.

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As I was active in unions in the 80's and onwards...I came under a lot of flak from fellow workers about me and the Union itself..but when the gates were to be padlocked.. they were first in line for settlement and lump sum!!

I'm glad miners got a good package when they were finished.

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It's the end of an era indeed, my only grandad that I remember was an original "coal hewer" digging it out with a pick and shovel, he worked at Bestwood I think but maybe wrong there, my last few memories of him was of an old grey haired man coughing continually while being so ill he was unable to get up of the settee.

He had terminal silicosis in his lungs, a little later he passed and his suffering ended, along with his hobby of breeding canaries out the back yard.

My other memory is my 2 years or so at Gedling colliery in the late 60's early 70's, as an underground electrician, being of little underground experience as I came from the contracting electrical trade, I was taken under the wing of some great guys, who taught me some of the ropes to survive in a dangerous environment.

One such scary memory was riding the chain conveyor along the face to get quickly to a breakdown, and somehow losing my helmet off my head, when a nearby collier grabbed me and pulled me off and probably saved my life !

Being scared shitless riding up the gate on the outward coal conveyor with the coal, to get to another face to assist with a breakdown !

Good men and great camaraderie where you could depend on people around you, then laugh at it all later in the canteen or miners welfare.

My wife's dad was a Yorkshire miner but moved to Gedling with all his family, he also succumbed to the dreaded lung disease in later life.

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#83

Don't forget Scriv that "The Miners" had a strong union & were thus better organised.

Surly a case for workers joining a union & why governments of a certain colour don't like unions

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I'm sure some words are missing from this text & it does't scan very well:-

"It's a working man I am--- and I've been down underground--- and I swear to God if I ever see the sun ---or for any length of time--- I can hold it in my mind--- I never again will I go down underground.

At the age of 16 years--- Oh, he quarrels with his peers--- who vowed they'd never see another one, in the dark recess of the mines--- where you age before your time--- and the coal dust lies heavy in your lungs.

At the age of 64, Oh, he'll greet you at the door--- and he'll gently lead you by the arm--- through the dark recess of the mines--- Oh, he'll take you back in time--- and he'll tell you of the hardships that were had."

But when music and the Voices of 'The Bestwood Male Voice Choir are added it gave some very emotional moments at a recent concert.

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I was on about how wasteful mining was with materials Scriv. When I worked for BG at East Leake, the company put in for a couple of price increases for it's plasterboards. Being a monopoly, they had to apply to the Monopoly Commission. They sent a team of people with clip boards, stop watches and white lab coats to every works and mine BG owned.

Their job was to log wastage, they'd pick up old bolts and nuts off the mine workshops floors and note them, buts of wasted steel, anything literally and log it.

One year they calculated if only half what the company wasted was recovered, then it would constitute a price increase by money saved..

At Boulby, we were split into groups of around ten men, we met monthly with a senior member of Management, in my case it was the Assistant Mine Manager, who was also a Director of one of the companies that owned Boulby. The meetings were set up to get ideas on safety, reducing wastage, and increasing productivity, we were told Management wanted to hear everyones ideas no matter how silly they may sound to us.

Yeah right, I brought up the subject of wastage and the amount of materials left strewn around the mine...Last time I opened my mouth at any of these time wasting meetings. I think I used to find an excuse not to even attend anymore. I think the rest of the group saw the meetings a waste of time after I was rebuked by the Assistant Manager.

I just stuck to my job and did it to the best of my ability.

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#83

Don't forget Scriv that "The Miners" had a strong union & were thus better organised.

Surly a case for workers joining a union & why governments of a certain colour don't like unions

"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely".

As applicable to trade union leaders as it is to politicians.

A more moderate and less ambitious leader than Scargill might have done less damage to the industry. Discuss.

Oh, and BTW I'm a union member myself.

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