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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS                                                               1  


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS            

PIT MUCK A Collection  of  Poetry  and  Prose  by  Hemsworth  Writers           Cover  photographs  courtesy  of  John  Fleming.   Design  by  Liz  McPherson.   Printed  by  The  Education  Department  of  the     National  Coal  Mining  Museum  for  England.  2013.             ©  Copyright  of  each  piece  remains  with  each  author.     The  information  and  opinions  expressed  within  each  piece  are     entirely  the  responsibility  of  the  individual  writer  and  no     responsibility  is  taken  for  the  accuracy  or  otherwise  of  any  facts.         2    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

         

Foreword The Hemsworth  WEA  Creative  Writing  Class  has  been  running  for  a  number   of  years,  although  membership  has  varied  during  that  time  and  they  have   worked  with  a  range  of  different  tutors.   At  the  moment  there  are  16  students  attending  the  course  at  the  Springs   Life  Resource  Centre,  Southmoor  Road,  Hemsworth.    The  class  was  lucky   enough  to  be  awarded  funding  from  the  WEA    Out  of  the  Box   Project    and    were  able  to  visit  the  National  Coal  Mining  Museum  in  March   2013.   Much  of  the  creative  work  was  inspired  by  the  visit  and  the  underground   tour  but  many  of  the  writers  also  have  connections  to  mining  and  have   written  on  the  topic  in  the  past.  Some  of  those  earlier  works  are  included.   Thanks  are  due  to  the  Education  Department  of  the  Mining  Museum  for   making  a  room  available  and  for  the  initial  printing  of  copies  of  this   booklet.   We  hope  readers  will  enjoy  this  diverse  collection  of  material  which   includes  poetry,  prose  and  reminiscence.   Liz  McPherson   Tutor  -­‐  Hemsworth  Creative  Writing  Class   May  2013              

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

 

 

      Founded  in  1903,  the  WEA  (Workers'  Educational  Association)  is  a  charity  and  the     UK’s  largest  voluntary  sector  provider  of  adult  education,  delivering  9,500     part-­‐time  courses  for  over  74,000  people  each  year  in  England  and  Scotland.   With  the  active  support  of  over  400  local  branches,  3,000  volunteers,  2,000  part-­‐time     tutors  and  60,000  members  the  WEA  provides  high  quality,  student-­‐centred  and     tutor-­‐led  education  for  adults  from  all  walks  of  life.  They  also  maintain  our  special     mission  to  provide  educational  opportunities  to  adults  facing  social  and  economic  disadvantage.   Through  curriculum  themes  of  employability,  health  &  wellbeing,  community     engagement  and  culture,  the  WEA  gives  students  the  confidence  to  learn  new  skills,     live  healthier  lives,  engage  in  society  and  broaden  their  horizons.  Courses  are  created     and  provided  through  regional  offices  and  volunteer-­‐led  branches,  often  in  partnership  with  local   community  groups  and  organisations.   You  do  not  need  any  previous  knowledge  or  qualifications  to  join  most  of  the  courses,     only  a  willingness  to  share  with  others  your  curiosity,  ideas  and  experience.    

Workers’ Educational Association Yorkshire & Humber Region Suite 10B, Joseph’s Well, Hanover Walk, Leeds LS3 1AB Tel: 0113 245 3304 Fax: 0113 245 0883 Email: yorkshumber@wea.org.uk

Website: www.wea.org.uk/yh

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

PIT MUCK By Jan  Holliday The  opportunity  to  visit  the  National  Coal  Mining  museum  brought  back  memories  I  thought   were  gone  for  ever.   In  1966  I  was  a  very  naïve  orthopaedic  student  nurse  at  Pinderfields  when  I  first  came  into   contact  with  MINERS,  a  breed  of  men  I  had  not  encountered  before.   I  was  on  E  ward  at  the  top  of  ‘The  Huts’  which  were  pre-­‐fab  wards,  originally  constructed  to   house  WWII  casualties.  These  should  have  been  demolished  years  before  but  were  still  in  use  in   the  mid-­‐sixties.   The  ward  sister  had  been  notified  that  a  miner  had  been  taken  directly  to  casualty  from  the  pit.   He  had  a  fractured  femur  and  would  be  admitted  onto  our  ward  prior  to  surgery.  He  was  the   first  of  many  miners  I  was  to  nurse.     We  had  to  put  the  “blue  bed  pack”  on  the  bed  ready  to  admit  him;  these  were  thick  blue  sheets   and  pillow  cases  because  white  ones  would  never  have  been  white  again  if  they  were  soiled   with  pit  muck.     The  guy  came  onto  the  ward  after  being  checked  in  Casualty  and  was  stable.    The  fracture  was   still  in  the  splint  supplied  by  the  pit’s  first  aid  team  but  he  needed  to  be  cleaned  up  and  put  into   a  theatre  gown  before  the  fracture  could  be  pinned  and  plated.   We-­‐  that  is  myself  and  a  senior  3rd  year  student  washed  him  over  and  over  until  he  was  nearly   clean  of  all  the  surface  gunge  but  we  didn’t  manage  to  get  rid  of  the  black  coal  dust  rim  from   around  his  eyes.  The  poor  chap  must  have  been  in  agony  despite  being  half  conscious  with   shock  and  the  morphia  shots  the  pit  rescue  team  had  given  him.   I  felt  a  flutter  of  panic  when  he  vomited  a  yellow  slime  speckled  with  black  bits;  my  first  thought   was  “coffee  grounds”,  a  sign  of  bleeding  into  the  stomach  and  serious  internal  injury.  Sister  was   called  and  we  three  all  peered  into  the  kidney  bowl  as  she  swilled  the  contents  around.     In  an  almost  triumphant  voice  she  said,  “It’s  coal  dust!”  She  went  on  to  explain  that  miners   ingest  it  as  they  lick  their  lips  at  work  and  finer  particles  –  as  fine  as  dust  motes  you  can  see  in   sunshine  –  get  inhaled,  causing  all  manner  of  lung  conditions.  “Look  in  your  text  book  and   Nurses’  Dictionary  for  chronic  bronchitis  and  chronic  cardiac  failure,”  she  finished.   I  did.  It  left  me  wondering  how  men  could  work  in  conditions  that  were  potentially  fatal.     April  2013    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

TO DAD (after visiting  Caphouse  Colliery,  20/3/2013) Today,  Dad,  I’ve  trod  where  you  once  trod,   And  my  mother’s  grandfather  before  you.   I  saw  how  you  both  made  your  daily  bread,   And  how  coal  can  be  both  vice  and  virtue.       I  remembered  your  photo  in  our  “Squirrel”  tin,   Six  suited  surveyors,  ‘gainst  the  offices,  leant.   And  I  saw  the  same  six,  lamped  ‘n  belted  again,   Begrimed  and  booted,  after  an  underground  stint.     In  the  Lamp-­‐room,  you  checked  my  lamp  was  alight.   We  looked  down  the  vent,  into  all  of  that  dark.   On  ent’ring  the  cage,  I  heard  your  loping  gait,   And  knew  this  dust  and  dirt  were  all  your  day’s  work.     When  I  learned  miners’  boots  were  flooded  with  sweat,    I  saw  your  foot  powder,  on  our  bathroom  sill,   And  remembered  the  way  you’d  tended  your  feet,   And  the  discarded  socks,  all  crusty  and  stale.                                                                                                      At  noon,  as  I  stood  in  the  freezing  cold  rain,   And  watched  the  one  pony  nibbling  its  grass,   I  walked  by  your  side,  to  “A”  Winning  Mine,   Through  snow  tunnels  piled  right  up  to  my  face.   Cntd  over     6    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

TO  DAD      cntd.  

At  last,  in  the  bus,  as  we  all  journeyed  back,   I  felt  hungry  and  cold  and  really  quite  ill,   Till  I  found,  in  my  coat,  the  little  brass  check,   And  the  flat,  squarish  piece  of  souvenir  coal.     Tonight,  while  soaking  myself  in  the  bath,   Ridding  my  skin  of  the  long  day’s  black  grime,    I  thought  of  you  in  the  pithead  baths  booth,    Coal  Tar  in  your  eyes,  Brylcreem  in  your  comb.      I  look  at  the  photo  of  you,  at  twenty:   “Survey  Camp,  Llandudno,  prior  to  leaving,”   And  although,  since  then,  there’s  been  hurt  aplenty,   This  visit,  Dad,  has  eased  some  of  that  grieving.      

   

Lynda McCraight   April  2013    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

LYNDA’S  DAD  IS  THE  MAN  ON  THE  RIGHT  HAND  SIDE  OF  THE  PHOTOS      

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

THE ‘PRINCE’ On the  park  side  of  town,  near  the  old  racecourse  track         Stands  our  closed-­‐down-­‐  pit  and  it’s  never  coming  back.   Employing  one  thousand  men  at  the  height  of  its  fame   Just  the  slag  heaps  remain,  darkly  echoing  its  name.     T’was  the  only  one  we  had  sitting  right  on  the  door   Of  our  historic  town,  sadly  now  it  is  no  more.   Prince  of  Wales  it  was  called  but  for  us  it  was  the  King   With  its  megawatt  winder  and  million  steel  rings.     And  while  the  townsfolk  slept,  all  the  rippers  plied  their  trade,   Carving  roadway  tunnels  to  keep  up  with  progress  made   By  the  miners  ploughing  on,  taking  strip  after  strip   Of  the  precious  black  stuff  for  its  one  and  only  trip.     But  it  broke  as  many  hearts  as  reputations  that  it  made   For  some  who  were  courageous  when  they  should  have  been  afraid.   Afraid  of  the  dark  and  the  danger  lurking  there   Against  a  thousand  tons  of  rock,  they  didn’t  have  a  prayer.     But  now  it  has  all  gone  the  memories  are  fond  when   Recalled  through  the  mist,  like  the  blonde  you  once  kissed   And  so  it  should  remain,  never  sullied  by  the  truth   Of  the  dangers  in  the  dark  and  the  courage  of  our  youth.   Seamus  Healy    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

THE THREE ABSENTEES by Jan  Holliday It  was  during  my  third  year  in  training  to  become  a  nurse  that  I  did  another  three  months  on  E   Ward  at  Pinderfields.    I  loved  those  guys  and  I  admired  them  for  the  hard  toil  they  did  underground,  toil  that  I  could   only  imagine.  I  enjoyed  their  sense  of  the  ridiculous  and  their  zany,  often  black  humour  but   sometimes  they  put  me  in  fear  for  my  job  because  there  was  no  way  I  could  impose  the  rules  of   the  hospital  on  them.   They  were  fit  fellows  with  appetites  beyond  hospital  food  and  sometimes  I  would  boil  duck  eggs   for  them  at  midnight  with  slices  of  toast.  When  all  except  the  dim  safety  lights  in  the  ward  had   to  be  out,  I’d  let  them  read  with  a  cloth  draped  around  their  bed  lights.  I’d  sit  and  listen  when   they  needed  an  ear  but  I  never  dreamt  I’d  become  an  unwilling  accomplice  to  three  who  went   AWOL.   It  was  a  Saturday  night.  It  had  been  a  nice  day;  I’d  been  told  when  I  took  over  from  the  Charge   Hand  (the  male  equivalent  to  a  Ward  Sister).  All  was  quiet  on  the  ward,  no  serious  cases,  and   just  3  patients  needing  4  hourly  observations  –  temperature,  pulse  and  breathing.  But,  three   other  guys  hadn’t  come  back  yet  from  their  walk  around  the  gardens  –  which  they  had   permission  for.  I  was  told  not  to  worry-­‐  their  condition  was  stable,  they’d  be  ok  and  would  be   back  in  time  for  lights  out  at  9  p.m.  It  just  seemed  amusing  at  first-­‐  three  lads  out,  probably   enjoying  the  evening  air,  maybe  larking  about  even  though  one  was  in  a  wheelchair  with  his  leg   in  plaster  cast  from  groin  to  little  toe,  another  (the  joker)  with  his  arm  and  shoulder   immobilised  in  a  pot  and  an  iron  bar  brace.  The  third  had  his  lower  leg  and  foot  potted  and  was   using  an  underarm  crutch.   When  it  got  to  8.15  pm  I  was  worried.  It  was  almost  dark  –  should  I  report  the  absentees  to   Matron’s  Office?  At  8.30  I  started  to  panic  –  should  I  ring  the  Gate  Office  (security)  to  find  out  if   they  had  been  seen  in  the  grounds?  Then  9  pm  came  and  I  had  to  put  the  big  lights  out  on  the   ward.  Where  on  earth  were  my  patients?     Suddenly  there  was  a  noise  out  on  the  long  sloping  corridor  that  ran  from  top  to  bottom  in  the   huts.  Before  I  had  time  to  get  the  ward  doors  open  the  guys  arrived,  slamming  the  doors  open   and  snapping  the  lights  on.  They  were  ‘tight’  but  safe  and  with  plaster  casts  intact,  thank   goodness.   “Bed”  I  hissed.  “Now.  It’s  time  for  the  night  sister’s  rounds!”   The  joker,  arm  and  shoulder  potted  at  an  unusual  angle,  poddled  into  the  ward  rattling  the   metal  basket  full  of  glass  bed  bottles  which  were  used  for  the  men  to  empty  their  bladders  into.   The  whole  ward  was  in  uproar.  I  was  nearly  in  tears.  And  I  was  sure  that  if  the  night  sister  had   walked  in  at  that  moment  my  career  in  nursing  would  be  over  before  I’d  taken  the  exam.   An  older  man  shouted  down  the  ward,  “Get  to  bed  now  or  you’ll  get  her  the  sack!”   Cntd   10    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  To  my  relief,  to  bed  they  went,  not  all  correctly  dressed  in  pjs,  but  at  least  they  were  in  bed  and   the  lights  were  out.       Sister  was  not  late  that  night  and  she  did  a  very  quick  round.  The  patients  seemed  to  be   comatose  and  so  deep  in  sleep  that  they  all  snored  very  heavily.   As  I  escorted  Sister  to  the  door  she  asked  me  a  question  which  made  my  heart  beat  faster.  “Has   everything  been  alright  on  the  war  this  evening?    Only,  Security  said  the  main  lights  came  back   on  for  a  while.”   “Yes,  Sister,”  I  replied.  “I  er,  fumbled  the  lights  somehow.”   I  was  sure  that  I  heard  the  echo  of  a  giggle  as  she  walked  down  the  corridor  and  thinking  back   now,  I’m  sure  that  I  did.  After  all,  she  had  done  some  of  her  training  on  E  Ward  so  she  must   have  had  a  good  idea  what  had  gone  on  that  evening  with  my  three  absentees.     April  2013          

Medically, many  miners  suffer  from   silicosis,  caused  by  working  in  the   fine  dust,  which  leads  to  wasting   of     the  tissues.    In  the  old  days,  working   by  candle  light  in  a  small  confined   space,  with  the  candle  either  in  their   cap,  or  in  a  lump  of  clay  stuck  to  the   wall,  many  men  ended  up  with   nystagmus,  caused  by  the  flickering   of  the  flame  at  the  periphery  of  their   vision  and  prolonged  working  in   poor  light.   Anne  Rhodes    

One strike  held  locally  in  1893,  in  Featherstone,   by  desperate  miners  wanting  improved   conditions,  were  shot  at  by  the  Military  and  two   people  were  killed    -­‐  James  Gibbs  (22)  and   James  Duggan  (25)  were  to  die  of  their  injuries,   and  several  were  wounded.  Neither  man  who   died  it  seems,  had  b een  involved  in  creating  a   disturbance  or  involved  with  the  mines,  Gibbs   had  walked  across  the  fields  from  nearby  Loscoe   to  see  what  was  going  on.   Then  there  was  the  General  Strike  of  1926   which  lasted  many  months,  and  ended  with  the   majority  of  miners  going  back  to  work  from   sheer  hunger.       Anne  Rhodes    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

LOOK BACK IN ANGER Coal which  for  years  we’d  clamour    

And then,  of  late,  the  ultimate  –  

was dirty,  old  fashioned  and  lacking  in   glamour.  

A  coalfield  strike.    

Past generations  had  conflicting  relations   but  there  was  a  closeness  in  the  mining   community,     one  possession  they  all  shared  -­‐   and  that  was  poverty.     Coal  once  meant  wealth  and  glee   for  the  landed  aristocracy   beneath  whose  land  we  found  it.    

To preserve  at  all  cost   what  the  rest  of  the  country  had  already   lost,     to  hang  onto  occupations     performed  by  families  for  generations.   To  win  was  critical.     Never  political.     Communities  splintering  before  the  strike    

But it  meant  death  and  poverty  

now welded  together  with  a  communal   psyche,  

for the  men  who  mined  it.  

organising travelling  pickets,  

serving a  communal  meal,  

Some saw  it  as  a  mineral  odd,    

blunting the  hardships,  

a destiny-­‐shaping  gift  from  God,  

bonding a  communal  feel,  

building our  civilisation,  

fired to  be  a  protestor    

making a  prosperous  nation.  

worthy of  an  ancestor.  

Devotion to  a  profession,    

This was  a  time  when  coal  was  fun  

fighting government  oppression.  

though mining  it  was  a  dangerous  one,    

building a  new  coal-­‐fired  world  

Disappeared, gone,  lost  forever,  

where the  empire’s  flags  unfurled.  

death throes  of  a  lost  endeavour  

Exciting engines  of  steam  with  unlimited   possibility  

To conserve  and  simply  be  

Industrial revolutions  supreme,  a   magnificent  society.    

A close-­‐knit  mining  community.   Cntd..   12  


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

Leaders  will  lead  

Aware  of  what  is  often  said  –    

and will  become  decresent.    

it’s easy  to  blame  the  dead.  

Of all  escape  mechanisms,    

An arranged  state  funeral  –    

Death is  the  most  efficient.  

sad and  wrong  to  criticise  it    

but,

It’s hard  to  measure  the  depth  of  feeling  

with her  love  of  privatisation,    

that left  the  mining  community  reeling,    

this funeral  –      

the sacrifice  of  an  industry  

why not  privatise  it?  

for political  dogma  and  expediency.    

Harry Godber   April  2013

  On  8th  April  2013,  Margaret  Thatcher  died.  She  had  been  PM  during  the1984/85  miner’s  strike.   Her  funeral,  like  many  of  her  policies,  caused  considerable  controversy.      

 External  to  the  pit,  are  the  waste  stacks,     sometimes  called  slag  heaps  or  shale  heaps,   depending  on  where  you  come  from.  These   are  huge  piles  of  shale  and  other  waste   brought  out  of  the  mines  and  dumped.    If  a  pit   is  working  for  many  years,  these  shale  heaps   can  be  quite  a  few  in  number.    In  Aberfan  in   1966  –  tip  No  7  started  to  slide.    It  had  been   started  in  1958  of  tailings,  which  are  what   remain  after  coal-­‐cleaning.    The  slide  was   initiated  by  the  combination  of  tailings  and   water  from  a  nearby  stream  combined  to   make  soft  mud  –  known  as  thixotropy  –  and   once  the  bottom  of  the  tip  started  to  move,   the  whole  pile  slid  inexorably  downwards,   burying  a  farm,  20  houses,  a  Junior  School  and   part  of  the  adjacent  Senior  School.    In  total,   144  people  died.     Anne  Rhodes  

 Floods  can  occur  when  an  old   working  is  accidentally  broken   into,  or  the  tunnel  is  too  close  to   the  sea  floor.    As  mines  became   more  mechanised,  the  pit  became   noisier  and  the  miners  could  no   longer  “hear”  the  coal  “talking”  –   either  the  props  creaking  or  the   dull  thud  indicating  a  crack  when   the  coal  is  struck  by  a  pick  handle.      In  the  pit  yard,  the  railways  that   carried  coal  to  market   occasionally  caused  accidents.  I   personally  nursed  a  man  who  had   a  bilateral  amputation  of  his  legs   in  one  such  accident.     Anne  Rhodes  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

BACKWARDS IN TIME Out of  the  darkness  draught  

Coal-­‐dust soaks  into  every  pore,  

blows along  the  echoing  tunnel.  

fatigue etches  on  each  face.  

Smell of  coal  dust,  dirty.  

Passed from  hand  to  hand      

Noise of  picks,  shovels  and  feet,  

large lumps  of  coal,  manhandled.  

candle flickering  through  the  dark  

Narrow passage  on  hands  and  knees,  

narrow passage,  on  hands  and  knees.  

candle flickering  through  the  dark.  

Large lumps  of  coal,  manhandled,  

Noise of  picks,  shovels  and  feet,  

passed from  hand  to  hand.  

smell of  coal  dust  –  dirty  -­‐  

Fatigue etches  on  each  face,  

blows along  the  echoing  tunnel.  

coal-­‐dust soaks  into  every  pore.  

Out of  the  darkness,  draught.  

  Anne  Rhodes   April  2013   The  inspiration  for  this  poem  arises  from  an  image  of  how  coal  mining  was  done  for  centuries   until  within  living  memory,  with  the  minimum  of  equipment,  no  regard  for  safety  or  the  terribly   difficult  and  dangerous  working  conditions.   I  chose  to  use  palindromic  verse,  where  the  poem  is  repeated  line  by  line  from  the  end  to  the   beginning,  because  I  felt  that  the  repetition  with  fractionally  different  pauses,  emphasises  the   darkness,  danger  and  fatigue  of  the  work  being  done.        

By the  1960’s  coal  consumption  was  in  d ecline,  and  some  pits  were  closed.    This  decline   in  production  led  in  1984-­‐95  to  a  year-­‐long  strike  (the  miners  were  trying  to  p reserve   their  jobs)  which  in  the  end  was  defeated.    Two  miners  took  the  NUM  to  court  because   of  a  dispute  about  the  legality  of  the  strike  ballots  –  the  NUM  was  fined  £200,000  but   refused  to  pay  and  sent  its  assets  abroad.    Because  of  this  miners  were  unable  to  claim   any  benefits.    Soup  kitchens  were  available,  but  many  men  went  b ack  to  work  because   of  the  hardship  involved.    A  working  miner  in  Castleford  was  brutally  beaten  for  strike-­‐ breaking.    In  the  end  the  miners  went  back  to  work  led  by  brass  bands  and  banners,  but   further  closures  followed,  and  there  are  now  only  one  or  two  mines  in  production.      Anne  Rhodes   14    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

SCHOOL TRIP by John  Fleming Pete  hoped  that  the  children  would  enjoy  their  school  trip.  They  were  going  to  the  National   Coal  Mining  Museum.  He  had  taken  them  up  to  the  school  and  waved  them  off,  clutching  their   packed  lunch  and  flasks.  He  hoped  they  appreciated  his  culinary  skills,  all  five  minutes  of  it.   Their  mother  was  away  working,  leaving  him  to  act  as  househusband  and  father  to  two  ten  year   old  children.  He  hoped  they  were  old  enough  to  appreciate  their  visit.   They  rushed  in  clutching  pamphlets.   “Did  you  enjoy  yourselves?”   Ruth  and  Isaac  both  considered  their  answer.   “Well,  Dad,  we  did,  but  Anna  didn't”   “All  she  did  was  moan”,  Ruth  added.   “Her  mum  wasn't  there  to  hold  her  hand.”   “Come  on  Isaac,  you  held  her  hand.”   Pete  interrupted  them.  “Don't  start  squabbling.  Did  you  enjoy  it?”   The  children  rolled  their  eyes.  “Dad,  we  just  said  we  did.”   “Did  you  go  down  the  pit?”   “Oh  yes.  That's  when  Isaac  was  holding  Anna's  hand!”   Isaac  protested  “No  I  didn't.”   “Stop  it  you  two.  I'm  in  no  mood  for  you  squabbling”  The  children  looked  suitable  contrite.   “Isaac,  tell  me  about  it”   “Well  we  got  some  helmets  with  lights  on  and  a  rather  heavy  battery,  and  went  in  this  lift  down   this  shaft.  Mr  Lewis  nearly  knocked  his  helmet  off.  It  was  cold  down  there.  There  was  this  boy   by  a  hatch.”   “Not  a  real  boy.  Only  a  model  “Ruth  interrupted.   “I  know  he  was  model!  He  had  to  work  a  door  so  his  Mum  could  pass  out  the  coal  his  Dad  had   cut  out.  Why  wasn't  he  at  school?”   “Well  school  wasn't  compulsory  in  those  days.”   Cntd    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

 

“Oh!” The  children  considered  whether  not  going  to  school  was  a  good  thing  or  not.   “Also  men  used  to  take  their  family  down  because  they  couldn't  afford  to  pay  anyone  to  help   them.  And  if  they  didn't  work,  they  starved.  No  benefits  in  those  days.  And  remember  no   electricity,  no  machinery,  only  picks  and  shovels,  and  dust  and  dirt.  And  candles  for  light.”   Ruth  looked  puzzled.  “Couldn't  they  have  gone  to  the  workhouse?  And  wouldn't  there  have   been  a  danger  of  explosion.  Granddad  showed  me  his  miner's  lamp.”   “Yes  there  was.  And  who  told  you  about  the  workhouses?”   “Mr  Lewis.”   Isaac  asked,  “Would  you  take  me  and  Mum  down  the  mine?   “Good  Lord  no.  Firstly  it’s  illegal,  secondly  no  mines,  thirdly  your  mum  would  bend  a  frying  pan   over  my  head  if  I  even  suggested  it!”   “That's  all  right.  Mum  thinks  you've  such  a  thick  head  you  wouldn't  notice  it.”   “Thank  you  Ruth!  Upstairs,  the  pair  of  you.”   He  wondered  if  he  was  good  role  model  for  the  children.  He  staying  at  home,  while  their   mother  worked,  mainly  because  she  earned  twice  the  salary  he  could  ever  earn.  It  didn't  look   good  in  a  community  of  ex  miners,  especially  when  he  had  never  gone  near  a  mine.  Not  many   of  those  in  Devon!      When  Rosalind  came  home  from  work,  Pete  told  her  about  the  trip.   “I'm  glad  they  enjoyed  it.  Ruth  was  right  about  you  and  the  frying  pan!”   “Oh  thank  you.  I  suppose  you  want  me  to  eat  dry  bread  and  wear  sackcloth  and  ashes.”   “Talking  about  ashes,  did  Mum's  coal  turn  up?”    Pete's  father-­‐in-­‐law  had  been  a  pit  deputy,  and   got  redundancy  when  his  pit  ran  out  of  coal.  And  a  free  supply  of  coal.   April  2013    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

HOW I BECAME WOOLLY DUCK By Jan  Holliday Miners,  I  was  to  learn,  have  a  love  for  nick  names  and  I  soon  got  mine  on  E  Ward,  the  male   orthopaedic  ward  which  often  had  a  few  miners  with  pots  on  various  limbs.  These  men  were   usually  strong,  fit,  youngish  chaps  to  whom  a  limb  in  plaster  of  paris  was  a  boring   inconvenience.  To  pass  the  time  they  loved  to  tease  the  young  nurses  and  thought  it  was  great   if  they  could  raise  a  blush;  they  were  however  never  rude  or  crude  and  if  one  swore  he  was   soon  reminded  to  “watch  it”.     The  incident  was  so  silly  and  simple;  one  miner  with  his  leg  up  in  traction  threw  a  book  across   the  ward  to  his  mate  in  the  bed  opposite.  I  happened  to  be  walking  up  the  ward  taking   temperatures  and  came  into  the  line  of  fire.  My  name,  being  at  that  time  Wolstencroft,  was   already  shortened  to  Woolly  and  a  third  miner  shouted  a  warning,  “Woolly,  duck!”   I  did  but  not  before  my  cap  went  spinning  down  the  ward  with  the  book.  Laughter  resounded   up  and  down  the  beds  and  forever  after,  during  my  12  week  stint  on  that  ward,  that  was  what  I   was  called  whenever  matron  or  the  ward  sister  were  out  of  earshot.  I  loved  nursing  the  miners   because  they  were  always  up  for  a  joke  and  full  of  tricks.      

April  2013  

 

Explosions occurred  frequently,  often  triggered  by  naked  flames  when  gas  was  present,   though  there  could  be  other  triggers.  In  1815  the  Davey  Lamp  was  invented  .This  lamp   is  a  wick  lamp  with  the  flame  enclosed  in  such  a  fine  mesh  that  the  flame  cannot   propagate  through.    Anne  Rhodes.  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

HERE IN THE NORTH The man  from  the  South  arrived  by  train  

Ignorance at  a  distance,  who  kids  who?  

smelling coal  dust  in  the  air,  and  wondered  

Up here.  Here  in  the  North.    

what it  was.  

Not as  he  had  expected  

The man  from  the  South  went  home,  

the Yorkshire  stone  buildings  permanently   black,  

leaving it  all  behind,  just  another  business   trip,  

the people  unaware  of  anything  untoward.   Up  here.  Here  in  the  North.  

a funny  taste  left  in  the  mouth   and  in  the  mind  -­‐  so  different  from  Surrey.  

The importance  of  coal  to  these  people!  

The man  from  the  South  met  the  client.   Everything  normal,  but  an  undertone  was   there.  

Up here.  Here  in  the  North.       The  men  from  the  North  watched  him  

Accents said  it  all,    

leave,

agendas and  prejudice-­‐real  and  imagined.  

knew that  he  never  understood,  nor  ever  

recent history,  bad  blood  and  politics.  

would.

Up here.  Here  in  the  North  

The South  a  different  planet.  

Mining that  meant  so  much  and  took  so  

The man  from  the  South  saw  black  

many.

silhouettes  

Coal was  the  master  and  not  the  slave.  

of wheels  across  the  landscape,  many  now  

Up here.  Here  in  the  North.  

still.

Collieries silent  in  death,  

Howard Osborne  

new industries  and  jobs  just  a  pipedream.    

April 2013

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

VISIONS By Allen  Grandidge Enter  the  cage  with  trepidation  with  thoughts  of  men  that  have  gone  before.  Had  they  chosen   to  be  miners  or  did  their  birth  location  thrust  them  forth?  Given  a  choice  would  any  man  decide   that  this  was  to  be  his  vocation,  descending  into  the  bowels  of  the  earth  to  scrape  away  that   black  carbon  rock  so  prized  by  our  ancestors?     This  coal  provided  us  with  the  Industrial  Revolution,  firing  the  engines  that  produced  power   through  steam  that  drove  the  wheels  of  looms  and  lathes,  pumps  and  locomotives,  powering   the  barges  that  sliced  along  the  canals  delivering,  amongst  other  products,  the  coal  itself.     Men  were  emancipated,  able  to  move  away  from  the  low  paid  farming  jobs,  but,  to  what?  The   mines  paid  better,  but  not  much.  If  you  were  strong  and  young  and  you  could  dig  solidly  for   hours  on  end,  bless  you.  If  not,  then  you  would  be  better  on  the  land.   As  the  cage  carries  you  down  there  is  a  fear  of  the  unknown.  What  will  I  feel  like  with  all  this   earth  pressing  down  on  me  and  my  fellow  visitors?  Will  there  be  enough  air  to  breathe?  Will  we   feel  like  men  did  on  their  first  journey  to  the  bottom  of  this  mine?  Fear  of  the  unknown  can   humiliate  even  the  strongest  of  men!   Sounds  carry  along  the  galleries,  sound  of  miners  past,  their  spirits  lingering.  They  call  to  warn   you,  ghostly  boys  and  girls  with  their  faces  unsmiling,  showing  despair,  look  at  you,  wondering   why  you  are  there.     “I  had  no  choice.  My  family  needed  the  money,”  they  whisper.  Small  children,  less  than  10  years   old,  their  spirits  trapped  in  this  place.  They  died  forlorn,  still  yearning  form  their  mother’s  love.   Grown  men  too,  their  bodies  broken,  lie  among  the  dust  that  they  created,  wondering  when   that  God  of  mankind  will  eventually  free  them  from  the  grasp  of  that  devil  that  trapped  them   here,  among  the  debris  of  King  Coal.   19    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

THE STORY OF HEMSWORTH LOCKOUT This  is  a  story  of  Jack  and  Liz  

The refusal  to  grant  a  pay  award  

Born in  the  eighteen  seventies,  

By a  neutral  arbitrator  

Jack a  strong  uncouth  miner,    

Brought a  political  springboard  

Liz his  effusive  wife,    

And a  struggle  between  miners  and  a   dictator.  

No woman  finer.   Much  of  the  story’s  humorous,   Much  is  unbelievable  strife   When  a  cruel  stroke  of  fate     Taught  Liz  and  Jack  to  hate.     Almost  everything  that  is  wrote   About  the  melting  pot  of  relations,   A  story  of  strife  and  deprivations   Fed  from  a  political  source   Makes  Jack  what  he  is,   Leaving  him  loud  and  coarse,   Shaped  by  circumstance  and  politically   intense.  

The men  locked  out  from  their  work,   Families  evicted  from  their  homes,   Set  up  a  tented  village   With  a  gypsy  camp  syndrome   And  a  similar  disadvantage.     A  hotel  housed  many  of  the  young,     Many  mothers  often  wept   Many  hands  were  often  wrung.   In  their  cause  were  they  steeped.     Liz  becomes  political,  joins  the  suffragettes   Jack  joins  a  miners’  choir,  

He took  his  stance.  

Travels the  country  in  wagonettes,  

Raising funds  and  support  from  every  shire,  

A mining  altercation  02  to  nineteen  ten.  

Getting support  through  feeling  distraught.  

The workplace,  Hemsworth  colliery.  

A lockout  and  demonstration  of  men  

Leaders gate  crash  the  TUC,  

Shape Jack  and  Liz,  

Given ten  thousand  pounds  to  ease  the   pain  

Makes Jack  a  better  man  and  Liz  what  she   is.      

Cntd   20  


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

They  receive  their  country’s  sympathy,  

But  with  wages  less  than  before  

While Kier  Hardy  visits  Hemsworth    

Capital had  a  lot  to  answer  for.  

Over and  over  again.  

How badly  they  were  treated  

And after  years  of  struggle  

Jack and  Liz,  affected  by  events,  

Finally defeated.  

Their children  in  the  hotel  

While they  were  housed  in  tents,  

In this  story  of  man  and  wife  

Peel  back  the  surface  slightly,    

Of victimisation,  deprivation  and  hate  

They suffer  despair  and  despondence   almost  nightly.  

The people,  employment  and  politics  

Are difficult  to  separate.    

Hemsworth is  Labour’s  safest  seat.    

The story  has  a  resonance  

They don’t  count  votes  but  weigh  them   they  say.    

In today’s  debate  

Victory is  certain  anyway    

Of morals  in  politics  

And it’s  almost  the  same  today.  

Of political  weight.    

The mine  was  eventually  sold  and  then  

It’s a  story  of  people  tested  far.  

The owner  offered  work  for  all  the  men  

It’s the  story  that’s  made  them  what  they   are.  

  Harry  Godber  

Strikes  started  in  1903  about  pay.  An  independent  arbitrator  awarded  the  men  more  wages  but   the  colliery  owner,  Fosdyck,  refused  to  pay.   In  1905  the  men  were  locked  out.  Turned  out  of  their  homes  by  the  police  they  lived  in  tents.   In  1907  the  colliery  was  sold  and  men  returned  to  work  but  with  no  pay  increase.  Some  men   who  had  been  active  in  the  strikes  were  victimised  and  were  still  out  of  work  in  1910.  HG    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

REMEMBER, REMEMBER By  Ian  Downing   It  was,  as  always,  bitter  cold  and  a  steady  drizzle  was  falling.  Remember,  remember  the  5th  of   November.  Tom  remembered,  would  always  remember,  could  never  forget.  He  pulled  his  coat   tighter;  the  bitter  cold  wouldn't  keep  him  away,  not  today.  He  knelt  by  the  gravestone  that   stood  with  so  many  others,  all  rising  above  a  wasteland  of  unkempt  grass.   In  loving  memory.     There  had  been  so  many  senseless  deaths,  so  many  wasted  lives,  people  less  than  human  cast   aside  while  the  few  grew  rich.  Here  lie  the  poor,  here  lie  his  mother  and  father  not  much  older   than  he  is  now.  Here  lie  generations  of  the  poor  forced  to  work  endless  hours  in  the  darkness,   in  the  pit  of  hell  just  to  earn  enough  to  keep  a  sagging  roof  over  their  heads,  faded  clothes  on   their  back  and  food  even  vermin  would  find  hard  to  eat.  Here  they  lie  before  their  time,  at  least   now  in  peace  free  from  their  toil.     Remember,  remember.   Remember  the  day  the  earth  collapsed.   Remember  the  day  of  the  grim  reaper.   Remember,  remember.   Tom  was  twenty-­‐four  now,  a  fine  figure  of  a  man  that  his  parents  would  never  see,  never  show   a  smile  full  of  pride.  He  fought  hard  to  hold  back  the  tears  and  the  anger  that  welled  up  inside   him.  For  too  many  years  that  anger  had  shaped  him,  it  shaped  him  still.  He  looked  beyond  the   dark  gravestones  to  the  old  church  he'd  been  taken  to  every  Sunday  to  sing  praise  and  to  pray   to  a  God  that  had  made  little  sense  to  him  then  and  made  little  sense  to  him  now.   God  made  man  in  his  likeness  and  the  devil  sent  them  into  the  pit.   Remember,  remember.   How  he  longed  to  forget.   As  a  young  man  his  dreams  contained  only  endless  darkness  and  the  sadness  of  his  mother's   eyes.  He  would  never  forget  the  look  on  her  face  every  time  she'd  held  him  close  before  they   descended  to  the  pit  of  hell,  to  the  eternal  darkness.  He  would  never  forget  the  guilt  he  saw  in   his  father's  eyes.   It  wasn't  your  fault  mum,  dad.    It  wasn't  your  fault.   He  looked  up  and  blinked  at  the  light  of  a  weak  sun.  The  rain  had  stopped  but  he  still  felt  cold.   The  light  always  amazed  him;  even  night  contained  some  of  it  but  the  pit  had  contained  none,   Cntd    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  whether  outside  it  was  summer  or  winter.  Down  in  the  bowels  of  the  earth  sitting  by  the   wooden  door  he  had  opened  and  closed  day  after  day  after  day  no  season  existed,  nothing   existed  but  the  groans  of  his  mother  and  father  as  they  toiled  endlessly,  digging  away  at  the   devil's  stone.   He  remembered  once  that  his  father  had  said  that  only  death  would  set  them  free  and  death   had  set  them  free,  had  set  his  mother  and  father  free  though  by  a  miracle  he  still  lived.  He  lived   yet  still  he  dreamed  of  that  day,  dreamed  every  day.   I  wish  you  could  see  me  now,  Mum,  Dad.   The  stone  was  rough,  cheap.  He'd  not  been  able  to  afford  more  at  the  time  but  had  sworn  he'd   not  let  their  deaths  pass  as  if  they'd  never  been,  as  if  they  were  of  no  worth.  He  guessed  to  the   mine  owners  they  had  no  value,  were  easily  replaced.  Guessed  they'd  be  counting  the  money   lost  not  lives  lost.   'I  love  you  both.'   He  placed  the  red  roses  he'd  brought  with  him  in  the  vase  by  the  stone,  kissed  his  hand  then   touched  their  names,  felt  them  near.  Closed  his  eyes  as  the  sun's  ray  hit  the  stone.   We  love  you  son.   Six  he'd  been  when  first  he'd  been  taken  down  the  pit.  His  mother  had  tears  in  her  eyes  his   father  didn't  look  at  him.  He  should  have  been  at  school  learning  but  like  many  in  his  village   school  was  just  a  dream,  the  pit  had  always  been  his  future,  they  could  afford  no  other.   How  ironic  that  their  deaths  had  been  the  path  to  a  new  future  for  him.  There  had  been  no   family  to  take  him  in  and  his  future  had  looked  uncertain,  grim  but  he'd  been  taken  in  by  a   middle  aged  couple  who'd  prayed  for  years  for  a  child  but  had  remained  barren.  A  good  couple,   he'd  been  seven  when  the  accident  had  happened  now  he  was  twenty-­‐four,  a  man,  a  man  with   a  future  and  a  mission.   He  touched  the  gravestone  again.   'Never  again  mum,  dad.  Never  again.'   It  had  been  a  dream,  his  only  dream,  to  become  a  lawyer,  to  fight  the  mine  owners  and  to  bring   an  end  to  the  use  of  children  in  the  darkness  of  hell.  To  force  the  owners  with  their  great  wealth   to  pay  a  decent  wage  and  to  improve  safety.   It  had  been  a  dream,  now  it  was  a  reality.   As  he  looked  beyond  the  grave  to  the  distant  silhouette  of  the  pit  of  his  youth  he  raised  his  fist   up  into  the  sky  and  as  he  did  so  the  sun  broke  through  the  cloud  and  a  ray  of  light  shone  upon   the  church  and  lit  up  the  words  engraved  above  the  old  wooden  door:     When  a  sparrow  dies  God  sees  and  cares,  how  much  more  so  when  a  man  dies?   April  2013   23    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

COAL Coal was  once  our  greatest  need,  

Salt of  the  earth,  

upon this  we  are  all  agreed.    

treated others  as  a  brother,  

Coal ran  through  British  culture.  

always willing  to  help  each  other    

Britain released  the  genie,  coal,  

in conditions  mysterious  and  dangerous  

more than  any  nation,  

and absolutely  to  the  body,  ruinous.  

becoming part  of  the  British  soul.  

My memory  is  my  treasure  

Coal transformed  society,  

Reflections often  metaphor  

it shaped  the  fate  of  nations,  

As I  write  of  my  life  journey  

launched empires,  triggered  wars,  

More and  more.  

suffered poor  industrial  relations.  

My journey  starts  in  nineteen  thirty  -­‐    

Make my  day,  let  my  verses  flow.  

Upton Colliery  starts  producing  coal,  

Graces will  follow  in  their  places,  

mining with  modern  crudity.  

that, I  know.  

On human  life  it  took  its  toll.  

The symbolic  importance  of  the  miner  

Upton’s steam  winder  with  its  cages  two  

was greater  than  their  number.  

fastest in  the  country  -­‐  

No one  could  be  finer.  

half a  mile  accrue,  

shared work  with  the  reaper.  

From a  unique  mixture  of  awe,  

sympathy guilt  and  fear  

Fearing his  deadly  sweep,  

that these  men  suffered  then  

each draw  gulping  thirty  men  

and long  before,  for  many  a  year.  

coughed and  rattled  hoarsely,  coarsely  

and never  seemed  to  notice  them.  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

An  ugly  and  dehumanising  force  

Dignity,  strength  and  morality  –    

showing no  remorse,  

of miners  lives,  I  often  tell.  

exhausting fumes  of  steam  

continuing on  its  course.  

This life  that  shaped  my  thinking  

I don’t  recall  the  first  attack  

My memories  are  my  coinage,  

that left  my  spirits  sinking,  

my sociological  purse,  

made me  angry.  Looking  back  

my sample  of  activity,  

and recalling  men  so  fine  

my snapshots  told  in  verse.  

who got  their  education    

from working  down  the  mine.  

This she-­‐devil  of  a  mine  

with its  fickle  mood    

Until, in  nineteen  sixty  four,  

took revenge  on  human  lives  

This she-­‐devil  mine  exploded  

and left  men’s  homes  subdued.  

and made  her  final  draw  

and the  manager  was  a  manager  no  more.  

In thirty  four  years  of  production  

No one  took  the  blame  –  his  salary  

fifty two  men  lost  their  lives  

remained the  same.  

and created  necrality,     making  widows  from  wives.     A  way  of  life,  hard  work  and  strife,   they  valued  ponies  more  than  men.   What’s  one  more  for  the  coffin?   Ponies  are  expensive  –     they’ll  get  a  man  for  nothing.   Isn’t  that  just  pensive?   I  have  a  love  of  history,   I’ve  learnt  from  it  as  well.  

Now  most  miners  are  gone,   my  vintage  years  I  spend   with  facts,  hard  to  comprehend.     I’ve  moved  on  with  my  life.   Between  now  and  then,   I’ve  met  important  people   but  never  better  men.   Cntd   25  


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

 

 

I’ll never  lose  the  image  

My age  has  paid  a  toll,  

of conditions  that  I  saw.  

things are  as  they  will  be  

I still  salute  the  miners,  

I owe  it  to  the  Lord  

I’ll always  take  their  side  

for my  thoughts  and  memory.  

I’m filled  with  admiration  

I speak  of  them  with  pride.  

Harry Godber   April  2013

 

 

Much  of  the  land  under  which  coal  was  found,   belonged  to  just  a  few  very  rich  men.  Some   rapacious  owners  were  determined  to  get   every  ounce  of  value  out  of  the  coal,  and  had   very  little  sympathy  for  the  hard-­‐working   miners,  and  were  reluctant  to  pay  a  living   wage.    As  an  example,  in  the  1860s  the  Duke  of   Portland’s  annual  income  from  coal  under  his   estates  amounted  to  more  than  £100,000.  (An   equivalent  of  £20  million  nowadays).    At  that   time  a  miner’s  wage  would  have  been  about   £50  per  year  (which  equates  to  £10,000).    This   is  less  than  £1  per  week,  and  a  miner’s  wife   could  probably  need  16  shillings  (80p)  to  keep   a  family  of  nine  in  a  small  cottage.    

 Equally,  there  were  about  3,000  mines  held   by  small  companies  with  little  finance  available   for  modernisation.    There  were  394  pits  in  the   East  and  West  Ridings,  alone.  

Methane gas,  or  firedamp,  is   formed  by  the  decay  of  the   vegetable  matter  in  ancient   swamps.    Much  of  the  gas  was   retained  with  the  pores  of  the   coal  as  it  formed  and  held  there   by  the  pressure  of  the  strata   above,  but  mining  reduced  the   pressure  and  allowed  the   methane  to  escape.    Methane   burns  violently  and  the  shock  of   the  flame  drives  coal  dust  into  the   air  –  and  that  explodes,  causing   serious  accidents  and  disasters.     Another  cause  of  death  was   slowly  choking  in  the  carbon   monoxide  resulting  from  the   blast.  

Anne Rhodes  

Anne Rhodes  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

THE PIGEONS by  Diane  Galloway   Millie,  three  years  old,  wakes  up.  A  slice  of  pale  white  light  cleaves  a  passage  through  the  gap  in   her  green  bedroom  curtains  and  falls  across  the  bedspread  creating  a  stripe  that  travels  as  far   as  the  opposite  wall.  The  rest  of  the  room  looks  like  it’s  underwater.   Millie  wonders  if  today  will  be  the  day  when  the  pigeons  come  home.  It  has  become  a  matter  of   life  or  death,  like  avoiding  a  crack  on  the  pavement  or  not  walking  under  a  ladder.  If  the  pigeons   come  home  her  father  will  come  home  too.  She’s  got  it  all  planned.  It  will  be  a  Sunday  and  after   he’s  fed  the  pigeons  they’ll  walk  across  the  fields.  The  sun  will  be  shining  and  she’ll  be  wearing   her  new  cotton  frock.  Her  father  will  tell  her  the  names  of  the  different  birds  and  show  her   where  to  look  for  primroses.  If  the  bluebells  are  out  in  the  wood  they’ll  pick  a  bunch  for  her   mother  who  is  busy  cooking  the  Sunday  dinner  and  if  she  gets  tired  he’ll  lift  her  up  onto  his   shoulders.     When  they  get  home  her  mother  will  be  rosy-­‐cheeked  from  the  heat  of  the  oven.  She’ll  clap  her   hands  when  she  sees  the  flowers  and  straight  away  put  them  in  the  blue  and  white  jug  that   stands  on  the  windowsill.  There  will  be  Yorkshire  puddings  and  roast  beef  with  gravy,  and  after   dinner  she  will  draw  all  the  things  she’s  seen  on  her  walk  in  the  giant  jotter  that  Father   Christmas  brought  her.     A  quick  glance  through  the  window  shows  that  the  yard  is  empty,  the  pigeon  loft  silent.  She   misses  the  smoky-­‐grey  birds  and  the  soft  noise  they  make,  like  they’re  gargling  with  peas,  but   most  of  all  she  misses  her  father.  Her  mother  misses  him  as  well.  Millie  has  seen  her  rocking  on   her  heels,  crying  into  a  teacloth,  her  white  face  puffy  like  rising  dough.  Sometimes  she  sees  her   burying  her  face  in  his  jacket.     Her  father  has  had  an  accident  at  the  pit  her  mother  says,  and  he’s  gone  to  a  place  called   Heaven  where  the  angels  are  looking  after  him.  Millie’s  grandma  went  to  Heaven  when  she   broke  her  hip.  When  she  was  better  her  father  took  her  to  see  her  and  she  said,  “Those  nurses   are  angels.  They  looked  after  me  a  treat.”   Millie’s  father’s  things  are  waiting  for  him  too;  his  shaving  soap  and  razor  on  the  bathroom   shelf,  his  toothbrush  in  a  glass,  his  slippers  by  the  kitchen  fire,  his  Johnnie  Ray  records  on  top  of   the  radiogram.  Lots  of  cards  are  waiting  for  him  to  read,  cards  from  all  his  friends  saying  they’re   sorry  about  his  accident.  Her  mother  calls  them  Cards  of  Sympathy.   Her  father’s  smell  is  all  over  the  house;  a  mixture  of  leather,  damp  wool,  shaving  soap,  boot   polish  and  Brylcreem.  A  black  hair  is  caught  in  the  velvet  of  his  favourite  armchair,  his   newspaper  under  the  seat  where  he  left  it.   Cntd    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  The  day  before  yesterday  a  man  called  Charlie  came  to  take  away  the  pigeons.  He  came  in  a  big   red  truck.  Charlie  had  hair  like  grated  carrots  and  white  skin  with  freckles  like  nutmeg  on  rice   pudding.  Millie  sat  on  the  step  and  watched  him  as  he  gently  scooped  up  the  pigeons  one  by   one  and  put  them  into  baskets  like  picnic  hampers.   “There’s  a  knack  to  it,”  he  said,  “you’ve  got  to  hold  ‘em  gentle-­‐like  yet  firm,  give  ‘em  a  bit  of  a   stroke,  talk  to  ‘em  softly,  make  cooing  sounds,  treat  ‘em  like  a  girlfriend.”  He  laughed  showing  a   chipped  front  tooth.   “I’ll  look  after  ‘em  real  good  and  if  the  odd  un  comes  back  here,  I’ll  come  out  and  fetch  it,”  he   promised.    “It  may  take  a  while  for  ‘em  to  get  used  to  their  new  surroundings.”     That  was  two  days  ago.  Millie  has  looked  for  the  pigeons  every  day.  Not  a  single  one  has  come   home.  She  dresses  and  goes  downstairs  to  the  kitchen.  There’s  porridge,  toast,  and  strawberry   jam.  Her  mother  takes  the  milk  out  of  the  shiny  new  fridge  that  her  father  has  worked  overtime   for  and  kicks  the  door  shut  as  if  she’s  angry  with  it.  Millie  eats  her  porridge  and  takes  her  toast   outside.   “Don’t  go  far,  Millie,”  her  mother  calls  after  her.     It  is  a  misty  spring  morning,  the  sun  hiding  in  a  sky  that  looks  like  stretched  muslin.   “Come  here,  Millie,  I’ve  got  summat  to  show  you.”  Billy  Tickle  is  standing  at  the  gate.  Billy  lives   in  the  same  street.  He’s  a  lot  older  than  Millie.  He’s  in  his  second  year  at  school  and  he  can  read   books  by  himself  and  ride  a  two-­‐wheeler  bike.  Billy’s  wearing  wellies,  his  knees  are  scabbed,  his   short  trousers  held  up  with  braces.  His  thin  face  is  gleeful  and  sly  like  that  of  a  greedy  fox  that’s   discovered  how  to  barbecue  chickens.  When  Millie  gets  up  close  she  sees  he’s  hiding  something   in  cupped  hands.  He  opens  them  slowly  and  they  part  like  the  two  halves  of  a  nutshell  revealing   a  mouse,  its  head  hanging  by  a  bloody  thread.   “Poor  thing,”  says  Millie.   Billy’s  smile  disappears.  “I  thought  you’d  scream,”  he  says.   “What  happened?”   “Cat  got  it.  It’s  dead,”  says  Billy.     “Will  it  go  to  heaven?”     “S’pose  so.”   “Will  it  come  back  when  the  angels  have  made  it  better?”   “Nah,  it  ain’t  ever  coming  back.”   Cntd   28    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  “My  grandma  went  to  heaven.  She  had  an  operation  and  came  back.”   “That  was  the  hospital,  Silly.  Heaven’s  where  you  go  when  you’re  dead.”   Millie  tries  to  speak  but  there’s  a  lump  in  her  throat  the  size  of  an  egg.   “I’m  going  to  find  a  box  and  we’ll  bury  it  and  say  a  prayer,”  says  Billy,  and  he  runs  off,  the   mouse’s  tail  dangling  like  a  broken  shoelace.     Millie  walks  slowly  into  the  kitchen.  Her  mother  is  chopping  vegetables.   “You  didn’t  stay  out  long,”  she  says.  Millie  trembles.  She  suddenly  feels  cold.  When  she  speaks   the  words  come  out  in  a  whisper.   “They’re  not  coming  back,  are  they?”   Her  mother  understands  perfectly.   “No,  Millie.  They’re  not  coming  back,”  she  says,  and  somehow  Millie  finds  herself  on  her   mother’s  lap.  She  buries  her  face  in  her  mother’s  softness  and  the  tears  come  fast  and  furious   as  a  waterfall.  Together  they  wet  each  other  through,  and  when  they’ve  both  cried  enough   tears  to  fill  a  washing-­‐up  bowl,  Millie  thinks  it’s  time  to  help  Billy  bury  the  mouse.  But  before   she  goes  she  needs  to  ask  her  mother  a  question.   “What  colour  were  Daddy’s  eyes?”  she  says.   Her  mother  kisses  the  top  of  her  head.  “They  were  blue,  Millie,”  she  says  softly.  “Just  like   yours.”     April  2013      

             

By the  1300’s  coal  was  being  mined  for  industrial  purposes  such  as  brewing,  d yeing,  lime-­‐ making.    This  lime  was  used  to  make  mortar  when  building  the  many  Castles  which  appeared  in   that  era.   Transport  of  coal  sometimes  caused  a  problem.    The  North-­‐East  used  coastal  shipping,  and  on   the  roads  coal  was  d elivered  by  horses  pulling  big  carts.    Eventually  the  railroads  were  built,  and   these  were  used  extensively,  and  ironically  these  same  railways  also  u sed  the  coal  for  power.     Anne  Rhodes     29    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

TOM'S TALE Mi Mam,  mi  Dad,  they  work  at  Moorend   Pit,   An'  sister  Jenny,  down  the  Huskar  'ole.   They  leave  before  the  dawn  has  broken   through;   Can  find  the  way  e'en  when  the  sky  is  black.     I  stumble  on  alone,  I  know  I'm  slow,   Mi  gammy  leg  don't  work  the  way  it  should;   That's  why  I'm  with  the  hosses,  in  the  stall;   I  clean  'em,  feed  'em,  bed  'em  all  wiv  straw.     Mi  works  not  'ard,  not  like  it  is  for  Dad,   'E  works  the  seam  face,  gettin',  winnin'   coal;   An'  Mam  fills  up  the  corves  the  best  she   can,  

I reckon  she  don't  like  it,  down  the  pit,   She's  lonely  an'  she's  frightened,  I  can  tell.   Sometimes  I  hear  her  whimper,  call  for   Mam,   At  'ome  in  bed  'er  nightmares  are  of  rats.     The  Deputy's  a  good  man,  an'  'e's  kind,   'E  gives  me  all  'is  crusts  when  it's  bait*  time;   But  Jonas  Clarke,  the  boss,  who  owns   Moorend,   'E  shouts,  'e  don't  'ave  no  good  words  for   us.     One  day  when  I'm  growed  up,  I  think  I'll   leave'   I'll  travel,  work  wiv  'osses  in  the  light;   An'  Jenny  can  come  wiv  me  if  she  likes,  

Her belly  swollen  with  'er  unborn  bairn.  

P'raps a  circus  man  will  tek  us  on.  

An' little  Jenny  sits  the  whole  day  through  

She might  be  learned  to  walk  along  a  wire,  

Aside a  wooden  door,  wiv  rope  in  hand,  

An' I  could  mek  'er  laugh  jus'  like  a  clown,  

She listens  for  the  sound  of  hooves  an'  toil,  

We'd send  some  pennies  'ome,  ter  Dad  an'   Mam,  

It's pitch  black  dark,  'er  candles  all  burnt   out.      

An they  could  get  the  'ell  out  of  that  'ole!   Janet  Niepokojczycka   April  2013  

*bait =  food.  This  poem  was  inspired  by  a  recent  visit  to  the  National  Coal  Mining  Museum  and   by  reading  excerpts  from  Children  of  the  Dark  by  Alan  Gallop  where  I  learnt  of  the  terrible   Huskar  Pit  disaster  of  1838  when  26  children  drowned  in  the  mine  near  Silkstone.   30    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

BIG NUMBERS I was  writing  a  poem  about  the  Prince  of   Wales  pit  

Just a  few  years  before,  in  one-­‐eight  fifty   seven,  

On the  outskirts  of  Pontefract,  I  was   researching  it  

One hundred  and  eighty  nine  souls  blew  to   heaven.  

When I  stumbled  on  stories  of  19th  century   carnage  

When Lundhill  exploded  with  ground-­‐ shaking  might  

Of miners,  when  the  owners  were  joining   the  peerage.  

Seven sons  of  the  Kellets  all  perished  that   night.  

So great  were  the  fires  raging  wild   underground  

It happened  in  Barnsley  and  villages  about   The  scandalous  loss  of  lives  snuffed  out   In  numbers  so  large  it  looked  like  the  wars   Of  the  20th  century  had  come  to  their   doors.    

That a  stream  was  diverted  as  the  only   means  found   To  quell  the  inferno;  but  flooding  the  mine   Meant  recovering  the  bodies  would  take  a   long  time.    

The worst  was  Oakes  Colliery  one  grey   December  day   When  three  hundred  and  forty  one  lives   blew  away.   In  blast  after  blast  after  blast  after  blast   100  remained  missing;  they  abandoned   that  task.  

Just two  large  disasters  of  the  many  that   befell   The  men,  boys  and  girls  doing  jobs  close  to   hell   Hard-­‐wired  in  the  fabric  of  village  life   evermore  

Outsiders just  don’t  get  it,  they  don’t  know   the  score.  

Seamus  Healy  

 

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

A GRAND DAY OUT by Allen  Grandidge. Hemsworth  Writers,  a  group  of  mainly  pensionable  aged  people,  arrived  at  Caphouse  Colliery   on  a  wet  grey  Wednesday  in  March.     We  left  the  warmth  of  the  minibus  and  walked  quickly  across  the  car  park  through  the  entrance   and  into  the  warmth  of  the  shop  and  a  greeting  by  our  lady  guide  who  showed  us  into  a  room   where  we  received  a  booklet  and  a  map  of  the  site.  Our  tutor  gave  us  a  few  pointers  about  the   colliery,  after  which  we  were  given  a  time  when  we  would  all  collect  at  the  Lamp  Room  to  be   fitted  with  helmets  and  heavy  sealed  batteries,  complete  with  a  small  lamp  that  we  had  to   carry.   Before  that,  we  then  had  some  time  to  inspect  the  pit-­‐top  workings,  some  of  which  seemed   rather  rudimentary;  all  miners,  whatever  their  particular  job,  needed  a  bath  when  their  shift   was  finished  and  these  baths  at  Caphouse  must  have  been  the  very  basic  design.  I  doubt   anybody  stayed  in  them  very  long.     There  is  very  little  room  to  manoeuvre  in  the  locker  area  –  there  would  be  a  group  of  men   trying  to  undress  from  coal  dusted  shirts  and  pants,  placing  these  in  to  a  dirty  locker  before   grabbing  a  piece  of  soap  to  cross  a  draughty  passageway  where  other  men  were  dodging  into   the  shower  room,  searching  for  a  space  under  a  body-­‐warming  downpour  of  fresh  clean  water.   The  return  walk  to  collect  clean  clothes  must  have  dampened  the  spirits  of  these  men  and  I   should  imagine  that  no  time  was  wasted  pulling  on  their  day  clothes.   Connected  to  the  pithead  baths  we  found  a  medical  room  where  models  of  nurses  and  even  a   dentist  were  on  show.  There  we  heard  recordings  of  what  sounded  like  working  for  the  health   of  the  pit  men.   Cntd  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  Next  we  went  to  the  pit  yard  where  we  found  stables  for  the  pit  ponies.  As  a  child  I,  with  my   sister  and  cousin,  were  allowed  to  visit  the  ponies  at  Acton  Hall  Colliery,  our  Uncle  being  the   Yard  Foreman.  Most  of  these  ponies  were  tiny,  probably  Shetland  or  maybe  Moor  but  all   seemed  to  have  cloudy  eyes  and  sniffed  around  our  hands  for  the  odd  apple  or  piece  of  bread   and  the  occasional  bag  of  oats  (provided  by  Granddad  who  was  a  Joinery  Shop  Foreman  and   lived  in  a  house  backing  onto  the  pit  yard).   At  Caphouse  there  wasn’t  any  sign  of  ponies  so  we  searched  around  the  yard  and  found  a  larger   horse  cropping  grass,  his  head  hanging  over  the  top  of  the  fence,  reaching  for  grass  that  should   have  been  beyond  his  reach  -­‐  but  this  is  typical  animal  behaviour.   There  was  a  shunter  stood  beneath  a  section  of  the  screens  (the  place  where  coal  is  washed   and  sorted).  The  shunter  is  a  steam  engine  used  for  moving  trucks  around  the  pit  estate,  full   ones  ready  to  be  collected,  empty  ones  in  readiness  for  filling.  A  few  of  the  old  wooden-­‐sided   engines  were  close  by.   At  last  the  time  arrived  when  we  were  to  assemble  at  the  pit  shaft  to  collect  our  headgear  and   be  fitted  with  our  lamps.  We  were  introduced  to  our  guide  for  the  duration  of  our  visit  below   ground  and  he  gave  us  a  quick  summary  of  what  we  would  be  doing  and  a  choice  of  helmets  to   wear.  There  was  a  large  container  filled  with  said  headgear  and  we  dipped  our  hands  in  and   took  a  suitable  one.  Then  he  asserted  that  woolly  hats  would  have  to  be  left  behind  and  our   watches  and  mobile  phones  were  all  potentially  dangerous  being  battery  driven.  A  spark  in  the   dark  plus  any  gas  and  we  would  all  be  history.  Thanks  mate!   Our  lamps  were  all  original  colliery  tested  equipment  with  a  large  heavy  battery  slung  around   the  waist  with  a  hand-­‐held  light.  These  would  normally  be  fitted  to  the  colliers’  helmet  but  our   helmets  didn’t  have  the  necessary  lamp  bracket.  We  handed  our  bags  containing  our  phones   Cntd   33    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  etc.  to  the  Lamp  Room  attendants  for  safe-­‐keeping  and  leaned  over  a  glass-­‐topped  shaft  trying     to  see  a  small  light  many  feet  below  while  our  guide  encouraged  us  to  stand  on  the  glass  with   the  words,  “It’s  safe  enough.”  It  didn’t  encourage  many  of  our  group  though.   Stepping  into  the  cage  to  go  below  ground  we  knew  it  would  be  like  using  a  normal  lift  but   there  was  the  thought  that  this  was  not  an  ordinary  trip.  Standing  there  we  watched  the  brick-­‐ lined  shaft  and  one  began  to  wonder  of  the  men  who  lined  the  shaft.  Was  the  hole  dug  to  its   deepest  depth  before  the  bricks  were  laid?  Was  the  whole  shaft  reinforced  with  steel  first  or   was  the  surrounding  fabric  held  back  by  wooden  struts  and  boards?  A  question  I  didn’t  get  to   ask.     At  the  bottom  we  gathered  together  while  our  guide  pointed  out  one  or  two  things  to  us  and  I   found  out  I  had  a  faulty  lamp  –  the  light  kept  dipping  to  low  which  meant  that  every  now  and   again  I  had  to  knock  it  against  my  other  hand  to  encourage  it  to  brighten.  Luckily  this  sufficed   and  I  was  never  left  in  the  dark  until  we  reached  a  point  of  interest  where  plastic  models  of  a   family  were  situated  and  the  guide  told  us  to  switch  off  our  lamps.  I  tried  to  cheat  by  holding   my  subdued  lamp  close  to  my  chest,  my  neighbour  holding  his  lamp  to  his  back  but,  of  course,   our  guide  was  aware  of  this  trickery  and  switched  our  lights  off  for  us.  So,  there  we  were  in  total   darkness.   The  small  boy  of  the  family,  we  were  told,  had  to  endure  12  hours  of  this  darkness  each  day,  his   job  to  open  a  small  door  on  a  work  area  that  his  father  and  mother  crept  into  together  and   worked  nearly  naked  because  the  space  was  so  small  and  their  body  heat  soon  made  it   unbearably  hot.  Children  would  start  working  as  soon  as  they  were  capable  of  sitting  on  a  small   box  holding  a  piece  of  string  connected  to  the  door  and  listening  for  the  knock  from  Mother  to   open  the  door  for  her  to  shove  in  a  container  of  coal.  Meanwhile  her  husband  hacked  away     Cntd   34    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  inside  the  hole.  What  fears  did  many  children  suffer  for  many  hours  because  they  couldn’t   afford  a  candle  which  was  itself  a  danger  if  gas  escaped  where  they  were  working?   I  thought  back  to  my  own  childhood;  there  was  nothing  like  that  for  my  generation  born  during   wartime  and  schooled  during  the  forties  and  fifties.  Leaving  school  at  fifteen  we  were  protected   from  dangers  of  all  kinds.  I  was  apprenticed  into  engineering  and  never  knew  what  some  of  my   schoolmates  experienced  working  in  the  mines  but  I  was  assured  by  most  of  them  that  the  work   was  hard  and  difficult  but  their  safety  was  foremost  and  none  had  to  crawl  about  in  the  dark.   Some  have  tragically  paid  with  their  health,  suffering  with  emphysema  and  pneumoconiosis   caused  by  breathing  in  the  coal  dust  and  also  the  stone  dust    that  was  laid  down  to  hold  down   the  finer  coal  and  prevent  it  from  flying  around  when  a  draught  of  air  rushed  in  each  time  one   of  the  gates  opened.     Walking  the  galleries  was  akin  to  walking  through  a  long  tunnel.  My  thought  before  had  been   directed  to  what  it  would  feel  like  knowing  there  would  be  so  much  earth  above  us  but  once   down  there  you  can  see  the  amount  of  steel  work  protruding  from  the  workplace.  Each  arch  is  a   set  distance  apart  with  sheets  of  galvanised  steel  in  between,  holding  the  roof.  One  wonders   who  the  men  were  that  did  this  work  and  how  long  ago.   As  we  traversed  the  different  galleries  there  was  a  constant  reminder  from  the  tannoy  system   of  men  calling  out  instructions  or  asking  for  one  thing  or  the  other.  Voices  from  the  past   entered  our  heads,  images  of  men  toiling  with  pieces  of  equipment  dragging  tubs  of  coal,   connecting  said  tubs  to  the  little  workhorses,  men  squatting  where  they  worked  to  drink  from   their  ‘dudley’  (a  water  container)  and  eat  a  sandwich  of  bread  and  dripping  or  if  they  were  lucky   a  piece  of  cheese.   Cntd  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  There  were  a  number  of  models  of  men  doing  their  work,  like  the  shot  firer.  At  one  point  our   guide  tried  to  kid  everybody  that  a  couple  of  sticks  of  dynamite  would  explode  if  dropped;  I   don’t  think  he  convinced  anybody  because  when  he  did  drop  them,  nobody  flinched.   There  are  areas  in  the  mine  where  machines  had  taken  over  from  miners,  digging  large  swathes   of  coal  to  keep  our  power  stations  working,  something  that  should  be  reconsidered  by  our   politicians  if  we  are  to  be  self-­‐sufficient  in  our  energy.  Wind  farms,  as  known  by  anybody  with   common  sense,  are  useless  and  the  cost  is  being  kept  quiet!  Cheaper  to  return  to  coal!   At  the  end  of  the  underground  tour  we  were  invited  to  select  a  small  piece  of  coal  as  a  souvenir   and  then  made  our  way  back  to  the  shaft  for  our  return  ride  back  to  the  pit  top,  where  we   removed  our  lamps  and  helmets,  handed  them  back  to  the  lamp  room  staff  and  collected  our   bags.  With  a  cheery  goodbye  we  rushed  to  the  café  and  a  warm  meal  that  proved  to  be   excellent.   April  2013     During  their  early  digging  men  came       across  peat,  lead,  zinc  and  copper,  and   mined  these  as  well.  The  after-­‐affects  of   lead-­‐mining  are  still  felt  by  the  hill-­‐ farmers  of  today  due  to  the  poisoning  of   the  land  by  the  lead  brought  to  the   surface.    However,  eventually  the  pits  they  dug   for  other  things  became  less  and  less   productive,  and  coal  was  the  only  thing   that  continued  to  be  mined  on  a  regular   basis,  over  more  and  more  of  this   country.  

 By  1900  approximately  two-­‐ thirds  of  the  world’s  trade  in  coal   came  from  Britain.   Coal  was  u sed  in  the  production   of  many  different  trades,  such  as   iron  and  steel  making,  and  by   different  forms  of  transport   requiring  large  steam-­‐powered   engines,  as  well  as  factories.      It   was  also  used  in  the  production  of   gas  for  lighting  towns  and  houses.   Anne  Rhodes  

Anne Rhodes  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

IMAGINE I try  to  think  of  something  good  to  say  of   coal   And  struggle.   An  empire  was  built  on  it  you  say   But  at  what  cost  say  I.    

Many died,   Many  had  cause  to  wish  for  death,   No  one  smiled.     As  a  career  choice  it  rates  as  zero,   As  the  pits.  

God buried  the  black  stuff  deep   underground,  

Don't go  down  the  mines  my  son,  

Out of  harm’s  way,  

Don't.

Deep in  the  bowels  of  the  earth.  

Surely He  had  His  reasons.  

Is there  anything  good  to  say  of  coal?  

I struggle,  

Like moles  men  tunnelled  into  the  earth.  

Smile, Yes,  the  mines  have  gone  away.  

Ian  Downing   April  2013       In  medieval  times  coal  was  obtained     by  making  bell  pits  –  which  were  simply   short  vertical  shafts  taken  down  to  the  coal  level,  and  then  widened  in  a  bell   shape  to  extract  the  coal.    When  a  certain  amount  of  coal  had  been  extracted   the  bell  collapsed  due  to  lack  of  support,  and  the  workers  moved  a  little  further   along  the  land  and  dug  another  shaft  into  the  same  coal  seam.   Sometimes,  because  of  difficulty  of  access,  adits  (small  horizontal  tunnels)  were   dug  instead.    Early  coal  was  known  as  sea  cole  because  it  had  originally  been   found  washed  up  on  the  North  East  coast  from  cliffs  or  undersea  outcrops.     Anne  Rhodes    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

A GLIMPSE INTO THE MINERS’ WORLD By Gwyneth  Brown The  road  was  black  and  airless.  The  right  pad  had  spun  round  to  the  back  of  my  knee  and  there   was  very  little  room  to  manoeuvre  as  I  stopped  to  adjust  it.  Helmets  knocking  on  the  low  roof  of   the  seam  made  a  pop,  pop  sound  which  faded  into  the  distance  as  the  rest  of  the  party  moved   on.  They  were  not  aware  I  had  dropped  behind  because  the  miner  leading  the  group  was  at  the   front.  I  could  no  longer  hear  them  and  panic  began  to  rise  as  I  found  myself  totally  alone  in  the   silent  airless,  dusty,  black  space.  It  was  absolute  sensory  deprivation.  My  heart  thumped  in  my   chest  and  I  could  barely  breathe.  Pull  yourself  together  and  crawl.  They  can’t  be  far  away.  He   wouldn’t  have  brought  you  if  it  was  dangerous  or  you  could  get  lost  I  reasoned  as  I  began   creeping  on  all  fours,  quelling  my  fear  and  self-­‐pity.   The  relief  at  hearing  voices  and  seeing  a  chink  of  light  was  immense.  The  others  were  showing   great  interest  in  the  cutting  machinery  and  all  the  paraphernalia  being  displayed  as  the  daily  lot   of  the  miners.  No  one  had  noticed  I  was  missing  or  at  least  didn’t  comment.     Covered  in  black  coal  dust  and  with  a  renewed  respect  for  the  men  who  lived  most  of  their   working  days  in  the  pits,  we  headed  for  a  welcome  shower.     That  was  an  experience  I  have  no  desire  to  repeat  in  spite  of  the  generosity  of  the  Fryston  pit  in   allowing    us  to  see  a  little  of  a  world  alien  to  most  of  us.   I  recall  a  later  visit  to  the  Mining  Museum  which  also  horrified  me;  I  saw  how  women  and   children  had  worked  in  indescribable  conditions  in  the  coal  mines.  That  visit  also  brought  back     memories  of  my  local  mining  community  with  their  metal  snap*  tins  and  the  men’s  black-­‐ rimmed  eyes.    I  suppose  I  used  to  take  these  sort  of  things  at  face  value,  not  understanding  that   the  metal  snap  tins  were  really  to  keep  mice  out  of  the  food  and  the  pit  boots  and  helmets  with     Cntd   38    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  lamps  were  not  just  uniform  accessories  but  absolute  necessities.   I  have  other  memories  too;  Coal  Board  employees  used  to  receive  a  coal  allowance.  A  ton  of   coal  was  usually  tipped  on  the  pavement  outside  of  the  house.  The  coal  had  to  be  shovelled  and   barrowed  into  the  coal  house  and  the  pavement  hosed  down.  Dogs,  especially  blond  dogs,   would  frequently  roll  in  the  black  coal  dust  –  seemingly  just  to  annoy  their  owners.   Coal  fires  both  domestic  and  industrial  spewed  smoke  out  into  the  atmosphere  and  washing   hanging  on  the  line  to  dry  was  often  smudged  with  sooty  smears.  Smog,  frequently  referred  to   as  “pea  soup”  was  a  common  feature  during  the  autumn  and  winter  months  and  when  we   walked  outside  in  the  smog  we  had  black-­‐lined  nostrils  from  breathing  the  polluted  air.   Mortality  and  morbidity  was  higher  then.   The  closure  of  the  pits  brought  fear  and  dread  for  the  loss  of  men’s  livelihoods  and  the   fracturing  of  the  local  communities’  cohesion.  Families  were  at  loggerheads,  one  with  another,   during  the  ensuing  strikes.  SCAB  was  scrawled  on  walls  when  men  chose  to  cross  the  picket   lines.  Desperation  drove  some  men  back  to  work  to  feed  their  families  though  some  had  savings   to  draw  on  for  their  survival  whilst  others  went  hungry.  The  situation  spawned  a  breed  of   strong  women  who  set  up  services  for  food  distribution  and  the  sharing  of  material  resources  to   support  the  strikers  and  their  families.  Resentments  still  linger  on  after  decades.     We  miss  the  cosy  coal  fire  and  it  is  easy  to  look  back  with  nostalgia  on  those  days  when  coal   was  plentiful  and  cheap  but  it  is  important  to  remember  that  mining  was  a  harsh  and  life-­‐ draining  industry.     12/4/2013     *Snap  is  a  local  word  for  food,  especially  packed  lunches  etc.    

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

FEAR. Being a  miner,  a  profession  chosen  for  you-­‐    

Stomach heaving  as  you  fell  

It had  been  the  work  your  dad  had  to  do-­‐  

To face  a  life  in  inky  black  

You were  not  allowed  to  admit  you  were   scared.  

With blood  and  scratches  on  your  back.    

Your views  and  ideas  would  not  be  heard.  

Four legged  friends  and  two-­‐legged  mates  

And after  all  you  had  to  do  whatever  your   dad  told  you  to.  

On a  trolley  through  the  gates  

Into a  life  you  would  only  hate  

No career  advisor  would  be  around.  

To learn  the  skills  long  learned  before,  

Your life  was  committed  to  underground.  

But you  would  be  brave  and  show  no  fear,    

So much  to  learn,  so  much  to  hate,  

Just do  as  you  are  told  now  that  you  are   here.  

So much  depended  on  your  mate.  

Shift time  over  and  black-­‐  faced  tramps  

And so  you  went  –  young  in  age-­‐  

Speed upward  to  return  the  lamps  

Like an  animal  in  a  cage.  

Speeding down,  down  to  hell,  

Amy Gott   April  2013  

                 

 Coal  was  formed  from  forests  which  date  back  to  approximately   300  million  years  ago.    The  dead  forestation  formed  into  rocks,   compressed  by  other  formations  above  it.    These  other  rocks  were   limestone,  made  from  sea  creatures;  sandstone,  deposited  by   ancient  rivers,  and  then  the  true  coal  seams,  which  were   interspersed  with  silty  rock  and  ironstone.    Over  this  period  of   millions  of  years,  the  different  strata  moved  at  different  speeds,  and   this  resulted  in  some  coal  seams  being  much  deeper  than  others.   Anne  Rhodes  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

A MINING COMMUNITY By  Amy  Gott   Today  was  like  a  memory  trip  for  me.  I  enjoyed  my  trip  to  Caphouse  Colliery,  now  known  as  the   National  Coal  Mining  Museum.   I  didn’t  go  down  the  pit.  I  had  done  it  before  so  I  spent  my  time  looking  at  items  that  used  to   represent  the  way  of  life  years  ago.  When  I  was  born  in  1930  my  Dad  was  already  a  victim  of   the  progress  of  mining.  The  advent  of  mechanical  usage  to  get  the  coal,  I  was  told,  was  more   than  my  Dad’s  nerves  could  stand  and  so  he  became  unemployed.   In  my  village  there  were  two  mines  with  a  third  adjoining  by  an  underground  tunnel  to  the  next   village.  Mining  was  the  main  occupation  –  this  or  farming  –  but  if  your  Dad  or  Granddad  had   been  a  miner  it  was  expected  that  you  would  also  be  one  and  in  my  brother’s  case  he  was  14   when  I  was  born  so  he  became  a  miner.  From  this  young  age  till  he  died  in  his  eighties  he  never   missed  a  chance  to  tell  me  that  he  worked  to  keep  me  as  our  Dad  was  on  the  dole  when  I  was   born.   I  didn’t  understand  or  care  really  what  this  meant  till  I  was  older,  so  my  life  went  along  very   happily  knowing  that  my  Mam  and  Dad  were  always  at  home.  I  have  thought  since  then  that   this  was  why  my  Mam  and  Dad  used  to  fight  sometimes  due  to  work  problems.  My  older   brother  who  was  10  years  older  than  me  became  a  farm  labourer  and  was  never  less  than  a   very  pleasant  and  humorous  man,  loved  by  everyone.   Dad  had  to  move  away  sometimes  for  road  clearing,  drain  digging,  snow  clearing,  grave  digging   and  at  home  he  repaired  our  shoes  and  some  belonging  to  the  neighbours.  He  was  also  very   clever  with  woodwork  and  loved  music,  playing  the  organ,  piano  and  flute.  Ours  was  a  cash   poor  but  happy  home.   My  Dad  didn’t  work  full  time  again  until  the  Second  World  War  began,  then  he  worked  in  the   aircraft  factory.  My  Mam  did  her  part  for  the  war  effort  organising  charity  events,  housing  Bevin   boys  and  she  became  a  surrogate  mother  for  a  whole  orphanage  of  babies  and  nurses  who   were  brought  from  the  danger  of  bombs  on  the  south  coast  to  live  in  a  local  clinic.  All  the   people  we  were  connected  with  became  very  fond  of  our  family  and  kept  in  touch  for  many   years.   After  the  war  was  over  my  Dad  went  to  work  at  the  pit  again  and  until  he  was  65  he  worked  on   the  pit  top  and  in  his  latter  years  at  work  he  was  an  assistant  in  the  medical  centre.   I  am  proud  to  be  a  product  of  a  mining  community.   April  2013

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

JUST ANOTHER SHIFT Two  thousand  feet  beneath  the  ground   In  dangerous  space  you  move  around   Against  the  odds  you  must  contrive   To  ‘fill-­‐off  your  stint’,  and  stay  alive.     Strong  men  they  are,  a  few  are  stronger   Prepared  to  help  those  taking  longer   Than  in  their  prime,  of  years  ago   This  work  is  what  they  know.     It’s  dark,  you  cannot  see  the  dust   Except  in  your  lamp’s  beam  and  just   Before  you  breathe  it  in,  you  pray   That  nothing  worse  befalls  your  day.     Not  three  feet  high  the  ceiling  stands   Ready  to  make  its  cruel  demands   Backed  by  a  thousands  of  tons  of  rock   An  imminent,  man-­‐made,  seismic  shock.     Your  friends  the  props,  stout  men  of  wood   Speak  loud  and  clear,  scream  that  you  should   Run  for  your  life  to  a  safer  place   The  collapse  is  coming,  it’s  coming  apace.     You  can’t  be  there  when  the  roof  hits  the  floor   In  a  raging  dust-­‐storm,  with  a  deafening  roar.   But  for  miners,  these  matters  of  life  and  death   Are  spoken  in  ordinary  breath.    

 

          Seamus  Healy  

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

THE MINER’S WIFE by  Jan  Holliday   I  was  on  an  acute  medic  ward  during  my  final  year  of  training  to  become  an  S.R.N  when  I  shed   tears  on  duty.  I  haven’t  use  the  real  names  of  the  people  in  this  anecdote  because  not  to  name   patients  anywhere  outside  is  a  rule  that  I  always  keep.   The  weather  was  at  its  worst  that  November.  Dark  icy  wet  days  with  the  kind  of  fog  that  lingers   about,  getting  into  clothes  and  hair  so  that,  when  you  entered  a  warm  place,  you  could  smell   the  soot  on  yourself.   The  ward  was  so  full  that  extra  beds  had  been  brought  into  the  ward  by  porters.  There  were  so   many  patients  with  chest  conditions,  congestive  cardiac  failure,  bronchitis,  asthma,  as  well  as   liver,  kidney,  stomach  and  other  conditions.   We  had  a  couple  of  miners  on  the  ward  with  “the  dust”  or  “a  touch  of  dust”  as  they  called  it.  Of   course  it  was  pneumoconiosis.   Young  Joe,  a  man  in  his  early  fifties  or  late  forties  was  admitted  with  exacerbation  of  chronic   bronchitis.  He’d  caught  a  cold.  Hewer  or  shearer  was  down  in  his  case  notes  as  his  occupation,   both  jobs  done  in  extreme  dust  conditions,  I  believe.   Joe  Y  was  put  on  antibiotics,  4  hourly  ventolin,  nebuliser  and  oxygen  as  necessary.  Observations   were  4  hourly,  day  and  night.  He  was  still  full  of  quips  and  daft  sayings.  “Do  you  know,  nurse,   this  hotel  is  total  crap  compared  to  the  Ritz.  I’ve  a  mind  to  demand  another  room,  or  at  least  a   bed  not  like  a  plank  and  a  pillow  not  full  of  rocks.”  Young  Joe  always  asked  about  “me  old  mate,   he  were  down  the  same  shift  as  our  lad.”   Old  Joe  was  an  old  old  man  of  sixty  two,  scarred  with  the  blue  tattoos  of  coal.  He  was  brought   straight  to  the  ward  with  the  oxygen  mask  on  his  face,  breaths  rattling  and  wheezing  wetly  with   every  rise  and  fall  of  his  chest.  The  old  man  was  barely  conscious.  His  lips,  ear  lobes  and  tip  of   his  nose  were  the  slate-­‐blue/grey  of  progressive  heart  failure.  Joe’s  wife  of  many  years  was  with   him,  carrying  her  knitting  bag,  a  baby  blue  cardi  on  her  needles,  sitting  by  him,  talking  over  her   knitting.  It  is  strange  how  the  memory  holds  tiny  incidental  memories  when  faced  with   mortality.   The  ward  became  a  crazy  place  –  a  collapse  in  bed  12,  the  phone  shrilling,  announcing  more   admissions.  Matron  arrived  to  do  a  spot  check  round.  It  was  bedlam,  then  the  bed  pan  washer   in  the  sluice,  the  door  not  being  adequately  locked  sprayed  two  first  year  nurses  with  hot   water.   It  was  then  that  Mrs  Old  Joe  touched  my  arm  and  said,  “He’s  gone  now  Nurse,  I’m  going  home.  I   can  see  how  busy  you  are  but  I  thought  I’d  better  tell  you.”   She  walked  away,  back  straight,  head  bowed  with  a  dignity  I  can’t  describe  and  I  cried.  I  should   have  been  there,  someone  should  have.  I  should  have.   That  memory  still  haunts  me.  Miners  have  the  bravest  wives.     As  for  Young  Joe,  he  went  home,  condition  eased,  probably  to  become  an  Old  Joe.   43    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

DAD My source  is  Wombwell,  nineteen  thirty   four   That  stone  cottage  with  a  latch  

Too young  to  understand  and  roam   You  are  going  to  school  said  my  Mother  

Alas that  cottage  is  no  more  

For Mother  and  me  a  wonderful  hatch.    

My school  was  the  Methodist  Church   Dad  was  at  work  in  the  pit  

She married  the  man  of  her  choice,   Waved  family  arrangements  full  stop   Her  reasons  refusing  to  voice  -­‐  

Life state  of  happiness  without  search   Next  door  our  neighbour  the  blacksmith    

Gave authoritarian  father  the  chop    

How could  I  know  I  would  flee   To  my  beloved  Greece  

The love  of  her  life  was  a  miner,   Registered  marriage  Wombwell  Feast  week   She  was  a  marvellous  discerner  

When Dad  ceased  to  be?   This  Dad  my  homage  you’ll  see.      

Rejected Reuben  for  Henry  the  meek   South  Kirkby  became  our  new  home    

By now  had  a  new  baby  brother  

Shirley  Goulas

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PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

THE WRITERS Melvyn Brown  was  born  and  brought  up  in  the  Wakefield  area.  His  father  worked  in  the  pits,  as   did  his  grandfather.  Melvyn  opted  for  a  less  dangerous  life-­‐style  and  spent  most  of  his  working   lifetime  with  people  and  their  broken  appliances.  He  enjoys  poetry.   Jan  Holliday  was  brought  up  in  Ripon  and  had  no  contact  with  the  mining  industry  until  she   nursed  injured  miners  in  Pinderfields  Hospital  in  the  mid  1060’s.  Their  often  slanted,   understated  humour  caused  her  some  blushes,  much  admiration  and  a  few  tears  shed  in   private.    Jan  enjoys  writing  about  anything  that  grabs  her  attention,  be  it  an  overheard   conversation  or  wondering  why  certain  people  buy  what  they  do  whilst  waiting  in  the  checkout   queue.   Harry  Godber  has  spent  a  lifetime  in  the  mining  industry.  Born  in  1930  he  started  work  in  1944   at  Upton  Colliery.  By  the  age  of  20  he  was  a  local  councillor  and  NUM  man.  He’s  been  a  member   of  the  British  Association  of  Colliery  Management,  a  magistrate,  a  member  of  the  Police   Authority  and  has  sat  on  the  Police  Negotiating  Board  at  Home  Office  level.    He  enjoys  writing   poetry.   Anne  Rhodes’  first  memory  is  an  out  of  body  experience  when  she  was  a  toddler,  prior  to   having  a  kidney  removed.  Always  with  a  book  in  one  hand  she  worked  as  a  secretary,  nurse,  and   chiropodist,  running  these  jobs  in  tandem  with  the  time-­‐consuming  hobby  of  historical  re-­‐ enactment.  She  enjoys  writing  about  her  life  experiences.   Lynda  McCraight  was  born  in  Calverton,  Nottinghamshire  where  her  father  worked  as  a  mining   surveyor.  At  18  she  moved  to  Yorkshire  to  train  as  a  teacher  of  English  language  and  literature,   which  she  did  for  35  years.  Now  retired,  she  joined  a  creative  writing  class  in  Hemsworth  and   realised-­‐  to  her  surprise-­‐  that  the  gentleman  sitting  next  to  her  was  the  father  of  a  very  well-­‐   known  Yorkshire  playwright.  She  enjoys  writing  about  moments  from  her  own  life  and  making   people  laugh.  Sometimes-­‐  with  a  bit  of  luck  -­‐  the  two  occur  together.   Allen  Grandidge  was  born  in  his  maternal  grandfather’s  house  in  Thornhill  Lees,  Dewsbury  and   stayed  there  for  the  first  few  weeks  of  his  life.  He  was  then  brought  up  in  Featherstone,  mainly   in  his  father’s  parents’  home.  Allen  spent  his  working  life  in  engineering,  married  and  brought   up  two  sons.  He  enjoys  writing  short  stories.   Diane  Galloway  was  born  and  raised  in  Askern  among  a  family  of  miners.  She  married  a   Scotsman  and  spent  several  years  in  Scotland  where  she  once  met  the  not-­‐yet-­‐famous  Billy   Connelly.  She  enjoys  writing  short  stories.   Born  in  Dublin,  Seamus  Healy  left  there  aged  12  and  spent  the  next  50  years  in  Pontefract.  He   went  to  work  as  an  electrician  at  Kellingley  Colliery,  then  moved  to  area  HQ  as  an  electrical   engineer  where  he  worked  on  the  very  first  TV  monitoring  system.  He  likes  writing  and  reading   poetry.   Marjorie  Lacy  was  born  and  brought  up  in  Leeds.  She  worked  in  shops  and  offices,  married  and   brought  up  two  children,  then  owned  and  ran  hardware  shops  and  retired  aged  69.  With  more   45    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS  

  time  on  her  hands  she  joined  a  creative  writing  class  and  found  she  could  write  prose  and   poetry.     Howard  Osborne  is  originally  from  Essex  but  has  lived  and  worked  across  the  UK  (and  USA)  and   in  Yorkshire  for  the  last  20  years,  so  needs  the  phrasebook  less  often.    Although  never  directly   involved  in  mining,  he  has  played  cornet  with  local  colliery  brass  bands,  absorbing  some  of  the   culture  indirectly.  After  several  careers  he  is  approaching  retirement  -­‐  a  chance  to  resume   several  categories  of  creative  writing   Amy  Gott,  nee  Smith  is  the  product  of  a  mining  family.  She  was  brought  up  in  Featherstone  in   the  1920s  and  1930s.  The  town  is  well-­‐known  for  its  mining  history  and  notorious  for  killings   after  a  strike.  From  the  late  1800s  Featherstone  was  also  known  for  rugby.  Amy  has  worked  in   tailoring  as  well  as  being  a  wife,  mother,  nurse  and  carer.   Gwyneth  Brown  was  born  overseas,  came  to  Yorkshire  as  a  child  and  has  lived  most  of  her  life   in  a  mining  area.  She  only  ever  wrote  factual  reports  until  her  retirement  when  she  became   interested  in  creative  writing.   Shirley  Goulas  was  born  in  a  stone  cottage  in  Wombwell  in  1934.  As  a  young  woman  she   worked  as  a  nurse  and  counts  herself  very  fortunate  during  her  life  to  have  had  lots  of   interesting  opportunities  in  her  life.  She  tackles  all  challenges  with  enthusiasm  and   conscientiousness  and  always  works  to  her  best  ability.   Janet  Niepokojczycka  was  born  in  Nottingham,  has  lived  most  of  her  life  in  Cumbria  and  now   lives  in  Hemsworth  where  she  has  rekindled  her  hobby  of  writing  poems  and  stories.  Her  early   career  as  a  teacher  led  to  a  variety  of  jobs  (many  connected  with  tourism)  and  she  is  a  qualified   Blue  Badge  Guide  for  Cumbria.  Her  grandfather  and  great  grandfather  both  worked  in   Nottinghamshire  coalmines.   John  Fleming  was  born  and  brought  up  in  Devon  and  hence  has  no  familial  mining  connections.   He  worked  as  an  engineering  technician  in  mining  areas  such  as  South  Wales,  Lancashire  and   latterly,  West  Yorkshire.  He  tends  to  prefer  writing  scripts.   Ian  Downing  was  born  and  brought  up  in  Chesterfield  and  lived  there  until  marriage  brought   him  to  Yorkshire.  For  many  years  his  father  worked  as  a  first  aider  in  the  NCB.  Ian  is  now  the   father  of  triplets,  loves  walking,  photography  and  of  course,  writing  poetry  and  fiction.                 46    


PIT MUCK    -­‐  A  COLLECTION  OF  POETRY  AND  PROSE  BY  HEMSWORTH  WRITERS    

     

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