Working as a miner by Bob Clegg

A miner hard at work in 1951  Source: Festival of Britain Guide, 1951 http://www.historyworld.co.uk/photo.php?id=1495&offset=0&sort=0&l1=&l2=“I started on the surface as a scrawny runt and couldn’t lift the equipment so worked in the electrical workshop where the main job was to stoke the pot-bellied stove!

Underground training was the best job in my life and I had no fears. First day I was there a man was brought up who had been seriously injured after being hit by a tub filled with coal when the signal wasn’t given to break and stop it. We all saw him. There was a lot of bravado and we just got on with the work! Underground training was haulage-supplying the coal face. Next I did coal face training, stable-hole training, removing coal, shoring up then moving back and waste drawing (which was allowing it to collapse).

The drill weighed 50 lbs and the drill bit was 6 ft long. I had to drill the hole for the dynamite to go in then we would all withdraw and then fire it and blow it up. I was scrawny and had to be lifted up bodily with the drill to make the hole. We had a snack tin to hold our sandwiches and we would wrap them in Mothers Pride paper to keep them clean while we ate them. Before we ate we would take a mouthful of water and spit/spray into each others’ eyes to clean coal dust out of them!  You collected your helmet and equipment on a belt and handed in your clip to let them know you were down the pit. After 3 years down the pit I asked someone what was in the metal box on my belt and was told it was a dust mask- I never used it all the time I was there. Then I was old enough and joined the RAF.”

Bob started work at the age of 15 in 1966-7. He earned £5 to £10 per week at Highgate Colliery, South Yorkshire with a fortnight off at Bull week at Cleethorpes and Skegness. Bob had wanted to join the RAF but was too young so went down the pit.

submitted by Jo, WRVS volunteer

Addtional information

Cleveland Museum- Working down a mine

George Orwell’s essay entitled “Down the mine”- an excellent snapshot of working life in a mine

Primary History- Victorian children working down the mines

Lee Dorsey “Working in a coal mine”- You tube clip

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