Back to the coalface…

I’m going through a whole raft of images, deleting some and remembering others and why they come about.In a week when we are being constantly reminded that fossil fuels are no longer acceptable it seems sort of right to remember that some of us were brought up in that age. This is the site of an old coal mine in Yorkshire and like all these things these days has now become a heritage centre.The railway line is now maintained as best they can by a local train enthusiast’s group, but the local feeling is that it’s unlikely that trains will ever run on it again after Covid shut it all down. Evening Primrose now grows in the tracks. This building is a pumping station that was used to pump out water from the deep mine nearby.

I was brought up around Wigan in Lancashire where miners were considered the aristocracy of the working class. They were perceived as well paid by many for what was a dreadful dangerous job, where they were expected to shovel tons of coal per day in damp and dark tunnels. Walking to infant school in a morning I’d sometimes see them coming off a shift at the local mine, blackened faces and as I recall almost a bandy steady gait. They could squat to relax on a corner, which, no doubt they learnt to do when underground to catch their damaged breath. I don’t ever remember them as big men, more like wiry and tough. They spat a lot, not like modern footballers, but more like men who really needed to clear their lungs. The buses all had notices saying “No spitting”! My school friend’s dad worked for the NCB ( National Coal Board as it was known then ), I’m not sure if he worked at the coal face, but he certainly got an allowance of free coal to heat his home. I cannot remember there fire ever being ‘out’, it glowed in the grate and was used as the toaster. I wonder if they ever thought that their industry would become a ‘heritage’. Probably not, they probably never thought much further than the pint they were going to have whilst Clara performed at the organ at the local pub.

I plan to post a whole range of my images over the next few weeks, with a small commentary. I’d welcome any feedback.

Must go now, back to the coalface.

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