Having the Crack was a distinct type of dry, quick witted humour that existed, not only in the pits, but in many of the traditional heavy British industries. Have a neb at David Coleman, the Eastwood Pitman, telling a funny story about a miner’s snap tin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLrrs5MI8oM
This section aims to collect some of the humorous bits connected to the coalmining industry – witty quotes, short stories, poems and cartoons.
On Sunday 16th September a group of 32 people took part in a Mining Heritage Tour as part of the 2012 DH Lawrence Festival. The two-week annual festival took place from 6th – 19th September 2012 and included many activities and events connected with the Eastwood author. The Mining Heritage Tour visited various mining memorial sites at former Nottinghamshire collieries as well as various mining heritage sites including Brinsley Headstocks, Bestwood Winding Engine house and the Breach House. David Amos, tour organiser, gave a potted pit history at each stop as well as introducing the visitors to some prominent, and often controversial characters, connected with the various pit sites on the tour. These included Arthur Lawrence (Butty), Colin Clarke (NUM Branch Official), Harold Larwood (Cricketer) and George Spencer (Controversial Notts Miners Leader from 1926).
I recently visited the former Colliery Winding Engine House at Bestwood Colliery. It was the first time I have visited since restoration work was done as part of a successful HLF funding bid in 2009. A magnificent example of a vertical steam winding engine, the only one in Britain that survives on its original site. Most steam winding engines at collieries were of the horizontal type. The Bestwood Winding Engine House is open on Saturday mornings (10.00am – 12 Noon) from April to October.
On Thursday 15th March 2012 the MuBu Miner led an Industrial Heritage Walk for the East Midlands Branch of the Railway and Canal Historical Society around the Pinxton area on the Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire borders. Fifteen hardy souls took part in the walk which commenced at Pye Bridge, initially following the former Pinxton Branch of the Cromford Canal to the current Pinxton Wharf and the site of the former Great Northern Pinxton Station. The second stage of the walk went from the Wharf to the John King Museum which was kindly opened up by members of the South Normanton and Pinxton Local History Society. John King, a Pinxton Victorian, invented the safety detaching hook which unhooked the cage from the rope in the event of an overwind.
The third stage of the walk went from the museum to the Horse and Jockey Public House on Church Lane, Selston via the former Brookhill Colliery site (closed 1969) , the current coal prep plant which is washing the coal from the tip recycle at the former Langton Colliery (1844-1968) and the former Pinxton and Selston Station on the former Midland Kirkby to Pye Bridge line.
A good day was enjoyed by all and many thanks go to the South Normanton and Pinxton Local History Society for opening the John King Museum and providing tea and coffee for the walkers. Also thanks go to Jane, Landlady of the Horse and Jockey.
On 15th February 1937 South Normanton Colliery or Winterbank as it was known locally, was the scene of two violent explosions on 11′s district in the Waterloo seam. 7 men were killed and an 8th succumbed to the injuries a week later. Several other miners were injured. The explosion was a “double wamy” igniting both methane gas and coal-dust.
As with most explosions in the past crowds of men and women folk gathered at the pit head to hear of the dead or relief for the survivors. Volunteer miners assisted in the rescue operation and according to one of the survivors, Ram Simpson, they did so without thought of the danger to themselves.
South Normanton Colliery staggered on in production through World War Two (keep the home fires burning) and finally closed in 1951. It became a pumping station for minewater until the late 1960s to protect other nearby pits. Following the demolition of the headstocks the site became the home to the NCB South Nottinghamshire Transport Depot until 1988.
How many of the vast hordes that congregate on the site today would have though the site was a scene of immense tragedy 75 years ago. What is the site today I hear you ask; why its the McArthur Glen Shopping Outlet near Junction 28 of the M1 Motorway!
On the 9th January 1972 the NUM started its first national strike following a ten-week overtime ban. The strike lasted 7 weeks and ended with Lord Wilberforce intervening (the Wilberforce Inquiry) following national power cuts and blackouts. The miners were treated as a special case and they were awarded a pay increase in excess of limits set by the Heath Government. The strike was the longest dispute since 1926. East Midlands miners support for the strike was instrumental in the eventual victory for the NUM. They picketed the Trent Valley Power Stations. The miners returned to work on 28th February 1972 and the power cuts ended on 2nd March after 20 days of blackouts.
Important dates in the 1972 Strike
9th January – Beginning of the 7 week strike following at ten-week overtime ban.
8th / 9th February – Saltley Coke Depot Picketing (Flying Pickets).
9th February – State of Emergency is declared by Ted Heath’s Conservative Government.
16th February – Electricity Blackouts throughout Britain. Twelve Power Stations shut down to save coal supplies and industry put on a 3 day week.
18th February – Lord Wilberforce Enquiry into Miners’ wages as a special case.
25th February – NUM National Executive Committee accept pay settlement by 27 to 1 vote.
28th February – NUM members go back to work. The 1972 strike was the biggest dispute since the 1926 Miners’ Lockout.
2nd March – Power cuts finally end after 20 days due to the effects of the Miners’ Strike.
The Mines Rescue Team from Mansfield Woodhouse recently attended the tragic mining disaster at the Gleision Drift Mine, situated in the Neath Valley near Swansea. Mines Rescue Ltd, based at Leeming Street in Mansfield Woodhouse, travelled to the site of the Gleision Mine on the morning of the accident on 15th September 2011. They provided extra support to the local rescue teams trying to free the four trapped miners. However, the operation ended in vain when the bodies of the four miners were discovered the next day. A further fatality in coal mining occurred later in the same month when a miner was killed at Kellingley Colliery in the Yorkshire coalfield. Even in its death throws the coal industry gave us a stark reminder of the “price of coal”.
Tonight I am going to the final evening of the play “The Ashes” at Nottingham Playhouse. The play has been at the Playhouse since 2nd September and a special performance was held on Tuesday 13th September which raised funds for the Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust, a charity which helps youngsters get into cricket.
The Ashes, written by Nottinghamshire writer Michael Pinchbeck, documents the life of former Nottinghamshire miner and England fast bowler, Harold Larwood, especially his role in the controversial Ashes tour on 1932-33. After suffering humiliation at the hands of Australian batsman Don Bradman in the previous Ashes test, Larwood and fellow Notts bowler Biil Voce , were central to the theory of “bodyline” bowling in the return 1932-33 test. By bowling fast and accurately on the legside and by making the ball pitch short, the ball could be made to bounce upwards towards the batsman body or head. The theory worked as England regained the Ashes with a 4-1 victory. However, several Australian batsman were injured and the bodyline technique caused such uproar that diplomatic relations between Australia and England were put under serious strain. The Australians considered the tactics unsporting and at one stage they even considered pulling out of the Ashes series.
Larwood from Nuncargate, worked at Annesley Colliery where his father and brother also worked. He is in the signing on books for the 1920′s working on the pit-top as a bank-lad. His father, Bob, was union secretary for the Spencer Union at Annesley Colliery. A statue of Larwood, in bowling stride,is proudly placed in Kirkby-in-Ashfield town centre. A plaque is erected on the door of the Larwoods former home at 17 Chapel Street, Nuncargate. Pat Jarvis, a retired train driver, now lives at the address.
Larwood controversially emigrated to Australia in 1952 dying there in 1995 at the age of 90. Alan Smith, Chief Executive of the Test and County Cricket Board at the time, described Larwood’s death as “the passing of the last central English link to a distant era of high drama”.
On Friday 9th September 2011 I took a tour on the Ashfield Heritage Bus tour arranged by Denis Hill, Heritage and Tourism Officer for Ashfield District Council. The excellently organised tour took 16 interested people around the district viewing the rich heritage that Ashfield has to offer. Sites visited included Annesley Hall, Jacksdale Wharf, Old Kirkby, Lindley’s Old Windmill at Sutton-in-Ashfield, Teversal Vistors Centre, Teveral Village and Skegby.
The tour incorporated many aspects of coalmining heritage, showing the strong cultural links the Ashfield region has with the coal industry. Included on the tour were the former collieries and coalmining villages of Annesley and Newstead, the mining memorial in Underwood Church Yard, Jacksdales mining memorial, the remains of Portland No.1 Colliery and the coal garden at Teversal .
This time a quarter of a century ago the announcement was made that Hucknall Colliery in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield was to close with the loss of 1,300 jobs. The colliery had run into geological problems on K33′s in the Black Shale seam and following a meeting of the unions concerned, it was decided production would finish at the end of October 1986.
Babbington Colliery, just to the south of Hucknall, had recently been connected up underground with Hucknall and significant monies spent on improving the coal preparation facilities at Hucknall. The plans following the merger were to run a Hucknall-Babbington Complex with all coal surfacing at Hucknall. Many miners from the Eastwood, Underwood and Jacksdale regions had transferred to Hucknall following the closures of Moorgreen and Pye Hill Collieries in 1985. Many told the story of being told to expect 20 years of work at Hucknall – they were there for around 18 months!
The MuBu Coalmining Project took place from April 2010 to the end of March 2012. The remit was two-fold - firstly to see how the once vast coalmining industry in the East Midlands was represented in the Heritage sector and secondly to bring aspects of social media to that representation. The Coal mining project was funded by Renaissance East Midlands (REM) and the Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) at the University of Nottingham. The Bursary holder is Dr. David Amos who completed a PHD on the 1984-85 Miners Strike in the Nottinghamshire Coalfield. David is an ex miner, having worked in the deep mining coal industry at Annesley Colliery for 24 years.