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 Wednesday 18th April 2012 the play Dust was performed at the Mansfield Palace Theatre in Mansfield. Dust is the story of miners and coal mining communities. It is a story of dreams and reality in Britain partly shaped by the the social and political upheaval of events surrounding the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike. It is also the story of two Arthur’s – Arthur Scargill, NUM President 1982-2002, and Arthur Cook – A J Cook – leader of the Miners Federation of Great Britain in the 1926 Miners lockout. Scargill’s inspiration and involvement in mining trade unionism was based on his admiration for A J Cook.
Dust is a fictional account of a ghost from the past that comes to haunt Scargill the morning after the death of Margaret Thatcher. It was not without controversy and the plot questioned aspects of Scargill’s role in the 1984-85 strike among other things. To that end when the play opened in Barnsley on 17th March it was disrupted by hecklers in the audience. The play was written and directed by Ade Morris.
19th March 2012 saw the 25th anniversary of the finish of coal production at Newstead Colliery. At the time Newstead was part of the Annesley-Bentinck-Newstead Complex, with all coal from Newstead travelling by underground conveyors to the coal preparation plant at Bentinck. From here coal was dispatched by “Merry Go Round” Trains to Ratcliffe Power Station.
Newstead’s peak period of production was 1960 – 1976 when it regularly turned over 1 million tons of coal each year. During this period Newstead employed 1,400 men. At the time of closure Newstead employed just over 600 men turning 385,000 tons of coal. At the finish of production coal was being produced from the High Hazels seam.
The sinking of the Newstead shafts commenced in 1874 and the subsequent colliery village (the Old Village) followed shortly afterwards. The colliery village was extended in the 1920′s (the New Village). This part of the colliery village was sometimes nicknamed “Wembley” following one of the house designs being exhibited at the 1922 Wembley exhibition.
Food for thought that anyone under the age of 35 will hardly have known Newstead as a coalmining community.
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.
31st January 2012 saw the 20th anniversary of the closure of Sherwood Colliery near Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire. The colliery finished production after 90 years due to the ever increasing problems associated with the problems of subsidence damage in the built up urban regions around Mansfield. Ironically the colliery achieved its highest ever output of 1,012,550 tons of coal only two years previously in 1989-90.
Lord Bernard Taylor of Mansfield, formerly MP for Mansfield in the 1960′s, was perhaps Sherwood’s most famous former employee. His 1972 book “Uphill all the way” told the story of a pit-lad making it to the House of Lords.
Paul Stamp recently contacted me via the “Our Nottinghamshire” Heritage Community Website making an enquiry into is family history. His ancestor was Dr William Hodson Abbott who attended to some of the victims from the 1877 Annesley Colliery disaster. He lived in Annesley from the 1870′s to the 1900′s.
Seven men died in the 1877 disaster following an underground fire. Three were killed in a valiant attempt to save the others. The colliery had only been in production for ten years when the disaster occurred. By the late 1990′s Annesley was the oldest operating colliery in Britain, the initial shaft sinking commencing in 1865. It finished production in late January 2000 as part of the Annesley-Bentinck Complex.
Several articles were sent to Paul Stamp to further his research into his family history.
1. A reprint of an article from the Nottingham and Midland Counties Express dated 28th June 1877.
2. An account of the disaster in “Annesley through the Ages” by Denis Pearson, (1995), pp . 169 – 172.
3. Article “The Annesley Disaster” by Alan “Doc” Griffin from the Notts Free Press local newspaper from 17th May 1968.
A memorial to the seven deceased miners exists in the churchyard at Annesley All Saints Church.
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 January 2012 illustrated talk for the East Midlands Branch of the Railway and Canal Historical Society will be at Beeston Library, near Nottingham, on Friday 6th January. The talk, titled “Canals and Rails to Pinxton” , will be given by David Amos, and gives a brief history of the Pinxton Canal, the former Midland Railway’s Erewash Valley Line and the former Great Northern Railway’s Branch from Awsworth Junction to Pinxton. The talk commences at 7 p.m. and visitors are welcome. There is a small charge and visitors can turn up on the night. The talk will have a strong coal theme as coalmining was once prolific in this part of the Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire border.
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.