Oral History Transcripts

This page contains transcripts of the oral history extracts throughout the exhibition.  Affirmative comments by the interviewers have not been reproduced. 

Annesley/Bentinck

Steve Parr interview with Ben Curtis, 11 February 2019

Black shale at Bentinck, Jesus Christ it were warm, it were red hot. In the return gates, fresh air hit the coalface return gate and because it were picking up all the heat from all the machinery you were, it were twenty-eight degrees in the return, it were warm.

Interviewer: Right, yeah. As a working environment [chuckles] that’s pretty warm.

 

Oh it were warm.


Interviewer: And it’s physical work as well of course isn’t it?

Oh yeah. You used to have to have that lime green stuff out of the medical centre, salt, a drink of salt solution. Because you sweat so much. When you went to the toilet it were brown because you’d sweat all the salt out of you. I can remember men coming down and having to change their underwear because, they used to ring the underwear out because they’d sweat that much.

It were red hot. And when we moved from the black shale into Waterloo if you stood still in Waterloo for more than ten minutes you used to freeze, because the further down you went the warmer it got. Black shale at Bentinck would be maybe seven hundred and fifty metres to the surface. Waterloo would be four hundred metres, and it used to be cold down there, and I do mean cold.

I, when I, before I got onto a coalface team, when you was on the market you didn’t necessarily go on the coalface all the while. They’d send you wherever they needed you. And sometimes you’d end up driving a conveyor, or sometimes you might end up taking materials to the face. And if I knew where I was going, this particular week they sent me to drive a conveyor in Bentinck. Bentinck used to have a massive drift from the surface down to the black shale, and it was a mile and a quarter long at one in four.

 

Interviewer: Was that a drift from the surface down to.

 

Yeah. All the way down to the black shale seam. And it took them from 1963 to 1968 to complete it. And they sent me to drive, there was ten conveyors in that drift and they sent me to look after number four conveyor, and I used to wear a pair of my ex-wife’s tights. To keep me warm, until the Coal Board decided we could have thermals. Because if it were minus one at the surface when you got to the bottom of the drift it were minus seven. And it was cold.

 

I mean down Waterloo at Bentinck they used to have a place called the top of the east intake where you turned right and went downhill towards the coalfaces, and they used to call that the North Pole. Because the fresh air were, it were what, maybe eight hundred yards to the pit bottom, and it used to come round the corner. Oh it were cold. We used to have big lamps, big lamps under the seat when you were driving the conveyor, to keep you warm. And you used to put blankets out of the first aid box.What you used to cover casualties up with, you know, blankets on a stretcher. You used to take them out of the first aid box and wrap them round your legs to keep warm, because it were that cold.

 

Yeah, I can remember that. But like I say I’d go back down there tomorrow, I really would.

Steve Parr interview with Ben Curtis, 11 February 2019

I got married in the middle of the strike.

Interviewer: Oh, during the strike? Okay.

Yeah, September 11th 1984.  And believe it or believe it not my brother who was on strike was my best man, before we fell out.

Interviewer: So, sorry, just to get this right now, so during the ‘84/’85 strike your brother was on strike, you weren’t on strike, you got married during the strike and your brother was your best man?

Yes. And the, my brother’s, his ex-wife, her mum and dad run a pub at Kirkby, and they gave us our wedding reception there. And because at the time I was the under twenty-one rep for the union and we were working miners the branch officials from my pit came to my wedding, and the room was split in two. Because my brother were on strike and they sat that end of the roomand we sat this end of the room and never the twain shall meet shall we say.

 

Interviewer: Extraordinary.

 

It was. It was an extraordinary wedding, it really was.

Terry Allen interview with Ben Curtis, 18 February 2019

And one of the massive changes was actually when Annesley and Bentinck joined up, because they was working in the black shale seam, we was in the deep soft in Tupton, which was three foot, three foot six, you see. Black shale was about six foot, you know? And obviously the reason they joined up and the men came to Annesley was because they was travelling further underground, and rather than go down Bentinck and travel all the way underground they come down Annesley and they were nearly on the job, you know? So they joined up, as well as getting the coal out of Bentinck it was to save all the travelling time there. So when Bentinck men came there was, like we’d assimilated a lot of other people in from Derbyshire and places like that, amongst ourselves. But when the Bentinck men came they were like an entity on their own. They was in the shale, you know? 

Interviewer: Oh right. So they were transferred sort of en bloc to like a different.

 

Yeah, and they only worked down the shale instead of round the, in the deep soft of the Tupton and Hazel, they had a couple of faces in Hazel. They went en bloc and, you know, on the job that they were. But then of course.

 

Interviewer: And when was that roughly? That was.

I think that was about early eighties. Yeah. Sort of ’80 to ‘82ish, something like that.

And then of course as the deep soft in Tupton were finishing and the shale was a lot more production, you know, because of the thickness of the seam, we had to sort of go down the shale. And then you were like a stranger at your own pit so to speak, because now you were going into working with all these Bentinck men.

 
 
 

Barony

Sam Purdie interview with Andrew Perchard, 25 March 2019

What a shock this is, not just for Auchinleck, Catrine, Cumnock, and remember all of those suburbs that were built in Cumnock, Netherthird and, had all been built on the basis of the mining industry.

 

Shock. So first thing I said, we’d, coincidentally we’d quite soon thereafter a meeting of the trades council in Cumnock. I said ‘well we need to see what we can do here’, so we had a meeting then in Auchinleck Community Centre, a dozen of us. The minister and the two provosts, and the NUM guy, and we had decided, well what we need to do first of all is get the public on our side. So we had a public meeting, Emrys was there, one of the Moffats came from Edinburgh NUM. It was a fairly high-powered meeting and that hall was packed. So we decided at that meeting we’ll set up a committee with six or seven people, and that’s when the committee was set up. Myself, the two provosts, one or two others, and we put together a campaign, wrote to the Coal Board. First response, ‘forget it, it’s gone, it’s shut. Can’t be opened’.

 

Interviewer: What was the attitude of the Coal Board at the local level?

Well quite frankly I don’t know, well the local area general manager at that time was a guy called Kirkwood, and he was one of the poorest, we had another public meeting and invited him along, he was one of the poorest, I mean he was out of his depth, he was one of the poorest public speakers ever, and we weren’t able to get any kind of reaction from them about what they were going to do. And I think they were just like a tortoise, they just drew their head in. But they were quite happy for us to approach their gaffers. So we approached Edinburgh and got nowhere, so then we were back and forward to London.

To take to Robens, saying ‘what about this?’ And of course Robens is an ex front bench Labour politician. He couldn’t dismiss us right away, although we could very easily see that it was the last thing he wanted to talk about. But we persevered, and of course now you’re talking to miners, you’re not talking to a bunch of, that are saying ‘well it can’t be open for this, this and this reason’, and then we’d take their reasons one by one and say ‘hmm, hmm, hmm, yes you can open it’. ‘We need another shaft for ventilation’, ‘well we’ll sink another shaft’. Because all you, remember the Barony pit head frame, two engines winding at one time. You don’t need another production shaft. All you need is a ventilation shaft. So that’s when we decided to build the other shaft, on much lower ground. So you would save all that amount of shaft. So when we got them to agree to that that was it, well then we could reopen the Barony bit by bit by bit and install new things like the transport system, the railway system and all the signalling stuff that went along with it. And it wasn’t easy. I think maybe eighteen months solid before we even got a glimmer of hope, because as you say it’s ’62, and it wasn’t reopened until ’66, so it was about ’65 before we actually started to see spades in the ground for the next shaft.

Margaret Glover interview with Andrew Perchard, 26 March 2019

 Well he was a loco driver, so well, you know, he used to take the men out and in in the wee train down underground. And then he got the chance to come up and do the winding engines. He got that when the kids got a wee bit older and they could put themselves out to school, because he was like on shifts, three shifts. You know, you had to do the day shift, back shift and the night shift.

Interviewer: Right. And what did he say about his work at the pit?

 

Oh he loved it, he absolutely loved it. And he said time and time again ‘if the pit opened in the morning I’d be back straight away’. Loved the pit. I mean he loved his other job, but no, loved the pit.

 

Interviewer: Did he, what did he say he loved about it so much? 

I think it was just the, you know, the men, everybody just, the closeness and the community, and he just liked it. It was just his life, he was a miner. I mean he used to tell the kids stories about, at school, you know, the teacher would say ‘oh what do you want to be?’ ‘Oh I want to be a doctor’, ‘I want to be this’, ‘I want to be a pilot’, and Archie said there and then, ‘well’, he says, ‘I’m going down the pit’. And that was it, and that’s what he done.

 
 

Bickershaw

Mick Coombes interview with Keith Gildart, 16 February 2019

Total, total pride. Difficult job, difficult circumstances. You look at history, what guys worked, guys, gals, kids worked there before, I mean we wouldn’t have anything if we didn’t have coal, do you know what I mean like? It was, the industrial revolution was based on the back of what coal could provide. The fact that it was a decent earner, and it was, it was an absolutely fantastic earner for me. The craic, the fact that, you know, I’ve put a load of weight on now since then I mean I was fit as a fiddle. You were pulling like two legs down at the same time, you were carrying ten tins on your head. Carrying two great big drums of oil, one in either hand, you know what I mean like? Just for, get down, get that yardage made. And that’s, that’s what you were driving. You had to make in your shift three metres, do you know what I mean? So if you were getting forty-five metres at the end of the week you were all there.

Brian Beckinsale interview with Keith Gildart, 16 February 2019

Number three shaft, that was the downcast, so all, the fan blew the cold air down there, so all round the pit bottom and everything it was, it were cold, really cold. You had to have a coat on and pullovers as well, roller neck, most of them, those who worked at the pit bottom. But as you got in-by, which was a good way, it was quite hot, very hot.

 

The one instance in my memory, and I’ll never forget it, I was working on six east coalface then as an electrician and Tommy Ferguson was the charge hand. And it was called the east dip, this sort of place where it tunnelled down, and it had all collapsed, so there was just a small tunnel going down. It was only about, oh three foot square, maybe three foot six square, and there was just a pump down it. It was about three hundred yard from where this seven east was. And we got this phone call at ten past one Friday, just ready for coming out, pump wouldn’t go. So Tommy said ‘come on, I’m not sending you on your own down there. We’ll both go’, so we had tools and mega, as we had then. Well it was absolutely boiling. We’d just go two, three yards and have stopped to get a breath, couldn’t get a breath. It was, and the sweat were just running down us. When we got to this bloke, his name were George Lee Turner, I’ll never forget it. This is, you know, 1954/’55 I’m talking about. And he was sat there, this old bloke, bald head, I can see him now, not a stitch on, just a piece of string round his waist with his lamp on, whistling.

We said ‘what’s do George?’ ‘My pump’ll not work’. Well when we looked it’s underwater. We said ‘no wonder it’s tripped everything out’. We said ‘come on, come out’. ‘Oh I can’t come out, it’s not my time for finishing’. I said ‘come on’. Anyway, going back up, it was up brew then, coming back up brew, god it just had an airpipe, three inch pipe, blowing air down to him. Well, and he was as white as a sheet, this George Lee Turner. And eventually, after about three quarters of an hour, we managed to get back to where I stuff were. Well our shorts what we had on were just wrung about with sweat.

Interviewer: It was that hot?

 

It was that hot. And Tommy said ‘right, get your 5/16 inch box spanner and your flag key’, he said, ‘and we’ll go in and see the engineer when we get up the pit, because there’s none of you coming back down here’.

So when we got up to where the man train were we were absolutely shivering because we’d been that hot. Anyway somebody lent us a coat, put a coat on, because we were still wet through with sweat. Anyway when we eventually got up the pit Tommy said ‘come on, straight to Benson now. Let’s go and see him’, so we went in to him and Tommy says ‘there you are. That’s a flag key there and a 5/16 box spanner. What do you want?’ He said ‘what will I want?’ He said ‘yeah’, he said, ‘because we’re not going down there no more’, he said, ‘and none of my electricians are going down there’. He said ‘well I’ll have everybody out on strike before we go down there’. ‘Well I shall have to have a word with the manager’. Well the manager, I don’t think it were Magan, I think it were Weaver after him. Anyway he went and saw him like and he said ‘well we’ll leave things as they are until Monday and I’ll get Mr Douglas, the deputy manager, to come’. Anyway he said ‘you can meet him at seven east at half past ten’. So when I met Mr Dudley he says ‘right’, he said, ‘where is it?’ I said ‘down’, he said ‘down where? Down there? Shut it. Shut it off’. Nobody ever went down again after. They just filled it all in.

 

Interviewer: Right. So he shut it down.

But that bloke, they were supposed to have a deputy go down there every day for to see him, but they never went. They used to write on the thing before, put their name on.

INT: So he was just down there watching that pump? That was his.

That’s all he were doing. And like I said he were in his sixties, so he were just content to sit there all day. And not, and yet it were harder work than working, it was that hot.

Neal Rigby interview with Keith Gildart, 6 December 2018

Red hot. Thirty-eight degrees ambient temperature, a hundred and odd degrees, working in your underpants. You couldn’t put anything on, it was too hot. Every now and again you’d get under a cold pipe and open a valve and just wash yourself down, it was that hot.

Interviewer: And what was the dust like? Was that worse than.

 

Yeah it was horrendous, it was horrendous. Because of the heat, and you hadn’t got the ventilation that you needed to get it away, so it used to hang about and it, yeah it was horrendous.

 

They spent, I might be wrong here, but they spent about one point four million on a cooling system just to drop the temperature by two degrees. It was [laughter], it was like the biggest fridge you’ve ever seen in your life and it fed the water pipes, cooled the water down, which in turn cooled the area down by two degrees. It was something and nothing that cooled it down, but that was what they’d figured out would be a workable temperature.

 

And that’s what we had to put up with and work in. It was shockingly hot. I used to have, my freezer used to have three gallon bottles of water in continuously. So I’d take one out, take it down the pit, and within an hour that was completely melted.

Mick and Gill Shaw interview with Keith Gildart, 26 October 2018

Gill Shaw: I never really sat down and thought.

 

Mick Shaw: Nobody did.

 

Gill Shaw: Oh how am I going to cope? Because we all seemed to come together. We set a group up and Steve Hall like approached Mick and said ‘do you think we should set a group up?’

 

Gill Shaw: And we said ‘yeah, we’ll’.

 

Mick Shaw: Steve was a big activist.

Gill Shaw: It was at the Labour Club in Atherton, and we said ‘well what we’ll do, we’ll start feeding the miners’. Before they went picket or when they’d come back we had a soup kitchen as they called it, a soup kitchen. And we just got on with it didn’t we? It was brilliant, the.

 

Inteviewer: So were you organising that because you were in Atherton so you had an Atherton group?

Mick Shaw: That’s it.

Interviewer: So would the Bickershaw miners?

Mick Shaw: Because the lads couldn’t keep coming to Leigh. And what we did, we outshone Leigh.

Gill Shaw: Yeah we did.

Mick Shaw: Honestly we did. We had like Dawson’s pies until, giving us two trays of meat and potato pies a week donation. We had Rathbole’s bread turning up. We had Kellogg’s, workers from Kellogg’s were coming to our support group, massive bags of, you know, sugar puffs and cornflakes and ‘here, give the kids these, and yourselves’.

Joan and David Gildart interview with Keith Gildart, 5 September 2018

But, do you know, from all parts of the world, and I mean the world, Russia especially, China, all over the world they fetched, things came to this country for the miners. It was absolutely fantastic.

 
 
 
 
 

Easington

Martin Laverick interview with Grace Millar, 23 October 2019

 I remember the crowds being along the pit front there. I’ve just seen the photograph of that there. My mother wouldn’t let us go along, ‘you keep away’, you know? Keep away. And so we never went along, but we’d go to the ends and see the people standing waiting, and when we were at school when they come to bury them we could hear the drums. Aye. [tearful] It was none of our family, touch wood. They was injured, aye at the pit.

 

My dad worked there. The same, cutting that day in that same area, but he was in the wrong shift, he was in the back shift. You know, he was due to go in. And Mr Hardy next door shouted over the wall, or knocked on the wall and told my mum and dad. He says ‘there’s something wrong at the pit’.  So we were fortunate there. Yes.

There was a couple of lads in our class lost their dads. And then they went off to Yugoslavia. They got a holiday through the Coal Board. I don’t know, but they all, they went to, aye Yugoslavia, which we never heard of when we were kids, you know, at eleven-year-old - twelve.

Maureen Moses interview with Grace Millar, 21 November 2018

Well what springs to mind is we all got an allowance of coal, but the officials, who were the overmen, and really they went to work any time and they stayed as long as it was necessary, they didn’t always just work a normal shift, they did have to work hard, and my grandfather was one of those. So I always noticed the difference about coal. They had much bigger shinier coal, and when my grandmother wanted to cook something in a specially hot oven she would put a lump of this hot, very hot coal on. And I always used to think, oh, you know? And the oven used to roar

[...]

That was when it was, oh yes that’s what happened when it was nationalised. Previously the widows had always been given their coal, but then they weren’t, and then that grieved her very much. We kept her supplied with, but then you weren’t supposed to give your coal away you know? So, but nobody ever said anything. But then she did, she got it back when, after the widows had had all their marches.

Ann Armstrong, Mary Radstock, Brenda Brown interview with Grace Millar, 6 February 2019

Ann Armstrong: But then I got to know – started to get know people – and I went down the street.  Because I used to love going down on the Friday when it was pay day. The street was full.  You knew then - [hello Mary, hello Mary] - this is how I got to know everybody really.  You know – I knew Fred’s mates.  But I found it very hard at first.

 

 

Mary Radestock: You would, wouldn’t you, you would.

 

 

Brenda Brown: Well I had a neighbour who used to go down the street - she was lovely mind.  I’ve only- one - ever gone in anybody’s house – I would  to speak to everybody, but I only would only go in this one house.  Because we used to smoke at the time and we smoked our head off in when we got together but if I was in the house I never bothered.  She would get hers out and I would get mine out. She used to go down the street with a empty bag and come back with a empty bag.  She did. 


Mary Radstock: She just went out for the crack

 

Brenda Brown: She was just meeting people down the street

 
 
 

Markham

David Watson interview with Grace Millar 11 March 2018

Interview: And what were your relationships like with older miners? Were you.

Well I knew most of them because if they had sons I went to school with them like. So I knew them only in that capacity. I didn’t know them how to work with them like, because you see a different side of people then don’t you? When you were a kid, when you used to go into somebody’s house and you’d say ‘hello Mr Smith, how are you going on?’ sort of stuff. But when you’re actually working with them

 

Interview: Yeah. What was it like, transferring from.

 

It were quite hard actually, because, you know, because you never used to swear, not, you know, I don’t mean like rough words, but you never used to swear in front of them. But when they were down the pit you heard them swearing, and it were total shock like. ‘Oh god Mr Smith swears. I never knew that'.

 

Interviewer: Were there other ways that you were seeing these men in a different light than you’d seen?

Oh yeah, yeah, well they always, you could tell that they looked after each other like, everybody watched each other’s backs sort of thing, yeah.

Glynn Power interview with Grace Millar, 22 November 2018

Interviewer:  What did they make of your hair? Was that like.

 

Yeah, they used to call me names and. I got named Polly, because they thought I were a young lass with long, having long hair and that, so that stuck. Still get called that by the lads now when I see them. I don’t see them so often but when you do that’s your nickname and it sticks. So, like I say, I thought, I’m having this cut.

 

And going in the shower, that were an experience as well, the first time.


Interviewer: What was that, what was an experience?

 

Well you think, woah, everybody’s running about with nowt on. So, and then somebody’ll say, they’d just slap a sponge on your back, rub you down like that. That’s because they wanted their back washing. So then you’d have to wash their back.

 
 

Point of Ayr

Heather and Paul Parry interview with Keith Gildart, 9 March 2019

We had Polish ones, mainly second generation. But there were some genuine Polish guys, always eating gherkins. You had Hapton Valley lads when I was there.

 

Interviewer: They came in about ’82 I think didn’t they, yeah?

And they were very, you wouldn’t want to mess with them like. But they were for real, in the strike they were brilliant. You had to have them, but you could end up in a fight like every night. Very unpredictable and they loved the drink. Jesus. And then you had ex-Gresford men, Bersham men, you’d got, there were all them, lovely guys. You had Bradford. Les Kelly was Bradford.

 

Interviewer: Yeah, they came in in ’68, yeah.

But, and there were various other pits which I didn’t really, I think there was one or two from Lancashire, different pits.

John Wiltshire interview with Keith Gildart 10 February 2018

I didn’t know, they forgot to tell me that they hadn’t tracked back. So we were carrying a bar, me and Les were carrying a bar in and I had my thumb underneath the bar like that, you know? I was carrying a bar like that on my shoulder. And this bloody stone came down and ‘bang’, you know? And I said to Les ‘sling the bar’, you know, ‘sling the bar’. So what I’d done then like, it came down, this bloody lump, and it squashed my thumb in, you know? See the difference in my thumbs? It was like a, you know, a gearstick like that, my thumb was. But I turned like this to run away and this bloody big stone give, and I looked and then I thought, well I’m under supported ground here. The only part of my foot that was not under supported ground was, the only part of me that wasn’t under supported ground was my foot. I’ll show you a picture here. There’s somebody was asking me about it, ooh a while ago now. There we are. That’s my foot now you see?

So my toecaps were there but this lump come right behind it like that. See it? That’s how it is now. But at the time it was hanging off, you know? So they couldn’t get this lump off, because there was only Les and Big Bird there, and I was like this. And I had my bloody side on the picks, and this lump was on my foot up to here, and it was that thick and it was that wide.

So I’m going in like this and all these bloody picks are sticking into my leg, and I can’t get it, you know? And I looked up and I thought, there’s more going to come here, you know? So I says to the two of them ‘get out of the way for Christ’s sake’, I says, ‘get out of the way, there’s more going to come down here’ I’m alright, it’s only my foot and my leg’. And Chris Gunther and, I think he was the fitter with us then, and Spam, they come with us, and I said ‘look’, I said, ‘it’s going to come’. A few lumps like this came, you know, and they must’ve had the adrenaline and the four of them got the whatsitsname off. And I went to walk to the side and I just went [crashing noise], like this, you know? So anyway I sat in the side and they got my boots off

somehow, like I was, it was, you know? So that was in 1989, that, so.

 

Interview: So was that stretcher and then you were.

 

Aye, they put me on a stretcher, and I thought to myself, well I’ve got to have an operation here. And I thought, I don’t want a bloody jab, you know, a morphine jab, because I don’t want to delay the operation.

So anyway I says ‘I don’t want a jab, I’m alright’, so they get me Entonox. I was on this frigging Entonox and they put me on the, and Gareth Edwards was our deputy, brilliant deputy. He saved me foot really like, from the way he done it. Mike McKeuger kept, I had a cut to my head and Mike McKeuger kept putting this frigging cut on my head, bandage on my head, and I was just saying ‘look at my thumb’. McKeuger kept putting it on and I kept taking it off.

So anyway they got me on a stretcher and they put me on the belts to go out, you know? But every sort of roller I went over my foot was doing this, you know? I said ‘oh man’, you know, like, you know, ‘you’ve got to carry me up. It’s hurting like hell’. And they were all carrying me on, and I can remember Billy Campbell saying ‘you fat bastard’.‘Why have you got to be so big?’ And it took two of them to get me up.

 

And we’re going up in the, they put me on a loco like, you know, and then they, going up with me in the cage, and I must’ve passed out, and all I could hear was Big Bird going ‘John, John, John’, and I woke up, you know, and I says ‘what’s the matter?’ He said ‘don’t do that again’, he said. So they took me to the frigging ambulance room, you know, and Dave from Gronant was there. Redford came in and he says ‘how is it’, he says, ‘so Dave comeover’, you know? He lifted it back , ooh, like this, and he went straight out. So anyway, they took me to hospital, the first thing they gave me was a frigging, the jab. I could’ve had my jab down there Keith couldn’t I?

Heather and Paul Parry interview with Keith Gildart, 9 March 2019

Heather Parry: So I sort of met the other wives on the coach. I’d never, never met any of them, you know? Yeah, you know, there was obviously, you know, nearly a coachload, unless we filled up with other people, I’m not sure.

Interview: So it was completely new experiences for you then wasn’t it?


Heather Parry: Was it a minibus? It might’ve been a minibus, I can’t remember exactly. And we went.

Paul Parry: No, I think it was a coach.

Heather Parry: You know, and listened and everything else, and I thought, well, you know, if we can get some, and they were saying about getting support. So obviously on the way back they all started talking and saying ‘well we’ve got to do something’, and they talked about the women’s support group. Because obviously I didn’t even know about them really. And we said ‘right well we’ll have to get organised’. So I think somebody had, like the lodge were approached, Les and those were approached.

And of course they were meeting on a Friday at the Vic, so I think we went, you know, they sort of said ‘right well come to the Vic and, you know, we’ll’. So they held a meeting, I remember it was on a Sunday night, and Angela Green said, you know, and I said ‘oh I don’t really want to go to that’, you know? ‘I don’t know’. And she said ‘I’ll pick you up and take you’, and there was, they were sort of saying ‘right well we need a chairman and a treasurer and a secretary and we need this, that and the other’. So I’m just sitting there minding my own business and they were sort of ‘right Lynn’, because she was, you know?

 

Paul Parry: Lynn Cheetham.

Heather Parry: Quite, more prolific in, you know, voice. And she was appointed chairman wasn’t she? And then her friend Sue, another Burnley girl, ‘oh right she’ll be secretary’. So they said ‘right we want a treasurer’, and I think it was Joan, and there was Bob Coleville’s, Davina Colville was there.

Paul Parry: Yeah right, Davina.

 

Heather Parry: And Angela, and they all said ‘oh Heather will do it’.

 

Paul Parry: Because a couple of other girls were.

 

Heather Parry: Because, and I think, I know it sounds awful, but I think they wanted to keep that somebody from here and less vocal would be With the money. They wanted someone they sort of knew of if you know what I mean. Not that they knew me, but they knew Paul and, you know? And I think, and before I knew it I’d been, they were like, and I’m like ‘oh I don’t know, I don’t know’, you know? But they knew I’d worked in an off-, you know, the sort of work I’d done previous, you know, a couple of them knew that and they, so I think they thought I was the sensible one.

 

Interviewer: So what, so as a group then you’d go out raising funds then, is that.

 

Heather Parry: Well they’d go out raising funds.

Paul Parry: It took a bit of time to get them, I mean everything took time didn’t it?

Heather Parry: You know, just going to the bank and saying ‘I want to open a bank account’.

Paul Parry: It was six weeks before anything happened.

Heather Parry: What’s, ‘and it’s for the Point of Ayr Striking Miners’ Wife Support Group’.‘Ooh’, you know? And I’m like oh what have I got myself into here, you know? Anyway, we did, we did. And, you know, I was, you know, it had, if I was doing it it had to be done properly. But they wouldn’t get anything off me unless they, you know?

 

Interviewer: And then you were doing like street collections and things like that? Is that how you.

Heather Parry: Well I didn’t, quite a lot when on street, street collections

Paul Parry: We had problems with that. Got, you know, in Mold particularly they said they would arrest us.

Heather Parry: Yeah but that was you lot. But the girls.

Paul Parry: And that actor saved us.

 

Heather Parry: We’re talking about the women.

Paul Parry: Oh sorry, yeah.

Heather Parry: And I mean Susan, she used to go to Liverpool didn’t she?

[...]

 

Heather Parry: The money that we got we sort of put towards like somebody had had a baby so they needed stuff, you know, in the middle of the strike. So they needed help with getting things.

 

Interviewer: So how many were in the group Heather, in the women’s group?

Heather Parry: The core was about twelve was it? There wasn’t that many.

 

Interviewer: Yeah, some striking miners’ wives probably didn’t get involved did they?

 

Heather Parry: Oh no they didn’t.

 

Paul Parry: No they didn’t.

 

Heather Parry: I mean Hughie’s wife never got involved with.

 

Paul Parry: No.

Heather Parry: Sylvia never got involved in anything.

 

Paul Parry: No.

Interviewer: Yeah, my auntie in Leigh, she was the same.

Heather Parry: I mean, well I mean she was working as well Sylvia, at that stage, you know? She was working full-time.

Interviewer: So there was a core of twelve of you that were.

 

Heather Parry: Well I don’t know, there was.

Paul Parry: About twelve to fifteen I’d have thought.

Heather Parry: Yeah. You know, because some, they came and went if you know what I mean. The, they were generally the same ones on a Sunday evening. You’d have a group, you know, you’d have a meeting and.

Alan and Joan Jones interview with Keith Gildart 19 November 2018

Joan Jones: I went to a meeting one night and I had to sit on a stage [gasps], and I looked up. I think what do you call him, Arthur Scargill was on the same stage as me that night, and I was like ‘oh I’ve got to get up and make a speech in front of all these’.

Alan Jones: Yes, but they’d gone to see you Joan [I laughter].

Joan Jones: No they hadn’t, they didn’t go to see me. Anyway I got up and made a speech.

Interviewer: Where was this Joan? In Liverpool?

Joan Jones: Yeah. And I, oh god I was like that. And anyway, but fair play to him, Arthur Scargill came up to me and he said ‘well done Joan’, he said, ‘oh thanks Arthur’ [laughter], just like that, you know?

 

Joan Jones: But it was, it was an experience for me, it really, really was. And I would never forget it, because I learned a lot. You know?

 

But there was, there was women there better than me at making speeches, like Lynn Cheatham, Margaret Holden. You know? But.

Alan Jones: Heather.

Joan Jones: Heather.  And, but we, we went to France, me and Heather, we had a meeting with the, we went there for a long weekend, and.

 

Alan Jones: The, sorry Joan can I just.

 

Joan Jones: Sorry.

Alan Jones: It was the French Communist Party.

Joan Jones: That’s it, yeah.

Alan Jones: And they.

 

Joan Jones: They took, brought.

Alan Jones: They paid for how many to go?

Joan Jones: The first trip was about fifteen children. And the four helpers. And the second trip was twenty children and five helpers. I went on the second trip. And they were fantastic. Do you know, I’ll tell you what.

Alan Jones: And we’re still friends with them.

Joan Jones: And we’re still friends with them.: They were, the kids were, oh, you know, I couldn’t fault them. They were fantastic with the children. They, everything, half of them didn’t even, they had money to spend and half of them didn’t even spend it. But they were fantastic. But they were, the families themselves, you know, the French families, you couldn’t have done enough.

 
 
 
 

Prince of Wales

 

Raymond Roberts interview with Grace Millar, 22 November 2018

As I say I were, at eleven we took us eleven plus and that. Your fate was sealed really. RR: Going back to sec-, so the ones who passed went to grammar school and the ones who didn’t pass went to secondary school. And then you did adds, take aways, divides, adds, take aways, subtract. Sorry adds, subtract, divides, multiply, and you just started when you went in one year, then you went to the next year and did adds, take aways and again and again and again. So we were educated for the pit weren’t we? We were basically cannon fodder

[...]

As I say I left school with nothing, but I’d gone to the Coal Board, and being in the right place at the right time or what have you, I don’t know, I was starting to develop a bit of a brain on me. I was starting to find this latent, the education, you know, that I’d not had. I were finding an education.

[...]

I weren’t an indentured apprentice, because as I say you’d have had to leave school with some O-levels to get as an in-, even in them early days. Or had some academic thing, and I had none.

 

So, but Harry said to me ‘what about going to school?’ I couldn’t get away from school quick enough, so that were swept right down. I says ‘oh I don’t know about going to school Harry’. He says ‘well’, he says, ‘you ought to go to school’, he says, ‘because I can teach you what I know’, he says, ‘but there’s always somebody else that can teach you something more’. So I says ‘well I don’t think they’ll let me go to school. I’m not an indentured apprentice’.

 

He says ‘well go to night school’, he says, ‘they’re enrolling this week’. So, well he didn’t say that. There were some indentured apprentices said ‘yeah we’re enrolling this week Ray. Are you coming with us?’ That’s right, that’s what they, he told me to go and they said ‘we’re enrolling this week. Are you coming?’ And I said ‘well I can’t’, and they said ‘come, we’ll take you’. So I went with them. They’d got what’s called an E1, E11, either an E1 or an E11 form. Which were telling the college that the Coal Board were going to pay for their education for that year.

 

Now I hadn’t got any E1 forms, so I queued up at Whitwood Mining and Technical College, I queued up in the hall, in the big hall, and it got to my point. I went to see whoever the head of department were and I said ‘I’d like to join a welding class’. He said ‘where do you work?’ and I told him I worked at. ‘Right’, he says, ‘well you can’t come on a day release unless the Coal Board are willing to pay, to pay your fees’, he says, ‘and we don’t run an evening class’. Because Harry sent me, he said ‘oh well there’ll be an evening class’.

 

Anyway, so he says ‘go back to your training officer at Prince and fill a form in and see if you’ll, they’ll give you permission to come to school. Well I didn’t think I were going to get this because I wasn’t an indentured, I thought, this isn’t going to happen.

 

Anyway the next day I went, got a form, filled it in, took it back to him. He says ‘right, leave it with me Ray’, and lo and behold they gave me day release. So I went back to college then and joined the day release class for welding and fab, and, which were brilliant. I had to do one day and one night.

 

And, as I say, I were turned on by then, I were turned on to welding and fabrication. I weren’t turned on to education, but one thing leads to another doesn’t it, you know?

Tony Twibey interview with Grace Millar, 24 April 2018

When we were little – which – and that’s including all six of us – me Dad he was a member of three clubs within this area – and he used to go and pay – about – I don’t know about five pence – a shilling each – for each kid and then when it come round to like from May to August we’d each be able to go on these club trips.  Where we’d go around to the club itself and they’d give us a little ticket fasten it onto our shirts with a little pin and it all got us names on them what club we were with – because all over the country at the same time clubs were doing the same thing.  And then we’d all go to maybe Scarborough one time, Brid another time, Cleethorps another time, in that year and they were great days.

 

We got on – when we got on the train we all got free pop and crisps there and on the way back.  And then we’d have – when we got off the train all the men disappeared and went to pubs and us mothers would have to look after us all on beach.

Radio 1, 30 March 1979

Simon Bates: So what kind of foods are their favourites?

Betty: Well they like, cornish pasties, sausage rolls and bacon sandwiches especially.

Simon Bates: And they manage to keep their figures down because they're all very slim and those things are very fattening.

Betty: Obviously haven't seen them all.

Simon Bates: Margeret now tell me do you get any rough types here abusing you?

Margaret: Well no not really - we take them as a they come love - and they take us as we - yeah they take us. 

Tony Twibey interview with Grace Millar, 24 April 2018

 

G T Smiths in Knottingley were a big supermarket in them days. An’ they gave us a ten pound voucher four times in the strike and gave us a Christmas Hamper - yeah. They were really good to miners were G T Smiths.

 

But it was smack in the middle of Pontefract, Castleford and Kellingley where the mines were.  But – but – they  knew who their customers were, but they didn’t have to do that. They were really good to us.

 
 
 
 

Tower

Elwyn Marshall, interview with Ben Curtis, 6 April 2019

I tell you one thing: it was bloody hard work, I know that. Oh, hard work, aye. This bloody box, curling box. You had six foot down and seven foot up, and it was all timber. Breaking your back in bloody half. But, as I said to you earlier on: we didn’t know no different, so it didn’t play on your mind.

 

Windsor Lewis interview with Ben Curtis, 20 May 2019

Of course in 1953 Tower was all horse and tram, and I went then to what they called the training face for four months, and after that four months then you was placed with a collier as an assistant collier to the workman, and he was my boss who trained me throughout, until you became capable of what you called then having a stall of your own.

 

But during those years Tower started transforming, in some sections of the pit, not all, from horse and tram to conveyors. And that was a big step forward. There must’ve been about seven districts in Tower and by each, and of course eventually they all became mechanised, but it took ’em ten, fifteen years later. And we went through then a period of being mechanised. And some people found it difficult at the beginning, from the horse and tram, different systems, but being marvellous workmen they adapted to it.

 

And later then they went to power-loading – the plough faces, back in the Fifties – and it was another step forward of mechanisation again. And of course it was a different system where you, there was no more pit props. You had what you call props, Dowty props, mechanised props, and you had these, what do you call, slombars to support the roof. So that took a while again, stage three, in only a couple of years, and then Tower then, well Tower One actually, became fully mechanised then. They had then, in later years then they had Anderton Shearers, another, not a plough. A plough was pulled up and down the face by a rope, but the Anderton Shearer became a circular drum. So it was another advancement. And then, they brought in then to Tower Four, what do you call, JCBs, a JCM, joy continuous miners. So where they were going with trams they were, they then mechanised this then with this miner, and that did away with horses. So I suppose in ten years Tower got rid of a hundred horses.

Wayne Thomas interview with Ben Curtis, 24 May 2019

But the coalfaces were unbelievable. When we got there all of a sudden we seen all these chock supports, face supports. The diameter of the hydraulic legs, you know, were massive. Three, four times the size of the ones we used to use in Abernant. The canopies again were, you know, the thickness of the steel was three times as thick, they were three times as long. Huge bit of kit for us.

And the most important thing that struck with me was you had square lights there, about six-inch diameter lights, half-inch thick. The lights were in the coalface, in the supports, all the way down the face. And when we got there, you know, coalface for us was a, you know, real shithole and real dark dingy places, all of a sudden you’ve got these huge chock supports you could walk through in safety, or relative safety, and then all of a sudden you had lights all the way down the conveyor. It was like “what the hell’s going on here?”

And it was a different scale totally. It was mining but not as we knew it, so to speak. It was both fascinating and a bit frightening, because the scale of it was much, much bigger. So if there was any incidents then with that machinery there were no half measures. You’re either going to get seriously bloody injured or you’re not of course. So it was, yeah it was a learning curve.

Windsor Lewis interview with Ben Curtis, 20 May 2019

As it happened I was in the manager’s office. Now the manager then was Mr Trevor Rider and he’d only been manager for ten days. Well I was in his office as head measuring boy discussing wages and the phone went, and he went white. He said “Windsor, we’ve got an explosion on our hands”, and then of course, then we all, it was all hell let loose wasn’t it? And I believe there was ten men who were there.

 

But one of them that got killed wasn’t even working in that area, and he was the lodge chairman, a man from Merthyr called Mr David Morris. And they’d had problems in one of the districts and they asked him to come and investigate the dust. And as he went in to investigate the dust, the explosion killed him. But his place was, you know, it was just pure coincidence, but yeah. And of course everybody’s asking then “where is Dai?”, because he was the chairman and, oh this is, “poor bugger, he’s gone”. That was a tragic day, a tragic day, and I knew all of them, I knew every one of them. All friends of mine, you know.

Interviewer: What was the impact on the community of, you know, a fairly close-knit pit I suppose?

Oh yes. And the day of the funerals the pit closed. And they tried to do it all in one day. You had the Merthyr people going to the Merthyr funerals, you had the Aberdare people going to the Aberdare funerals and you had the Hirwaun people going to the Hirwaun funerals. And I believe we buried them all the same day. What a sad day. Very sad. The village was silent. Yeah.

 

But there you are. It made you think then, is it worth it? But we all said “look, it’s just one of those terrible things to happen”. It has happened time and time again before our days, but to happen this time was something very, you know. But we all pulled round. We all did charities and all that and we went back and we fought it. And every miner then, they were strong men, as if they were prepared for it, to get on with life after. Yeah, yeah. It’s like a shudder through your system, but it survived.

Jenny Williams interview with Ben Curtis 20 May 2019

When I started school, I kept running home from school, so my dad actually, he went to, he went then and he started working afternoon shifts. So then to keep me at school, and because I was quite timid, I used to have him to, he used to come down in the playtime in school and used to stay there. And he used to sort of chat with me and all that, and then he’d go back home after playtime, and then he’d go off to work on the afternoon shift.

Glyn Roberts interview with Ben Curtis, 22 November 2018

Well my father, he was different to other people, and my grandfather. The women in them days, they done just with the children and they, with the food and whatever, and do the beds and different things. Well my father would do as much more than, he was way above his time because he was, my mother, very rare she cooked. She could cook but he’d do all the cooking, and if he’s nights he’d wait for the children to go to school, he’d go and do the beds and whatever, and whatever else has got to be done. And like we’d, because he was six foot two, six foot three, right? And he could punch, he used to box, rugby and everything, and so nobody would, they’d have a little joke with him, you know? ‘Where’s your pinny?’ and different things, right? And he’d look at them. ‘Only joking Glyn, only joking’, you know? Aye.

Interviewer: Oh right. Wow. Wow, that’s really something. And that would’ve been fairly unusual at that kind of time?

 

Yeah. There were some other people, miners, that would do the same like innit.

Jenny Williams interview with Ben Curtis 20 May 2019

Interviewer: So, yeah you mentioned about making sandwiches and so on, so what role, what did your work, you know, in the canteen entail?

When I first went there it was doing a bit of everything really, and building up. And then there were some elderly ladies there that was working there, and they finished and I took over their roles of cooking and everything else. And then the manageress she finished, and we had a new manageress came in that came from another colliery.

And there was a lot of different things we had to do then because we had to...you have to be there to prepare everything, you didn’t have a lot of time together. We had our break times, but our break times was always like up and down, up and down, because the door would open. The canteen was never shut, you would have to go and see to someone.

 

And I had got to know quite a lot of the boys then, you know, a lot of them then, and they were sons of the fathers who had finished you know? And they were young boys as well, and they came up and...I, we had to make trifles, we had to make sandwiches, we had to make, prepare the chips, we had to do, it was all done with a machine. Peel the potatoes, eye the potatoes, everything had to be done from scratch, it wasn’t.

Interviewer: It wasn’t oven chips or whatever?

No. Nothing like that at all. It was all prepared, you had to prepare everything. And then that was...that just went on. Or you had to do the sponges for the cakes, you know, and quiche and just prepare the day, what was going.

Lyn Evans interview with Ben Curtis, 13 March 2019

Some of them had been in a long time, you know. So they were experienced men, they knew what they were talking about. They dealt with their workforce, their colleagues, they’ve dealt with managers. So, you did, you tended to look up to them; like I said, I certainly did. You tended to look up to them. They didn’t look down on you, you know, they treated you as an equal. But, they were definitely intelligent men. All the lodge officials I worked with and under were clever men, well-read men. Knew their history, knew their politics. Had interests I suppose outside of the job as well, obviously, which – but when you were in work it tended to be union-based stuff that you always talked about. You know, yes, alright, they liked their gardening, they liked their allotments – but [in work] it was always what was happening in the pit, who done what, who done this, who done that, and what are we going to do about this and that, you know.

Lyn Evans interview with Ben Curtis, 13 March 2019

Tower’s not that far, but boys then were travelling from quite a, you know – Ebbw Vale, all that, so, proper eastern valleys way then. And some travelling from down where Cynheidre was. So the whole coalfield had, sort of, ended up all in the one pit.

Glyn Roberts interview with Ben Curtis, 22 November 2018

We were the last, last pit. Prior to that, the closures were there, right? The number of people that came from them pits to Tower. Right? They’re the same as we are, obviously. But the welcome they had. ’Cause what we would do, we’d have the lodge – when the buses, two buses, three buses, whatever it is – would come on the first day, we’d be there with them.

Wayne Thomas interview with Ben Curtis, 24 May 2019

And you soon got to know the guys, they got to know you. Great. Banter then of course with my Welsh accent, from deep West Wales. From the moment we got off the coaches we were known as jam eaters. “What the hell are you, what are you on about, jam eaters?” Glyn Roberts, I’ll never forget Glyn back then, “come here”, he said, “let me tell you why”. You know Glyn, like, he’s a character. There was a guy on pit bottom from Cynheidre initially. He came to work in Tower many, many years before then. I think he moved up to Aberdare or Hirwaun. And that’s all he used to have every day, was jam sandwiches of course. So everybody now west of Glynneath was known as a bloody jam eater. And that’s stuck to this day. We even go to the Tower reunion this year, and some lads will say “oh this is Wayne, the jam eater”. So that stuck, you know? And that’s how, that’s how things are in the mines of course.