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Noel used ti ride his moped from Bedlington,doon ti Guide Post, up the Morpeth Road,and into the pit road,ti start his shift.

At lowse,[end of shift],he rode up Morpeth Road,through Hepscott,alang ti Netherton Road-ends,up through NeddertonVillage,West Lea,

Ridge Terrace,and back home......Clever!!

He never had to cross over the road in front of oncoming traffic at all on both journey's.

Mind,a never heard of him coming a cropper yet,on that little moped!

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Before a gaan ti pile sum ZZZZZ's up,a thowt a better clarify a previous comment aboot the Canteen Lasses on Area bonus,me comment wasn't meant ti soond derogatory,cos them lasses did a gud hard job,a

The poem is by John Edward Fitzgerald Black, better known as Jack Black. It is from a book called Reflections on Life at Netherton and was published in his memory by his wife Petra in 1994.  Petr

The Netherton Ghost, umm, I think if you had gone around the duckets on a Saturday afternoon and mentioned that I think the reply would have been "howay man wat goest in ee's reet mind wid wanna waak

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  • 3 years later...

In 1971, as part of my Pit Deputy training course,I had to spend three weeks down Netherton Pit.

I was under the charge of Dougie Moore,a great friendly character,and Norman Smeaton,an older fella,serious natured,but also very friendly,and easy to get on with.

Bob Cowell was the Safety Officer,and was also a canny lad,he did me one big gud turn,at the time,which I never forgot,so Bob,if ye ever come on here tek note,a kept me promise!!

Peter Laird was the Undermanager,who a never cared for much,because of his dogmatic condescending attitude...dizzy wi power....we used ti say!! Sorry Pete!!

Matty Smith,another Deputy at Netherton pit,for donkey's years,eventually became my Brother's Father-in-law!

I'd played wi Matty's Son and Daughter from 5 years old,when they moved to Hollymount Square,in the very early 1950's,never dreaming that many years later,My Brother would marry his Daughter,and I would be walking around  underground,at Netherton pit also a young Deputy,chatting to Matty,my next door neighbour!

Life is strange sometimes!

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On 2017-02-10 at 01:06, HIGH PIT WILMA said:

In 1971, as part of my Pit Deputy training course,I had to spend three weeks down Netherton Pit.

I was under the charge of Dougie Moore,a great friendly character,


Lovely man! My next door neighbour throughout my childhood. He acted almost as the colliery 'doctor'. Everybody sent for Dougie whenever a bit of plastering was needed. Netherton pit kept the colliery workers and their families going with elastoplasts and Dettol through the kindness of Dougie.

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Lone Ranger,are ye still gaanin' strang yit?...been a lang time hearing from ye!

A think one of the pics at thi top reminds me of Norman Smeaton,but mind........1971 was a lang time ago!!![a  cud be reet or wrang!]

Canny Lass,a divvent knaa if a telt thi story elsewhere on thi site,but aal tell it anywheh!

When a was alang wi Dougie Moore,at Netherton,in 1971,daeing me Deputy's three weeks training,[which was part of a 16 week course,],we were sitting at the Deputy's Kist,getting wa baits.

Dougie proceeded ti tell me aboot another old-timer Deputy,who worked in this district where we were,and sat at the same kist,getting he's bait,many years before us were.

One night,in the night shift,[5-0pm start-not to be confused with "Fore-shift"....which was a 12-0 midnight start..],this aad Deputy was getting he's bait,on he's own,in a long black dark roadway,as they are underground!

Something caught he's eye in the distant darkness,and he could make out a pinprick of light,[Carbide lamps in those days!],which steadily got nearer,as the minutes passed.

He carried on writing his Mines and Quarries Act 1954 "General Inspection" report on the state of his district,as to safety,production progress etc,when a movement caught his eye again.

Looking up from his report book,he saw a figure of a very old Miner walk past,unseeing,and unmoved,just sauntering slowly outbye,with an unlit clay pipe in his mouth,and an old-fashioned cloth cap and muffler on,typical dress of the real old miners...1800's style.

When he related to others what he had seen ,later on,he found out that a few other men had seen him frequently,and even had an affectionate nickname for the old fella!...but each one hadn't said owt in case others thought they were nuts![so to speak!]

Have you or Maggie ever heard that story before?

Be interesting to find out who the old fella was,and if it was on record,maybe he suffered a fatal accident,or died in the pit while working during his shift.


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Me neither but Dougie was a master of the art of story-telling (I mean that in the nicest possible way). He could keep us amused - and sometimes terrified - at birthday parties with tales of all sorts. I remember once, blindfold, putting my finger in the long-since dead 'King Tut's eye'. Turned out to be a teaspoon full of strawberry jam when I'd stopped screaming and got the blindfold off!

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  • 2 months later...

A poem just posted on the Bedlington Remembered Facebook site - Cyevlin Day at Netherton. I have tried every online Geordie translator, apart from  @HIGH PIT WILMA & @Canny lass as there is one word I can't work out and that's the one in the title - CYEVLIN. 

I've read the poem over and over again and I can't work it out. All I can find online is :- Cyevlin Day at Netherton Jack Black 14 Aut/1978.


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Hi Eggy,and Pete!

Forst off! ...A "Cyevil" [slang],spelt and pronounced correctly,in Queen's English,would read as "Cavil" ,and sound like "Kayvil".

A Cyevil was any place of work in a seam,for the Pieceworkers,i.e. Coalfillers,Caunchmen,Coalcuttermen,"Pullers"..[or,at some pits].."Bumpers",[who advanced the conveyor belt into the new facetrack each day,after the coal had been cut,drilled and fired doon,and filled off onto the conveyor belt],Drillers,and in the days before longwall faces and conveyor belts,you had the Putters,and Drivers.

Before mechanical coalcutters came alang,you had what is depicted on my photo of Wor Auld Chep,aged 14,and he's old Marra the Hewer.

The Hewers literally "Hewed" [picked] the coal down from the solid seam,and filled waiting tubs,to which the Putter would either "Hand-put" [push by hand],or hang his pony on and take the tubs out to a landing.

Aal the putters in the different flats,[or "Cyevils"],would dae the syem,until there was enough tubs to make up a "Set",to which the Drivers would hang thier horse onto,and tek the sets oot ti thi shaft bottom...["Thier"? ..or "Their"?!!!]

When longwall faces came alang,ye had the Caunchmen etc,as aforementioned.

So!...because conditions varied throughout the pit ,wet seams,and coalfaces,dry seams,but with raggy roof-stone or floor-heave,generally bad conditions,and some with what miners would say was "Stannin' like a Palace..",it was only fair to have a means of giving every worker a fair chance to take the gud wi thi bad.

 It became practise to to "Draa the Cyevils"..[Draw the Cavils],every "Quaata",[Quarter],which was the 13 weeks referred to in Jack's poem.

All the workers' "Tallies",[pit safety tokens with each man's number on],would be thrown "inti thi hat",[so to speak!],and a list of all the Cyevils available would be drawn up.[In categories to ensure the experienced workers were alloted to a cyevil in thier domain!]

The person "Drawing" [picking out] the tallies,one at a time,would call out the name of the Cyvil first..."Beamont Seam,Forst North Mothergate Caunch[these would be drawn from the quota of Caunchmen]

Then the Coalfillers Cyevils would be drawn next,the Cuttermen,Drillers,etc.

Pete is right,as far as the Fillers go,cos they could Draw a good stretch of coal,nice and dry,gud roof conditions,meant gud money,or he cud draw a stinking wet cyevil,on the same face,further along,with faulted ground,[bad roof conditions],which meant slow progress....less money!!

In the old arc-walls,with Hewers,if he had a stinking bad cyevil,nea money,then the putters and drivers suffered also,cos coal paid thier wages!

At the end of each "Quaata",the last friday of the quaata was called "Shifting-gear-day".

All the faceworkers brought thier picks shovels,saws,mels,and wativvor else they needed,out of the pit,cos they might draw a cyevil in another part of the pit a mile away!!,so they needed to have all thier gear ready to go with them to the new cyevil...wherever it might be.[they had to buy all their gear in the old days!]

In a nutshell,it was virtually a raffle of job places!!

Now,although the Cyevilling system was brought to an end with the introduction of the Power Loading Agreement,in the early 1960's,when Mechanisation  took over coal production,there were still some Cyevills which were agreed as a "Bargain" with Management,long before the P.L.A. came along,such as the 6th North,in the Plessey Seam at Bates Pit,and the teams of Development [or "Composite"]men,were still on the old-fashioned "Piecework" agreement,making really good money,right up to the pit closing down in 1986!

When Thatcher and British Coal brought out the new "Productivity Bonus Scheme",we all new it would put "Man against Man"...,and ..."Pit against Pit".


Up to the pit closures,those who had a gud Cyevil,[or pit!],like Ellington,or the Nottingham pits,made fantastic money,and those who had rotten Cyevils,like those poor sods down the Three-Quarter Drift,at Bates,which was a heavily-faulted Seam,teeming in with Sea-water,and atrocious roof conditions,made NOWT!

There was a time when the pit canteen lasses who were on the Area bonus,had forty times more bonus per shift,than my Marra's and myself,who had 90pence per shift sometimes,[due to really bad conditions],when ELLINGTON MEN WERE GETTING £100 PER SHIFT!!

Now THAT was the unfairness of a modern "Bonus" scheme,compared to a century-old "Cyevilling" system,where at least,everybody was given a fair crack of the whip,and lads could,if they so desired,swap cyevils with another lad,if it suited them both.

Sorry folks,but ye canna explain pitwark in one sentence!!,hope aav helped ye understand, Eggy!

A just remembered,at Choppington High Pit,when aa started ,in 1959,the Coalfillers used ti "Bargain" with Management,by the whole team of fillers on each face,putting "Tenders"in,to try and get ["Win"] a good "Bargain price",for the next Quarter,when a new face was ready for production,and existing faces were being abandoned.

Just like businesses,whoever put the lowest tender,got the FACE,albeit,at a bit lower pay,but better than Shift-work!

At  Choppington,we had 13 yards of coal per stretch,[ from 2'-3"..down to 18" high,and soaking wet bad roof]and,at Bedlington A pit,we had 9 yards of coal per filler,at 1'-10" to 2'-2" high. [and dusty dry,with a solid post-stone roof!]..this was in the 1960's don't forget!..hand-filling with a huge "George Rock" pan shovel!

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"Bread and jam..." = Hard up!! [poor cyevil!]

"Eggs and Ham"...= a canny pay.[gud cyevil!]

Those were the days my Friend....!

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10 hours ago, HIGH PIT WILMA said:

"Bread and jam..." = Hard up!! [poor cyevil!]

"Eggs and Ham"...= a canny pay.[gud cyevil!]

Those were the days my Friend....!

Cheers HPW - a wuld nivver hev worked that oot!

Looks like I drew a canny cyevil in life's lottery and me pussy in the oven has been worth it!.


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Spot on HPW and in much more detail than I could have described it. Cyevlin was still actual at Netherton during the fifties. One little amendment, (in case anybody wants to look it up), the word is 'cavel' - with an e, not 'cavil' with an but I dare say there was a fair bit of cavil going on as well. It's a dialect word and follows the typical sound changing characteristics of the North East dialect. Compare cavel/cyevil with table/tyebil or cable/cyebil.

It came to Britain from New Zealand in the 1800's. I've no idea how or why.

What a wonderful resource we have here with the likes of HPW and Vic to answer mining qestions!

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Heh heh! Nice one Eggy!

Many thanks Canny Lass!...we're aal part of the team here,so aam grateful for your info on the word Cyevil,aav only ever seen it in pit head documents posted up owa the years and aalwis knaan it as Cavil,but like ye point oot,it's typical of the mining fraternity ti slang the dialect!

It's interesting ti knaa that it came from New Zealand,but how on earth did it arrive here,I always thought that it was wor poor sods who were deported owa ti Australia and them faraway places for little things like pinching a stotty-cyek cos the bairns were starving.....and that sort of thing!!

Who,would want ti cum here from N Z and why?...aam baffled..!![but mind,tek me away from Pitwark,and aam bugaad!]

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A thowt just came ti me,when aa was thinking aboot hoo we drew cyevils,locally,amang the spare men,ti fill cyevils that were temporarily vacated because of sickness or men on rest days ,or whatever.

This was at every pit,and right up till all the pits closed in the Thatcher years after the 1984 strike,from the start of pits!

The overman would call the spare men together and say.."Howweh lads,hoy ya tallies in the hat".[this was directly before gaan doon in the cage at the start of the shift.]

They had ti wait till everybody had clocked in by the start-time,before draa-in' the spare cyevils.

So the owaman wud caal oot "22's face,Shearer-man",then he wud get one of the lads ti pick a tally oot thi hat,or he might pick them oot he'sell'.

Whey me point was,me Marra,who was a proper character,weel knaan and weel liked,AALWIS drew a gud cyevil!!

One day a said ti him,"Hoo cum ee elwis draa a gud cyevil,and ivry bugga else teks pot luck?"

Wi a sly grin,he pulled he's tally oot o' he's pocket and sed,"Wilma,in this world,ye gotta get wise if ye want ti get on!!"

"Hoo di ye mean like?"

He pointed doon ti he's tally,and sqeezed it between he's two fingers and thumb,bending it inti nearly a right-angle shape,then as he hoyed it inti the hat for the draa,he laughed and sed .."Waatch Wilma!"

The best cyevils were aalwis draan forst,so as the Owaman put he's hand inti thi hat,while caalin the cyevil oot,he rattled aal the tallies,fiddled aboot,and who's tally came oot?.........Spot on!!

It was me Marra...AGAIN!

Whey after a while thi lads started thinking it was a fix between the Owaman and me Marra!

So me Marra sed,"A think aal let it gaan for a day or two,ye see Wilma,the bent tally aalwis finds it's way inti ya hand,inside the hat amang aal thi other tallies!

Noo ye canna say it was truly cheating,cos ya tally DID get bent noo and again,cos ye were craaling aroond in very low rough conditions,wi mebbe a knife in ya pocket or other bits and bobs...mebbe a drill-bit etc.

But the tally clerk wud straighten them ti hang them on the tally-board at the end of ya shift when ye hoyed ya tallies in at the time office,or when ye hoyed ya forst one in ti thi Banksman as ye got inti thi cage ti gaan doon.

Me Marra was as sly as a fox,with a gud set of philosophies!

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Before a gaan ti pile sum ZZZZZ's up,a thowt a better clarify a previous comment aboot the Canteen Lasses on Area bonus,me comment wasn't meant ti soond derogatory,cos them lasses did a gud hard job,at a pit like Bates,wi 2000 men!

Naa,me comment was meant ti include AAL surface staff who were contracted on the area bonus scheme,which was the average of the bonus's of every individual pit in the area,and included Wages clerks,Time office staff,and aal them[thoosands of them!!]...at the Area Headquarters at Teems Valley Gateshead.

People in the offices,nae disrespect,cos we wud be badly on withoot them,but it made us sore,ti knaa they were getting £40  a shift,sumtimes when we were gettin hurt in accidents,roof falls of stone,soaking wet,coming oot the pit wi arms hanging doon like a gorilla,tired oot,after filling two "Shots" of coal,humping heavy girders,etc,soakng wet,dust,fumes........for sumtimes 90 pence a shift!!![rant over!!!....purely for educashun porpises...like!!!]

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10 hours ago, HIGH PIT WILMA said:

a stotty-cyek

... "cyek" there's another lovely example of that same sound changing characteristic which is so typical of the North East dialect.. The long 'ai' sound in cake and cavel becomes a short 'e' sound, as in egg. Then we stick a 'y' sound ( y as in yacht rather than y as in fairy). Lovely!

Maybe the word went to Australia and then on to New Zealand before returning as dialect to England. That happened to the English word 'cake' which started out as Scandinavian 'kaka' and returned back to Scandinavia as 'keks'. Recycling at it's best!

I did a search but can't find any trace of it as 'Queens English'. It only seems to have been a dialect word in Britain and only since the 18th century. 

Brian Cross, can you help? Have you heard the word 'cavel', or anything similar, anywhere down under?

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The book that would solve al these cavil questions is a book called Pitmatic, The Talk of the North Eastern Coalfield compiled by Bill Griffiths Northumbria University Press, Price (or mine was!)£9.99

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Noel got job on bank at Netherton searching miners for "contraband" (cigarettes, pipe baccy etc.) He got the nickname of a siger who was popular at the time - Tab Hunter..................

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The Netherton Ghost, umm, I think if you had gone around the duckets on a Saturday afternoon and mentioned that I think the reply would have been "howay man wat goest in ee's reet mind wid wanna waak aroon doon a pit? Gidda way an divvint taak see stupit"

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The poem is by John Edward Fitzgerald Black, better known as Jack Black. It is from a book called Reflections on Life at Netherton and was published in his memory by his wife Petra in 1994. 

Petra was a German prisoner of war and remained here when she married Jack. I will always remember her going about, first, on her bike, and later on her moped in her nurses uniform and cape.

The book is written in poetic Pitmatic,and  the Forward is one of the most inspirational piece of writing I have come across and it is entitled "Six netties past the tap", the tap being in Howard row where he was born but lived most of his life in 2 Second Street.

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