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13 hours ago, Symptoms said:

I'm interested in these 'shit flies' and 'fleas'.  What were they?  How did they survive underground?

No scientific explanations offered on the existence of these flies. Looks like it could be down to HPW to see if he made notes and studies of the flies that lived off the gallawa droppings; miners droppings; cheese & jam sarnies and crawled up your nose for fun.

Tried a Google of - 'pit men underground flies' - 'shit flies in coal mines' but for once nothing returned that resulted in a cry of eureka!

Were flies tolerated so there was no need to bring canaries into the pit to prove one could breath, and smell, underground?

Plenty water in the mines so no need for the intake of urinated refreshment.

Symptoms - have you done some research?  


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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi folks,aav just seen family back off ti London,weshed me dishes and had LBJ oot for waakies,so aam buggaad,a need summick ti eat,and pile sum zzzzzzzzz's

up n thi bed-shed,so aal hae ti pick anutha neet ti update/educate you's on thi finer points of [A]Baits. and S...-fleas!

Believe me,I have had plenty experiences on both counts,and not only fleas,but other intriguing insects as weel,not normally found in coal-mines!!

Another night beckons!

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On 8/5/2016 at 01:01, HIGH PIT WILMA said:

Just aboot ti switch off,and noticed the bold text....not my daeing....!! ..wat's gaaning on?!

could be you are accidentally, simultaneously, pressing the Ctrl + B keys - that is the equivalent to selecting the in the top left corner of the input box.

If that is the case then I would say you are aaal fingas and thums man, ya want ti sort yasel oot.


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Naa Eggy,thanks for the suggestion,but aam a one-finger typer,and a proof-read everything a write,naa,tha's definitely a glitch either wi thi site,or wi my laptop,but if Canny Lass has had similar problems,it rules oot my lappie..methinks!

Nae big deal,it's worse when ye tek an 'oor ti write a story,and loss it cos it'll not save and post it!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi folks!

Just ti let yi aal knaa a hevn't forgotten me promise a med above,aboot Baits and .......fleas....etc!

Aam hevving a rough check just noo domestically....i.e.,me Wife's health etc,but wa gettin theor!

Keep ahaud!

P.S. .....mebbe it wud be a gud idea if a start a new topic on that subject,cos a dae gaan on a bit!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Help needed again from our resident mining experts!

"The stone fell from a jack and canted the timber out". (1913)

This is written in a mining report related to an accident in which a young boy was killed. I understand he died instantly under the stone.

Can anybody explain what a 'jack' is and what a 'canted out timber' is? 

Trying to get an idea of how this accident happened.

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Hi Canny Lass!

Depends which area the tragic fatality occurred.If they were using a "Simplex" ratchet jack for some reason,maybe against the roof in a very low seam,to move a

coalcutter,and the roof broke up,it would naturally cause a roof fall which would "Cant"[knock] out the adjacent pit props which were holding the roof up.

If you put a pit prop in against the roof,and it isn't vertical,[on a horizontal seam that is!],you would say the prop was "on the cant".[sloping!]

If the coal seam was in a rising plane,you would refer to the seam being "on thi cant",therefore you would put your props in on the cant also,ensuring it was at right-angles to the floor.[whatever angle the seam was ].

In Yorkshire,and other areas,they use terms we haven't heard of!

At Choppington High Pit,where roof conditions were atrocious,and accidents happened almost weekly,if not daily,the caunchmen used to put two long thick props

in at a cant,with a long plank horizontally,between the props,to "stay" up the stone strata facing,where coal had been extracted from underneath,[the "Caunch"],

and they referred to these props as "Brow-stays"..[pronounced.."Brew-stays"],as they supported the "Brow" of the Caunch.

Now,supposing other pits did the same thing,they might refer to them as "Jacks"...[speculation!],I know they didn't use this method of support at the other pits where I worked,only Choppington.

If I knew what report the quote came from,and could read the whole report,it might be easier explained!

I hope at least you have a bit better understanding of some of pitwork methods,Canny Lass!

If you visit my Bates Pit Pics,on Flickr,you will see what a "Caunch" is![or other pit pics on other sites on Flickr,it's a great site!]

On a closing note,I would eat grass,if the judge didn't lay the blame on the miners,for negligence,and cleared the coal-owners[his cronies!],of any blame.

Check out fatal accidents enquiries at the "Old Bailey" ,in the years circa 1890-ish,or anywhere around the beginning of the coal industry.

It is full of.."the miner didn't have enough timber in......"     ....."the boy was riding illegally on the limbers"....."the miner failed to observe the mine-owner's rules".....!

He didn't have enough timber in,cos he wouldn't have ENOUGH to put in,cos the greedy Coal-owners wouldn't invest in safety.

It was still hanging on like that at Choppington,for a long time,they used to have a man underground,with a "girder-straightener",in which he would be pumping away on a hydraulic operated device handle,for hours to straighten one girder or steel plank which had been bent under roof pressure![rather than send new ones !]

They re-used old pitprops over and over till they were rotten with being waterlogged constantly,and which caused roof falls on the coal faces,but nobody said owt aboot it....it was the way it worked!

Eeh!,time ti wesh me dishes,then it's waaky-time for LBJ!

Ta Ta for noo!


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Thanks HPW! I didn't think about that kind of jack!

If you are asking about which area in the pit the accident occurred then I'm afraid I can't help. I haven't seen the full report as I'm still trying to get my hands on it. However, I do know that it happened at Bebside colliery on May 3rd 1913 and that the lad was a putter. Here's a bit more info:

"Deceased was going along the coal face between two gateways, when a filler in one gate shouted to deceased not to go along there as stone was heavy. Just then a huge fall occurred, killing deceased instantly. the stone fell from a jack and canted the timber out".

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4 hours ago, Canny lass said:

Thanks HPW! I didn't think about that kind of jack!

If you are asking about which area in the pit the accident occurred then I'm afraid I can't help. I haven't seen the full report as I'm still trying to get my hands on it. However, I do know that it happened at Bebside colliery on May 3rd 1913 and that the lad was a putter. Here's a bit more info:

"Deceased was going along the coal face between two gateways, when a filler in one gate shouted to deceased not to go along there as stone was heavy. Just then a huge fall occurred, killing deceased instantly. the stone fell from a jack and canted the timber out".

CM - Durham Mining Museum web site, 'Researchers' on-line form - I expect this is the route you are taking attempting to gain access to the 'full report' but just in case it's not you now have another route :-


DMM Researchers request.jpg

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16 hours ago, Canny lass said:

Thanks Eggy! This is the site I'm using but so far I'm not having any luck with finding the full report.

Many months ago I emailed the DMM some photos of Barrington pit a mate had sent me. Just asked if they would like them to add into the site bu they were never added and I never got any acknowledgement from them. I emailed them a second time, after allowing time for two of their monthly 'committee' meetings to have taken place, but still no response. Just checked and photos still not added to their 'Gallery Images' page. 

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I  said it on a previous  posting,not being really critical of the D,M,M,,cos it's a great database of information,but they do have a few inaccuracies on thier records!

These I know for fact,as some fatalities at Choppington,for instance,were recorded as having happened some years before I started there,when in fact....they happened minutes after I was talking to the fellas concerned!

Also dates of seams worked are inaccurate,I don't know how this could possibly happen!

It's a real shame about your photos,Eggy,but hopefully they are in safe hands and just filed away by mistake!

Some years ago,I took my Bates Pit pics over to Woodhorn,on my Son's advice,[and before we had computers and printers!],for them to copy , for the museum.

They gave me a signed receipt,with a promise to return them to me asap.

This they did,and within a couple of days I had my original pics back.

D.M.M. should have done the same![mebbe we should gaan on picket duty aroond the museum ti hae them reinstated!]

Canny Lass,when a coal-face starts to "Lay-on",it means that the roof strata above your head is starting to break up,albeit in chunks the size of a street of terraced houses,sometimes,and all supported by an organised forest of timber planks and pit props .[in the  old days!,but hydraulic heavy-duty steel "face chocks" in later years..]

The weight on the timber supports used to make them crunch and grind,squeal,loud cracking,and splinter like matchwood,in front of your very eyes!

The whole place where your lamp can shine,[approx 60 yards],used to move about like you had a few pints on board!

When things got really heavy,and she started talking LOUD!..you were OFF the face in seconds,even if it was only eighteen inches high,and a very difficult crawl off!

This lad,who was a putter,[used to take the empty tubs in,and bring the full tubs out..],was warned that the face was "Heavy"...[...i.e..Laying-on],and he continued to

go through the "face"...[a bit of bad reporting methinks,cos when longwall faces came in,they had conveyor belts to bring the coal out!]

Putters [either "Hand-Putting" or "Pony-Putting"],took tubs into "Bord-and-Pillar" workings,["Arc-walls"],where intersecting roads called "Stentons",or, as at Choppington High Pit......."Throo-shoots"..[pronounced...."Thru-Shuts".....]...,were driven,to ensure ventilation wasn't compromised.[usually every 60 yards]

So this Putter was probably travelling along the Thru-shut [not the coal-face!] to tek the full tub oot,from the filler in the backroad..[or the "Tailgate"]...if he was supplying the two fillers with empty tubs.[one filler in each gateway...[roadway].

It would probably only BE "Tub-Height",that is,just a few inches above the height of the tub as it stood on the rails..so he would be walking with his back bent.

So when it started laying-on,and roof-falls occurred,he would have had very little room to move,if he was taking a tub along,which would just about block his retreat.

When the 3/4 seam at Bates pit decided to start layin-on ,the noise was like loud rattles of thunder,and I mean LOUD!...it was devilish,and when you retreated out of the roadway to a relatively "Safe" place,and shone your caplamp in,you could watch 14feet wide,by 10 feet high,arched heavy-section "H" girders,"dancing" all over,while being crushed by this tremendous pressure from roof and sides,and it was a queer sight, to see a whole length of roadway moving from side to side with smaller bits of stone rattling down everywhere between each of the girders!

If a stranger came in,on a visit, and witnessed this,he would be out  like a shot...but you get used to all the dangers,in any job,so we used to be all laughing and carrying on,except when it started when you were in the middle of a 200 yards long coalface,and you could literally see the roof lowering by the inch,THAT was a different matter![it was a case of "all hands off deck"...like sinking-ship rats!




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On 28/08/2016 at 23:04, Canny lass said:

You divvent gaan on enough man and while aa naa nowt aboot fleas in pits (apart from the top-end pitcher hoose) a dee naa that baits an pits belang tegither, so here wad be a good place ti write aboot them. Hope everything is OK with Mrs. HPW:

Aa can mind me Mutha puttin' Wor Auld Chep's bait up,when a was as young as aboot six![characteristically,because of the abscence of any bait-boxes!]

The bait sammidges were wrapped in newspaper,and put in a string-tied "sandshoe-bag",which me Mutha wudda med,oot a bit o' aad cloth.

Nae flasks....just a bottle of caad tea,in a Muter's pop bottle.

 A can see him clearly,wi he's pit mack on,[a broon one],bottle o' tea in one side pocket,bait-bag in the other side pocket.[nea biscuits or crisps for a snack!!]

But earlier than that,[mebbe aboot 2 1/2-3 yrs aad,] a can clearly mind him lifting me on top of a big hessian sack of coal,which was draped owa thi cross-bar

of his aad pit bike,wi him pushin' it up thi back of Storey's Buildings,and which he had picked of the Low-Pit heap at Choppington.[which a lot of pitmen did in them days,before concessionary coal was agreed upon...not "FREE" as folk always used to grouch about,but in lieu of a reduced wage,and so forming part of a wage in kind...[like a company car].When we got in the hoose,he aalwis had a jam sammidge from he's bait,wad he  kept ..."fo' thi bairn.."!]

So when aa started at thi pit,[High Pit]aa had me bait-bag as weel!

Noo,cloth bait-bags were aal reet........until ye came ootbye,sowkin' wet....up ti thi eyes o' clarts,absoloutely buggaad.....,and when ye went ti get ya bait oot ya

"Bait-bag" [ex-army gas-mask satchel!],and a haaf-duzzen fat mice jumped oot in aal directions,it wasn't sae funny!

Noo,mice or nae mice,when aa wuz starving,the mice were lucky ti escape!..me bait wud hae aal the corners of the sammidges chewed away,as they dae,like,but aal a did was yank the chewed bits off and hoy it doon for thi poor little hungry mites!,and eat the rest!!!

From me starting the pit thi forst day,a tuk six sammidges,["Wonderloaf"!],wi butter and banana ,and a spoon o' sugar sprinkled owa each sammidge.

After a few weeks of really hard work,[for a 15yr aad kid stryght oot' o' skyeull!],a was asking me Mutha ti put a cupple extra in.

This went on owa a few mair weeks,till a was tekkin' FOWTEEN banana n sugar sammidges,and walloping thim aal doon in thi 20 minutes bait-time we were allowed!

Owld-timers used ti say,"Wilma, wheor thi hell are ye gaana put aal them bugga's?!...and a used ti just laugh,and say,"Just waatch!".

Some o' them wud hae TWO sammidges,some fower,usually jam n breed,or if it was a Sunday neet or Monday ,they wud hae drippin' sammidges,wi a ton o' salt on!!

Noo doon thi pit,tha's nae toilets or fancy wesh-basins,so yi get ya bait wi clarty hands,weshed in a clarty black swalley o' waata,wheor man and horse wudda been gettin a diddle in aal day lang![..and hae yi seen hoo much waata a horse diddles?!!!]

After some blokes had tha baits,they wud say,"whey aam away forra sh.....e if Joe Barrat waants ti knaa wheor aam is!

They wud usually gaan doon an aad worked-oot roadway...oot thi way of thi men gettin' tha baits,still.

But some blokes delighted in gaanin doon thi roadway,on thi ootbye side o' ye,so ye got aal the foul reek..

Other blokes,[usually heavy drinkers],couldn't  wait ti craal off the face,which was aboot 2foot  3 inches high,so they wud cock tha hint-end in between thi timbers,and just gaan ti thi toilet there!,sutimes happin it up wi a shuul-ful o' duff.[smaal fine coals].

NOO,when ye were craalin doon the fyess,yi mite unwittingly find the muck by puttin ye hands and thi whole of ya body in it,cos in a low seam ya craalin like a snake.!

After a cupple of days,when mrs sh....tflea cums alang,lukkin fo' a nest ti lay two million eggs in,she is as happy as a lark!!

When YE put ya hands in a  well-fermented nest of writhing swirling maggots,the muck turns ti a liquidy jelly-like sludge...disgusting!!

When aal thi little kids turn inti big kids,bingo......ya cap-lamps attract them like glue!!.....and thi little buggaas bite like hell!

Will continue,LBJ crying at me legs here pitifully!!

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A million thanks HPW! A very vivid and easy to understand description of what it must have been like for my relative in 1913. Knowing what miners endured makes me very proud to come from a family of miners who, when you think back on it, were at the very heart of the industrial revolution in Britain. Without them where would we be today. Hats off to each and everyone of them!

PS your decription of the pit 'netties' left me gasping for breath!

Edited by Canny lass
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