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The Coal Seams

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Merc,if you had looked out of your back windows in the 1960's,you would have seen the second biggest man-made mountain,next to Bedlington A pit's pit- heap!!

They were enormous and always on fire at the top,smouldering embers fanned by strong winds made them glow ghostily at night !!

Sulphrous fumes hung around all over on calm nights......ahhhh the gud aad days eh?! 

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Amazing stuff, thank you so very much! I walk the direction you suggest often, usually by way of my back gate rather than the road, and know the locations you are talking about.I've never got as far as the Morpeth road, although know the paths that lead there, so shall do that one next. By the way, I love this location, best place I've ever lived. Quiet, convenient and with truly lovely neighbours.

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My understanding Symptoms is that no one knows where they are and how they have been sealed until the hole appears.

Subsidence around any Mining area needs careful watching.

I suppose it is no different to 'sink holes'

One appeared on the main A 21 to Hastings this year.

Maggie - don't know all the ins and outs of the pit shafts etc. but just a couple of years ago I did a bit of digging for a young lady in connection with the Bower Grange estate on the old 'A' pit. She said her parents plus a few other residents, were concerned about cracks appearing load bearing walls. I remembered the fuss when the estate was first built - 1970s - and a committee was formed to discuss subsidence with Coal Board & Council etc. - the residents got nowhere and no action taken. I said I would try and find out exactly what the response had been from the Coal Board.

 

Passed around a couple of departments within the Coal Board and eventually ended up discussing the Bower Grange estate with the Surveyors Department and with us both using Google Street view I was directed to the house(s) that were built where the pit head shafts were located. The info I was given I still have documented ant the gist of it is :-  Subsidence damage has to be identified within 3 years and the building of property and claims, normally, should be submitted within 6 years after the closure of the pit – (that's how I interpreted what he said to me) - the Coal Authority are 100% sure there is could be no claim against them. Pitt closed in 1962, building did not start until more than 6 years after.

The Coal Authority records go back to 1872 and show that no mine shafts were less than the statutory 70 meters deep. Therefore it would have to be proved that there were, prior to 1872, shafts with 'bye-ways' of less than 70 meters deep.

The Pitt Head Shafts were located where the existing streets, Hastings Court & Delaval Crescent, are built and these areas would be the most suspect, if subsidence was to occur.

So any shaft sunk 1872 or later the Coal Board should be able to tell you where it is!  

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Amazing stuff, thank you so very much! I walk the direction you suggest often, usually by way of my back gate rather than the road, and know the locations you are talking about.I've never got as far as the Morpeth road, although know the paths that lead there, so shall do that one next. By the way, I love this location, best place I've ever lived. Quiet, convenient and with truly lovely neighbours.

Merc,if ye cross thi road and come owa the fields doon from Eastgreen,yi might bump inti me and my Little Black Jess!

We waak owa them fields towards your place from Bomarsund,just aboot ivry mornin!

Yi wud knaa us by hor being a little Labrador /cross,and me an aad silly bugga waakin alang singin me heart oot,[cos aam an aad Muso-guitar player who canna sing, but tries anyway....!]

When thi pits were gaanin,Choppington was like every other close-knit mining community,everybody knew everybody else...whole families worked doon the pit together...Fathers,Sons,Brothers,Uncles....Friends...Neighbours....etc.

Pleased yi have settled in,and enjoy living here!

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Cheer Wilma, next time I fancy a walk I might head out that way! My late dog, collie, was also called Jess.

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Merc,wat a strange co-incidence!..a wud be pleased ti meet yi one day!

NOO!,aboot this Bower Grange debate!!

Let's the facts straight,Eggy![.....says Wilma ...in his Mr Know-all voice...!!!heh heh ]

Bedlington "A" Pit, closed in 1971,[not 1962..!!]...I was transferred there in 1965,from Choppington High Pit,[when it was about to close in 1966].

I was then transferred to Bates Pit in 1971,shortly before the "A" pit closed [ in 1971]..having qualified as a mine Deputy.

I came back into the N.U.M.,disillusioned with Deputy-work,in 1978.

One day,in around the 1980's,I was attending a safety course,on the surface,at Bates,when the course tutor,who was our Safety Officer,was called away to Bower Grange development ground-works.

He had gotten a phone call to say a J.C.B. digging machine,with the back-actor,and it's operator,had fallen into old mineworkings,on the site where the

foundations for the houses were.

The machine went down about 20 feet,and the operator was obviously injured.

The next day,I asked him what had happened,and that is what he told me,saying that the workings were uncharted,and were the remains of mining done by the Monks,hundreds of years ago.

The coal seam workings had been dug out with a pick only,and the sides were as "straight as a die".....[meaningless to the uninitiated...but to those

who have had to use a pick on solid coal,without explosives,will understand!!...coal is hard like diamond in some seams,admittedly softer in others....but still HARD!!]

There was no mention of this in the press that I recall,and when I have spoken to residents,[strangers to me sometimes],when out dog-walking,they

have been surprised to hear that the Gallagher Park Hill,was the biggest Pit-heap in the country,and was 140 years old when I started there in 1965!!

Now the place where the machine went down,wasn't the first time old workings had been found,previous to that,a lot of years ago,they found old picks and shovels,with small baskets that the monks would have filled ,[having picked on for hours at the coal face,for a pailfull of coal],and then dragged out to the surface.

In "modern" times,like.....after the war,the A pit used the Bord-and-Pillar method of extraction of the coal,and the High Main seam,which was ten feet high,was like the proverbial rabbit warren,with a lattice-work of criss-cross roadways...[or "Bords"]

Pillars of coal 60 yards by 60 yards were left in to support the roof,and supposedly prevent subsidence......in a seam which wasn't 40 yards down underground!

The seam was worked under the whole of Bedlington,along with the contribution made by the Bedlington "Doctor" Pit also.

Just like Choppington,when the pit was about to close,and it was a case of fighting for survival,boundaries became meaningless,and officials gave orders to carry on working the seam,contrary to the mine regulations,and the plans laid down by the surveyors and planning department.

But you see,it's all gone,and when Mr Budge,took over from British Coal,it was a well-known fact,that he destroyed most of the offices files at Team Valley,including personal files appertaining to me personally,which makes me wonder now,what was the reasoning behind all this,and why didn't British Coal ensure all files were protected and transferred to be archived?

Also makes me wonder if his very good friend,thatcher-the-hatcheter,ordered him to do this....for some odd reason.....hmmmm!

Seams which were deeper,such as the Harvey,the Denton low Main,etc,were worked using Longwall coal faces,otherwise known as "Total Extraction"

Now if you add up all the seams ever worked at all the pits,[and at one time there were more than 76 pits in Northumberland alone..!!],you will see that a considerable amount of vertical support has been removed,so it's no wonder door-frames twist,and windows crack,due to subsidence!!

The "experts",who know the bookwork,used to preach the idea of "Consolidation"...meaning when you extract ten feet of coal-height,it's only the immediate few feet above the seam,what will collapse into the void left by the coal extraction....the strata will eventually be strengthened by the "Pressure-arch" theory. ....and Consolidation will take place.[no risk of the collapsing strata reaching to the next seam,or to the surface.

Try telling that to any miner who worked the Beaumont seam at Choppington B pit!

The strata was what the "experts" referred to as "very friable"....meaning when a roof fall occurred,you couldn't stop it...the strata was blue shale,and full of "slippy-backs",which meant as fast as you filled the rubble away...more kept pouring in like water out of a barrel.

I could go on for ages with these truths.......well...I just DID!!

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The depth of the mine shaft is irrelevant to subsidence in a way,it's the workings where the coal was extracted,that causes the problems!

[unless we consider sink-holes forming from ancient Monks' bell-pits etc!]

Just thought I would try and clarify that one !

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HPW, you are a walking encyclopaedia on Coal Mining. Fascinating threads wherever you post them. Keep them coming, bonny lad. 

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Merc,wat a strange co-incidence!..a wud be pleased ti meet yi one day!

NOO!,aboot this Bower Grange debate!!

Let's the facts straight,Eggy![.....says Wilma ...in his Mr Know-all voice...!!!heh heh ]

Bedlington "A" Pit, closed in 1971,[not 1962..!!]...I was transferred there in 1965,from Choppington High Pit,[when it was about to close in 1966].

I was then transferred to Bates Pit in 1971,shortly before the "A" pit closed [ in 1971]..having qualified as a mine Deputy.

I came back into the N.U.M.,disillusioned with Deputy-work,in 1978.

One day,in around the 1980's,I was attending a safety course,on the surface,at Bates,when the course tutor,who was our Safety Officer,was called away to Bower Grange development ground-works.

He had gotten a phone call to say a J.C.B. digging machine,with the back-actor,and it's operator,had fallen into old mineworkings,on the site where the

foundations for the houses were.

The machine went down about 20 feet,and the operator was obviously injured.

The next day,I asked him what had happened,and that is what he told me,saying that the workings were uncharted,and were the remains of mining done by the Monks,hundreds of years ago.

The coal seam workings had been dug out with a pick only,and the sides were as "straight as a die".....[meaningless to the uninitiated...but to those

who have had to use a pick on solid coal,without explosives,will understand!!...coal is hard like diamond in some seams,admittedly softer in others....but still HARD!!]

There was no mention of this in the press that I recall,and when I have spoken to residents,[strangers to me sometimes],when out dog-walking,they

have been surprised to hear that the Gallagher Park Hill,was the biggest Pit-heap in the country,and was 140 years old when I started there in 1965!!

Now the place where the machine went down,wasn't the first time old workings had been found,previous to that,a lot of years ago,they found old picks and shovels,with small baskets that the monks would have filled ,[having picked on for hours at the coal face,for a pailfull of coal],and then dragged out to the surface.

In "modern" times,like.....after the war,the A pit used the Bord-and-Pillar method of extraction of the coal,and the High Main seam,which was ten feet high,was like the proverbial rabbit warren,with a lattice-work of criss-cross roadways...[or "Bords"]

Pillars of coal 60 yards by 60 yards were left in to support the roof,and supposedly prevent subsidence......in a seam which wasn't 40 yards down underground!

The seam was worked under the whole of Bedlington,along with the contribution made by the Bedlington "Doctor" Pit also.

Just like Choppington,when the pit was about to close,and it was a case of fighting for survival,boundaries became meaningless,and officials gave orders to carry on working the seam,contrary to the mine regulations,and the plans laid down by the surveyors and planning department.

But you see,it's all gone,and when Mr Budge,took over from British Coal,it was a well-known fact,that he destroyed most of the offices files at Team Valley,including personal files appertaining to me personally,which makes me wonder now,what was the reasoning behind all this,and why didn't British Coal ensure all files were protected and transferred to be archived?

Also makes me wonder if his very good friend,thatcher-the-hatcheter,ordered him to do this....for some odd reason.....hmmmm!

Seams which were deeper,such as the Harvey,the Denton low Main,etc,were worked using Longwall coal faces,otherwise known as "Total Extraction"

Now if you add up all the seams ever worked at all the pits,[and at one time there were more than 76 pits in Northumberland alone..!!],you will see that a considerable amount of vertical support has been removed,so it's no wonder door-frames twist,and windows crack,due to subsidence!!

The "experts",who know the bookwork,used to preach the idea of "Consolidation"...meaning when you extract ten feet of coal-height,it's only the immediate few feet above the seam,what will collapse into the void left by the coal extraction....the strata will eventually be strengthened by the "Pressure-arch" theory. ....and Consolidation will take place.[no risk of the collapsing strata reaching to the next seam,or to the surface.

Try telling that to any miner who worked the Beaumont seam at Choppington B pit!

The strata was what the "experts" referred to as "very friable"....meaning when a roof fall occurred,you couldn't stop it...the strata was blue shale,and full of "slippy-backs",which meant as fast as you filled the rubble away...more kept pouring in like water out of a barrel.

I could go on for ages with these truths.......well...I just DID!!

Yep your right, must proof read my postings - 25th September 1971 it closed (date on Durham Mining Museum site). 

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Has the new police station got a problem with subsidence?

I hope it is just a rumour .

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Maggie,I wouldn't be surprised one little bit!....can you remember the brand new "TopClub" that was built and demolished within a few short years,where

Morrison's now stands?

That building was state of the art,at the time,they were putting cinema matinees for the kids,etc......but subsidence took it's toll....whether or not mining was the cause,I do not know.

Eggy,thanks for your comment,but just a thought,while the Durham Mining Mueum is a fabulous site,do not place too much faith in the facts and figures presented there,as there are several gliches in the information contained therein!

How do I know?.....

Because there are misleading facts regarding seams worked ,and fatalities,at Choppington High Pit.

Some of the Fatalities have dates which,if true,would mean that I started the pit when I was 13-or 14 years old!

One in particular,a lovely old fella,was killed at the coal face,about ten minutes after him and me were having our usual daily cross/shift natter,on his way inbye.[in the early 1960's]

Old Walter used to keep the 2-0pm shift,and the nature of both our jobs meant that we would usually cross paths just down the roadway from the coal-face,where he worked...I would be going outbye,as he was going inbye.

I always asked him what the weather was like at bank,[the surface],and that day his last words were.."Wilma,it's a luvly day,ye want ti get your bonny lass oot for a nice waak alang thi river..[meaning the river Blyth].

He knew I was courting,and always affectionately referred to my lass as..."Your Bonny Lass..."

As we parted company that day,I was deeply shocked just minutes later when the Overman came running up the Mothergate.

[A]..the roadway was pretty steep,and very difficult to even walk up,and ....it was against the Law,[and common sense and unsafe to run...]

So,I knew something was terribly wrong.

Joe Barrat,the Overman,passed me,sweating like the proverbial......and when I asked him what was wrong,he shouted back at me,"old Walter's

been killed,the coal's lapped owa on him."

Well,the coal was 10 feet high,and varying in height,as the face advanced,due to undulations in the strata,Walter had just started to prepare the

area of the face where he worked,to begin advancing the Stageloader conveyor tail-end,when the full height of the seam broke away and .."lapped owa"[fell away],and buried him fatally.I just couldn't take it in...he was there one minute...and gone the next.[i was only 17 or 18 yrs old.]

The Durham Museum states he was killed by a fall of stone,[incorrect,and other misleading figures].

No doubt,to their credit,they DO stand to be corrected ,where possible,but they are not going to change their facts based upon what I say,even though

I went into that same coalface every day,several times a day sometimes,and knew it,as well as all the rest of the pit,due to the nature of my job.

Mining was a cruel industry...I went down that roadway and all the way out of the other adjoining roads,to where my Marra's and me used to get our baits...["the Bait-hole"],on my own,[with my pony],almost in tears,and trying hard to hold them back,as I broke the news to the rest of my Marra's.

They all said the daft thing which we all say..."He canna be man,wiv just been taakin' ti him......."

Walter was sadly missed,cos he was really well-liked,by everybody at the pit.

The one thing I can be proud of is,being part of a team of men,and I mean the whole workforce,and Management,who would show respect for a fatally injured Marra,by closing the pit,the following day.

No other pit that I worked at,showed this mark of respect,the only mark being shown,was the black drape over the Union Banner on Miner's Picnic Day

following the accident.

R.I.P. Walter Grey.

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Ovalteeny,many thanks for your enthusiastic and very kind comment.

I canna help it...I write like I taak,and when a start, me fingers divvent knaa went ti stop!![A divvent have ti sit thinking what ti say...it just flows oot o' me memory like a  river.!!]

Every word I write is a faithfully accurate statement,in every sense,and I only write of my experiences.

Lots of miners,in conversation underground,at bait-times usually,would make it clear that once they got out of the pit cage at bank..[the surface],they

wouldn't mention their work at all to their Wives or Bairns,or anybody else for that matter.

So none of our heritage was being passed on,by them!

I was the opposite,and taught my two young Sons,lots of things about mining,and what the conditions were like.

Living in a colliery row for 32 years,ensured  all the miner's Wives had an idea of what their men did,what shift their neighbour's Husbands were in,

and which ones were on "Sick"[due to illness or accident injuries etc]!

Community spirit was second-to-none,and it was nothing out of the ordinary,for somebody to take in your washing off the line,if you were out,and it started to rain,iron it,and bring it over,when they saw you come back in!

Or spend a half-hour extra around the allotment,watering your next-door Marra's plants,after you did your own,and vice-versa!

Aye,those were the days,my friend,we thought they'd never end..........

I had the foresight to ask a very good friend to take me and my young 14 year-old Son,up to the top of the pit headgear..[the cage wheels],at Bates,in 1986,to take photo's of the surrounding lanscape,all 360  degrees...!!

Now,in 2015,lot's of the landscape has vastly changed!

Type in Google....."High Pit Wilma's Photostream"....it will take you to "Flickr"....and there,you will have some exciting bed-time reading,and pretty pics

of underground Wilma!!

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Wilma, I've had a look at your Flickr site. Very impressive photos.

Please keep up the contributions flowing on here, they are not just entertaining but educational.

Both my Grandad's were miners and many of my Uncles but my Dad chose to stay clear of the Pit and become a Butcher/Slaughterman (Slaatterman), so I never really got to hear, first hand what life was like for a pitman. 

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HPW I undrstood the Top Club was something to do with dodgy concrete.

It was quite a futuristic building and next to our very own dual carriageway.

When the coal seam folds that is dangerous.

Is that right?

Fascinating what you learn about the Earth beneath our feet here in Bedlingtonshire.

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Wilma ... get in contact with a literary agent to discuss publishing your stuff ... remember, once you croke it's gone forever.

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Many thanks Maggie and Sym,I sometimes think I drag on a bit,so it's nice to know my experiences being shared with you are appreciated!

I already finished book one of my life story,in hand-written form,which starts from about age three,with everything about my childhood that I can remember,where I was born,lived,played,schools,etc,right up to starting the pits at 15 years of age ,straight from my school desk.

The intention was to record my life,for posterity,for my family only,so I started book two,which leads the reader all through my experiences in the mines,

but seeing as time is a limiting factor in my life,[i am a full-time carer for my Wife,who is disabled],it is very difficult for me to write for any length of time,

[myself having disabling conditions in my hands also].

That is why all my postings are,if you notice,usually about midnight  up to about 2-0am,after my commitments have been met.

I really enjoy this site,and some nights when I intend to lay a few paragraphs down in my book,I come here and forget to stop!!

The trauma of sitting behind a school desk one minute,then going down on the end of a cage rope,into the conditions I was thrown into,lives as fresh in my mind,as it was then,in 1959.

So that is how my recollections on this site are so vividly..[i hope!..] ,portrayed.

Sym,I am 72 this year,and in my book,I am only up to my age 17yrs,at Choppington High Pit,...I have all the other pits I worked at,to recall!!

The trouble with publishing my book is,I wouldn't want one single word changed,or edited out,and I don't think any publisher would touch it as it is,cos I have named names of people in high up positions in Government,and the N.C.B.,not slanderous,only truthfully,which could be taken to be slander!!

What do I do?!

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Maggie,where the strata has lain undisturbed by folding,or volcanic action,the coal seams are generally,but not always,pretty level,or at least rising slightly to the west,and accordingly,dipping slightly to the east.

This was the case in Bedlington A pit,and most of the seams at Bates,and Ashington ,that I knew of.

So you usually have a good solid unbroken roof strata,which is [to an experienced miner!],relatively easy to timber up and support.

Choppington High Pit,being  near to the River Wansbeck valley,and being further Westerly,than the other pits,was sunk through soft broken shale,sandbanks,and porous sandstone.

Water poured in from the roof,continually,and formed long "swalleys ",up to a hundred yards long,and sometimes up to your waist.

Water also seeped in to the roadways from breaks in the floor stone.

The seam,gradually rose to the west,so the water was allowed to just lie in these swalleys,until it reached a point where it would overflow and run outbye,downhill,till it reached the next swalley,[which was caused by undulations in the seam due to geological folding of the strata.].

There wasn't a half dozen pumps in the whole pit,so we used to be working soaked to the skin all day,from going inbye,to coming out,at the end of the shift.

Now the coldest place in any pit,is the shaft-bottom area,bad enough when you are dry....torturous when you are soaking wet,in the winter,waiting for the cage to take you  to bank..[bank= the surface].

The water used to reach past the pony's waist,and they had an awful habit of stopping in the middle of a deep swalley,as ponies did,to have a diddle and whatever else........[have you ever seen a horse getting a diddle?!]......gallons of ammonia....it seems.....in a small arched roadway,with very poor ventilation,and the air movement going in one direction,slowly,about the same speed you are travelling...so you are stuck with these obnoxious fumes

and can't escape them!!

Aye,they were happy times...[says he...!],and we still managed to have strong sense of humour!

Edited by HIGH PIT WILMA

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Wilma, emulate Churchill's technique ... dictate dear boy, dictate.  If you haven't got a dictaphone or a tape-deck use the recording facility on your PC.  The important thing is to get the stuff 'down' somewhere and worry later about organising it.  An agent will put you in contact with an editor who'll help with sympathetically organising the stuff ... you might even get an advance if the agent convinces the right publisher.  Go on, go for it!

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HPW you set the scene perfectly.

We took some Grandkids down the National Mining museum near Wakefield.

One could not stand being underground .

It is claustrophobic and my guess is that museum is a whole different affair to the real working situation for most miners

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Eh,yi bugga man!

                          Many thanks for your support,all of you!

Sym,I'm not short of recording gear,I have my on home recording studio,complete with a choice of vintage 4-track multi-tracker analogue open-reel tape,Computer digital Logic Audio,Audacity audio,as well as the simplest and best,Minidisc Walkman,with lapel mike!!

It's time that is beating me,apart from looking after my Wife,my little black Jess,comes next....[Labrador/cross],and lastly comes Percy,my disabled Herring Gull,who has lived with me and my family for nearly three years!!

He has been on the Jonathan Miles Show,on Radio Newcastle in the morning,a couple of years ago,squawking for he's bait....on air!!

He has a wing that cannot open fully,[not broken...deformed joint],and cannot fly,other than a couple of yards,about two feet from the ground.

So he comes knocking on the glass door of the conservatory,or if the doors are open,just wanders in and out of the kitchen,telling you he wants he's bait!

He came as a fledgling,big brown speckled ball of feathers,from John [of Blyth Wildlife Rescue],and is now going through his third year's moult,looking a fine young adult noo,aal grey and white,smart as a carrot.

He chased the Sparrow-Hawk oot wor garden three times within a few weeks,when he first came,and the Neighbour's cat....and neither of them have been in our garden since..to my knowledge!!

So I have to clean his bath out ,and his nest in his cage,which he only goes in after I have shut my laptop down each night,usually about 2-0am,just in case Mr Foxy decides to come in when he is asleep.

He has the run of the garden all day from early morning,till early morning again!

I have read that they have no predators at all,although their nests and eggs,and young,are predated,but I don't trust what I have read on that score!!!

He goes into his large dog crate willingly every night/morning!

You would all laugh if you saw him come running and half-flying to me,when I shout "Porcy,howway get ya bait..!"

If I am not quick enough at getting lumps of dogmeat out of the tin for him,he goes behind me and yanks my jeans,and pecks at my ankles!

Last week,I had thin shorts on,and was kneeling on a pad,just doing a bit of light weeding,around the borders,and cos I chased him away from my trowel,in case he got hurt,gettin in the way,he went behind me and started pecking my backside,and trying to pull my old worn gardening shoes off my foot!

Him and Jess lie in the garden not far apart,and don't bother about each other,and sometimes I feed both of them together two feet apart!

They are better entertainment than watching any telly programmes!![daft statement really,cos I don't watch telly,so aren't really qualified to criticise programmes!!]

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Maggie,back on topic!!,believe me,museums do a good job,and we hope they never close,but without a coalface working,and you experiencing

the conditions which my photographs show,and without crawling,and working,in a low seam when the roof is starting to " Lay-on",seeing wood pit-props being pushed into the ground before your eyes,seeing the roof lowering above you,bit by bit,hearing the grinding,crunching,thunderous noise,of the strata breaking up,and thinking the place is going to close any minute,crawling frantically off a coalface,which may be a hundred yards ,or more,and which is mighty hard work in a very low seam,down to eighteen inches high........or even in a three-feet high seam,where there are falls of stone every few yards,....................you cannot envisage it!!

We were  used to all of this,cos it was our job,day after day,year after year,...you get de-sensitised to all this,but are always aware of the dangers,and your senses become tuned to the limit.

My photos are showing the conditions of the Main roadways,I was working in the development of a new district,and too far away to get onto a working coalface properly,[it was a long travel-and the Deputy would have wondered where I was!],but I am pleased I got these pics,for posterity.

The pic labelled.."20's Tailgate " ,was showing the conditions which prevailed right down the whole of the face.

It was totally unsafe,dangerous beyond description,using inferior ancient basic six-legged small face chocks,hydraulically-operated.

These chocks just could not withstand the tremendous pressure put upon them,and the hydraulic legs used to burst open in front of your face,constantly,spraying you all over,and soaking you with the hydraulic fluid mixture of "Aquacent",and water.

The Aquacent was a soluble oil,which,when mixed with water in the "Gullick"tank,[Gullick was the manufacturer],provided protection against corrosion

inside the whole system,which comprised a reservoir,[the "Tank"],a high pressure pump,[ 2200psi],and flow-and-return flexible armoured hoses,

which carried the fluid down the 200-yard coalface,feeding 200 hydraulic face supports,each with six legs,holding up a re-inforced steel "canopy".

The Chock-fitter used to be changing the damaged chock legs all of his shift,not an easy task,in rough wet conditions,and might have changed more than thirty in any one shift....absoloutely ludicrous.

These same legs would last maybe six months or more,in pits which had good dry stable roof conditions...they lasted a few days on R 20's face.

The seam was about three feet-six inches high,severely undulating,interrupted with several slip-faults,pouring in with water through-out the face,

and constantly suffering from massive roof falls of sometimes 70 or 80 yards long all at once,taking the roof height up to fifteen feet high.

We had to STAND on the tops of the very canopies of the chocks which were supposed to be protecting us from roof falls,build up small "steps"

with wood 6" x 6" x 24" chocks,to be able to timber up to the roof,using 12 feet long x 9" x 3" hardwood "baulks" ["baaks"],as vertical prop supports,

and criss-cross built up "butts" on the top of the face chock canopies.

Now,seeing as the Manager's Support Rules,[the law!],states that no man shall work in an area which is not adequately supported,HOW did Government Mines Inspectors think  that all the forests of timber he had difficulty crawling,walking at full stretch,and squeezing past,got there,fifteen feet above his head,in a previously un-supported area......?????????????

They turned a blind eye,and said nowt!

Many a time,when the "thunder" started,and the roof started to literally crush hydraulic legs,capable of withstanding 100 tons on each leg,[six legs to each support=600 tons per face support],and the whole face started moving around like an earthquake,it was a miracle that we were able to abandone ship and get off the face as fast as we could.

These face supports were adjacent to each other with approximately 36"centres,or..."a yard apart..",so you can imagine how much roof pressure was there to completely flatten these armoured face chocks.

In terms of economy,it took an hour for a shearer to shear a strip of coal along the 200 yard long coalface.

After the face collapsed for half of it's length,flattening the chock-legs through-out,i.e 6 legs x 80 chocks,for instance=480 legs to replace,plus all the

Hydraulic valve-packs,[£1200 each in 1975-ish],plus all the labour,and lost coaling time,plus all the weekend shifts,it used to take more than three months before the next shear could be taken off again,then all of this was repeated.

The men kept demanding that Management abandone the face,win out new roads ,and win out a new face altogether....

after a year or two,the Management,[from area TeemsValley...Mr Archbold..Area Director...],succumbed,and agreed to the plan.

Over a period of the next few years,this pattern emerged on about six different coal faces,losing the Coal Board millions of pounds,totally unecessary.

The one simple answer to prevent all the loss,and risk to men's lives,lay in a new design of face chock,called.."Rev-Lems".

These chocks had cantilever "grass-hopper-leg" shields at each side of the chock,and fastened between the chock base,and the chock canopy.

They were extremely stable,well-armoured,with extra heavy-duty legs capable of withstanding much more pressure than the "toy" ones on R 20's"

The first installation was on a face which me and my Marra's had won out,called "R50B's",which was the second attempt at running the face,after abandoning the first attempt,due to the reasons previously described.

From the start,this face broke all records for coal-getting,the chocks held the roof,and controlled the yield better,i.e. allowing the legs to yield down in very small amounts ,well-controlled,thus protecting the men and the face installation..by reducing the roof pressure gradually.

When thatcher-the hatcheter closed Bates Pit,this one face was keeping  the pit in profit,in denial of statements made by her cronies,and Archbold,the area director included.

I personally asked Mr Hindmarsh,our General Manager,why we couldn't get Rev-Lems on all the other faces,as they proved their worth,for the pit,and his reply was....and I quote...word for word...no lies or disrespect..."I know that Billy,and you know that,Billy,but Mr Archbold is my Paymaster,and if he says no,it's no....we can't get Rev-Lems....."

He also made a statement which,if I was in court on a slander charge[!]I wouldn't hesitate to repeat,but in respect for Mr Hindmarsh,I will refrain at the moment !!

Mr Hindmarsh was a gentleman,knew how to talk to a man,could reprimand a man,without shouting like other's used to,and was still well-liked.

Eeeeeehhh!! ..theor a gaan again!!

P.S.I forgot to mention that a normal coalface,with good dry conditions,should average about five shears a shift x 2 + maybe one in the night shift!= 11!

R20's was getting one every few weeks!....does that make sense?!!

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Hi Big Geordie!...saw yor aad chep t'otha day!...canny crack!!

Canny Lass,thanks for your kind remarks,as to everyone else also!!

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Hi Big Geordie!...saw yor aad chep t'otha day!...canny crack!!

Canny Lass,thanks for your kind remarks,as to everyone else also!!

 

Nice one! :)

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