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R20s COAL FACE - TAILGATE END SHOWING HYDRAULIC ROOF SUPPORTS

high pit wilma :- THIS...Was THE sheer hell place to work in...70 to 100 yard roof falls of stone strata , was common place. When the goaf used to make it's break , the whole roadway, used to shake like an earthquake, the air used to change direction, and the thunderous noise of the strata above breaking up was a terrifying experience to the young -and the experienced men.

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Bates Pit by High Pit Wilma

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high pit wilma :- Cheers Fritz! [ and Loada,of course!],one day me and me marra,Eddie B.,another [big] deputy were in 2's tailgate drivage,stemming a full shot[blasting off thi solid,],when thi air changed,and we both went deaf , for a second or two.
We ran out and down to 20's tailgate,fearing thi worst,cos we knew how bad it was on thi face,thi men were all off thi face,and it had closed like a box, flattened 70 chocks like squashing a beetle! It took months ti ridd thi faal,and replace aal thi chocks..that was one HELL of a job!!

The face road is standing at aboot 2'-6" high.[thi chocks are 23" high at thi lowest ,when they are fully released,[collared..as we say.] 
So they are extended aboot 9" on thi pic.
Yeah, some great characters,you don't get thi likes of marra's like that in factories etc at bank.

high pit wilma :- FOR REFERENCE,FRITZ,THESE WEREN'T BRACED CHOCKS,THEY WERE BOG-STANDARD 6-LEGS,THAT'S WHY THEY WERE FLATTENED AT THE FIRST BIT OF GOAF-MOVEMENT..THE TOP CANOPY USED TO BE PUSHED FORWARD,OVER TO THE COALFACE,THEN SHEER TOP WEIGHT JUST FLATTENED THEM DOWN ONTO THE DECK!!
SAME WITH 21'S , 22'S , 23'S, BOTH TIMES,11'S,5O'S ,...
IT TOOK A YEAR OR TWO FOR SUMBODY AT THE BRAINS CENTRE TO REALISE THESE CHOCKS WEREN'T WORKING!
WHEN 50B'S WENT AWAY,WE INSTALLED THE FIRST "REV-LEMS"
ON THE FACE,AND THESE HELD THE TOP,AND WITHSTOOD PRESSURE FROM THE GOAF BREAKING.
THEY HAD GRASSHOPPER LEGS AT EACH SIDE,WHICH HAD A CANTILEVER ACTION,THEY COULD GO UP AND DOWN,BUT NOT FORWARD.I WAS ON COMPOSITE,WINNING OUT ALL THESE FACES IN TURN,AND WORKING ON THE INSTALLATION,AND WE,MY MARRA'S AND ME,TOLD HINDMARSH THAT THESE CHOCKS WOULD SAVE THE PIT,SO WHY NOT GET THEM FOR ALL FUTURE FACES?
HE SAID HE AGREED, BUT HE'S PAYMASTER WAS ARCHIBOLD,AT TEAM VALLEY,AND ARCHIBOLD REFUSED TO BUY THEM IN...AND YOU KNOW WHY?
'COS THATCHER HAD ALREADY HAMMERED THE NAIL IN OUR COFFIN,AND ARCHBOLD HAD A VENDETTA AGAINST BATES TO START WITH,IT WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE,AROUND THE PIT, SO WE CONTINUED TO INSTALL INFERIOR GEAR ON THE OTHER FACES,AT RISK TO THE LIVES OF ALL OUR MARRA'S,JUST LIKE THE SAME STORY WITH OUR LADS OUT FIGHTING THE TALIBAN...INFERIOR GEAR.
NOW WHY DO YOU THINK I DON'T THINK VERY KINDLY OF "LADY" 
THATCHER.....AND HER CRONIES...?

high pit wilma :- Er, i'm still in the learning process,and my son tells me it's bad manners using capitals,so i apologise if it offends anyone.
When i was young,we were learned to write letters in capitals,for neatness,cos we had old-fashioned pen nibs and bottles of ink.
And no,it wasn't when dinosaurs roamed the earth.....!

therailwaymuddler :- Bloody Hell!

high pit wilma :- I tell no lies,and i notice that no-one has ever come on to suggest that i might be exaggerating,or living in cuckoo-land!

therailwaymuddler :-  It just goes to show what horrendous conditions people had to work under (literally), we need people like you to remind us. I've lived such a namby-pamby life....!

high pit wilma :- Thanks marra![mate..] Don't pull yourself down,we all have to do our bit in life.
We had a party of visitors to this coalface, not long after it went away on coalwork, around 1975-ish,[give or take a year or two..!]
The conditions were horrendous,and usually visitors were taken to better parts of the pit,where it was at least drier,but these visitors came in with the colliery manager,Mr
Hindmarsh,and when they saw these conditions,above,throughout the whole of the face,[200 yards],and water pouring in from the broken-up roof strata,they were astounded that anyone could work in conditions like this,day after day..!
Guess what they did for a living........?
R.A.F. Squadron of fighter pilots!!!
I was the Deputy on this face at the time,and i had a good crack with them as they went down the face,with some of them just shaking thier heads and saying.."you must be bloody mad to work down here"!!
I told them that i thought the same about them,wanting to fly high up,cos i'm terrified of heights,but we both had something in common........that we miners had a bad "top",but a good "bottom",and they had a good "top",but a bad "bottom"!!!
We managed a good laugh,and some great banter,but one or two were terrified to crawl down the face,and said,"if you think we're going down that f.............g face,mate,you got another think coming,we'll see you around the other end"!,then they walked back out of the
mothergate,to go right around the district to meet thier mates,at the tailgate end,which is shown in this photo.
The Squadron Leader presented a huge panaramic framed picture of the whole Aircrew, including groundcrew,to Mr Hindmarsh,the Manager of the pit,and it hung in the main entrance stairway landing wall for years,until thatcher the hatcheter closed the pit,in 1986.
I often wonder what happened to that lovely photo...bet it went to a gaffer's house!! The face would normally have been 42" high,[ coal-seam height],but due to bad roof 
conditions,it was 15feet high and varying down to just over two feet high,and absolutely flooded throughout,with grey muddy slurry,we worked drownded,head to foot,every day. 
I came off deputy-work and back onto the face as a miner,on the tools,as they say,in 1978, and from then was on "composite work" ,winning out new roadways,and coalfaces,as my photostream shows.
Cheers marra!

high pit wilma 6y

This pic was taken in 1986,just before the pit closed.

Dr. Drewboy (deleted) 6y

what a story!

high pit wilma 6y

Hi Dr Drewboy!
Thanks for your comments.It seems we shared the same fate in the mining industry,which was the backbone of the industrial revolution.....but people have short memories.....it's always greed of the politicians to manipulate whichever industry they have most invested in.
Cheers mate......or would gutten tag be right?[i read it!...hope it isnt an insult!!!]

oildrum1 PRO 5y

Excellent stuff showing how "difficult" things could get. 

Can remember working on a face, which we knew to be approaching a major faulted area, but it was a case of carrying on as the roof got gradually worse. It was basic 6 legged Dowty supports & usual timbering over the top, with forepoling in an attempt to catch the roof again. Finally as the sheare went through the roof started to go and just continued. By the time we returned the following afternoon a good stretch of supports were down on the spill plates & the AFC was buried. Can't remember how long it took to get it to move again, but relief came a few weeks later when I got the message over the face tannoy that "that was that". The men were transfered to another face & we salvaged what we could from the roadways, but the face was just left. 

Arr, those were the days eh!!!

high pit wilma 5y

......THE FACE WAS JUST LEFT.....!!!!
THANK YOU OILDRUM1,I WISH I COULD NOT ONLY SHOUT FROM THIS BLOODY COMPUTER,I WISH I COULD STAND ON TOP OF THE BUGGER AND YELL IT TO THE WORLD!!!!
I've told as many people as i possibly can,on holidays,etc,when the subject has arisen,as it does,just how much valuable machinery,and exotic materials,even down to Mercury-filled pumping sensors,used in water standages,costing an utter fortune,complete mechanised coal face with millions of pounds of machinery,just left under the north sea to rot...
and that's just Bates pit...!...think about every pit in the country,and i bet you've got an amount near to the chancellor's budget purse!!

bewildebeeste 4y

Very interesting. I've always been interested in the pits as long as i've lived in the North East but never really have leared how it all works underground - though I must ask - what were RAF fighter pilots doing down a pit?

high pit wilma 4y

An oganised visit,upon their request,they wanted to see how men lived and worked a thousand feet underground,when they had the most beautiful view,when they were a thousand feet above the ground!

high pit wilma 4y

beeste...my oldest sister went down Bedlington A pit when she was about 14 yrs old,crawled along the face,the lot,along with her classmates and her Schoolteacher,
back in about 1952,i was about 8 yrs old then,and i can remember her coming home and 
telling all the family about it,and showing us a small piece of coal which she had brought 
out of the pit for a souviner.[we had creeful of coal-but this bit was special!]
It was a common thing to do in them days,i think it was to do with public relations,the N.C.B. was only about 5 yrs old from investiture in 1947,and organised visits helped promote the industry.
When you think about it now,it costs a fortune to visit Beamish and other Pit Museums,and a visit down a big working mine cost nothing then!

high pit wilma 4y

bewildbeeste....,you asked why i thought Archbold,[the area director for British Coal],had a vendetta against Bates,on another photo in this set...
This pic says it all,this is how we worked the first few faces in the 3/4 seam,pure hell..!
Only one face was installed with the more powerful and safer face supports called.."Rev-Lems",and that face looked like a training face,almost perfect conditions by this standard,although still soaking wet throughout.
They had "grass-hopper leg" cantilever braced canopies,which effectively prevented 
the roof canopy from being pushed forward over the face and flattened to the ground by the goaf crashing down at the back of the chock.
Bates was making a profit with that one face alone,all the other faces were in a bad state,
cos the chocks weren't holding the roof up effectively,but did Archbold listen to his own Manager,or the men who's lives were at risk every day?,who requested Rev-Lems to be installed on the new faces that i was on winning out,with my Marra's?
I rest my case!
By the way,what made you ask?
Are you a relative of Archbold?

bewildebeeste 4y

No, I'm not a relative. I was just wondering his motives - just a puppet for thatcher's policy then; I didn't know whether he had a legitimate reason for disliking Bates. If it was making a profit on the one face could production not have been concentrated on that one?

high pit wilma 4y

Hi beestie mate!
Sorry if i seemed a bit strong,Archbold wasn't the best liked of area managers,unlike our own General Manager,Mr Eddie Hindmarsh,who was a gentleman,of good personality,attitude,and understanding....he would take you to one side,away from other men,to quietly bollock..[reprimand!] you on a point of safety,if a prop was missing from a girder,where 5 others would still be supporting it,in an advanced heading ,for instance,and you would know you had been bollocked.!!
That was the way to gain respect from the men,rather than some who would come in shouting and bawling at you.
The one face that was making a profit at Bates,didn't need concentrating on,it was installed with Rev-Lems,and went like the clappers!!
It was the other faces that should have been concentrated on,and if Archbold had given the go-ahead to fit these chocks on all faces,then we would have once again been a
record-breaking pit.
Words,and even my pics,here,can't convey how horrendous the conditions were,in the 
3/4 Seam,at Bates,you would have had to be getting out of bed to go down on the end the rope in a cage,at 12-0 midnight,leaving your Wife and Family asleep in their beds,
getting inbye,and starting the crawl up the face,through slurry,and really bad roof conditions,to really know what it was all about.We did it cos it was all we knew,from leaving a school desk,our GrandFathers,Fathers,Brothers,uncles,and Mates,all went
down the mines,because it was our heritage.
For the record,and just to remind those that have forgotten,Bates Pit was THE first pit
to go through the "Colliery Review Procedure",after the Wilberforce Enquiry recommended the thatcher government to conduct the Enquiry on all so-called 
"Uneconomical" pits that were threatened with closure.
Wilberforce told thatcher that Bates needed investment,as it was already profitable,with 
one face alone,and should be kept open,with Coal reserves of over 60 million tons to
be worked,and it would devastate the local economy,if the pit were to close.
[This was after the 1984 Strike,which wasn't for extra pay .....it was for our jobs and communities..]
Guess what?
Wilberforce and his colleagues got handsomely paid for doing a grand job,but the thatcher government totally ignored his advice and recommendations,and closed Bates
like switching a light bulb off.
We were loading a full shot out,in R10's Tailgate,and our Marra's were drilling a full round,when word came in from outbye,on the jungle drums,[cos we didn't have a telly down there to watch the news..!],to switch off and pull out. 
The Manager had received orders from archbold,to cease production immediately.
All our mining machinery and electrical equipment,switchgear etc,still lies down there,
flooded out,for ever more.

high pit wilma 4y

Er,.....i think i should make it clear,that Bates normally ran with SIX coal faces at any one time,and as one face closed,another one was usually ready to start production.
Some faces were worked in the Plessey Seam,where conditions were a lot better than the 3/4 Seam,but still not where sane people would want to be at 3-0am!!!
So my comments above only relate TO the 3/4 Seam.

high pit wilma 3y

Does anybody think that if thatcher-the hatcheter was shown this pic ,would she[or was she really a he in disguise?...]...
even KNOW what she/he was lookingt at?...i think not!!
And would Dennis thatcher,or his spoilt rotten son,ever dream of going down on the end of a rope,a few thousand feet,and working a few miles out UNDER the North Sea....?...i think not!!!

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