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Unsung Heroes of the Industrial Revolution


high pit wilma : - My Father, Coal Putter, aged 14-15 years old and hes marra, a Coal Hewer, CHOPPINGTON HIGH PIT c1929-30

                          My father with his pony,at bait time down Choppington high pit, in an unusually dry place!!

                          The pit was the wettest in the northeast coalfield,and the roughest conditions,according to the influx of men from other collieries in the                               area,during the 1960's closure programme!![ they all said the same thing when they went down the first day....."this is just a tetty pit"....!]

Eggy1948 :- Not Bates pit but without this young Coal Putter the High Pit Wilma photos, info & stories in this Album would not exist.   

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From the album:

Bates Pit by High Pit Wilma

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Photo Information for Unsung Heroes of the Industrial Revolution

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BigLoada :- Great! Glad you uploaded this one. You should be able to rotate it if you go into EDIT, somewhere you should see that above the photo.

high pit wilma :- Heh!Heh! A did that afore a saw your comments!!
Aam larnin,but hoo di a put them wi me other ones?..aal chek oot the score noo..!
An' by hell, yi are quick off the mark eh!!

high pit wilma :- Aam glaaky, and too quick off the mark an aal,cos a just realised they are on the end of my set[a thought they had been put in a set separate to my other ones yi see...?]

BigLoada :- Nah. What happens is, if yer photies are not in a set, they will show up on the front page as your latest upload but obviously you wont see them on the right side where the sets are listed, cos they aint in one. Divvent worry, ye'll get theor!

high pit wilma :-Cheers! Noo a need ti naa hoo ti get me pics so billcosphoto's can see them,a twigged hoo his dad is on the pic yi sent me.

BigLoada :- Ok...if you want to do that, copy the address of yer homepage, then just send him a Flickrmail and paste the address in yer message. To send a mail, move your cursor over the persons avatar, you'll see an arrow appear, then click the arrow and you'll get a list of stuff, look down the list you should see Send Flickrmail. I have copied the address of your photostream frontpage so here it is:

high pit wilma :- Now, just highlight and copy that and paste it into your message.

german shepherd dog woof to my friends :-  this day and age they would not last 5 min down the pit - my dad was down bates pit in blyth northumberland hard and dirty work down the pit

high pit wilma :- Cheers Max ! I agree with you,most people, whether kids or adults, would look at you as if you were nuts,if you asked them to get out of bed at midnight,go to the pit, get some filthy clothes on,and step in a cage on the end of a rope,in a shaft 1000 feet deep........and plunge into darkness with just a caplamp on....................!!

Bill Carnaby :- Truly a great shot super reproduction of a by-gone age and REALLY hard times(no mention of a recession here !)

high pit wilma :- Hi Bill! You wouldn't believe the state of the original photo!
When wor aad chep died,about four years ago,my sister,who looked after my parents at home,found the photo in his jacket pocket,in small pieces,like a jigsaw in a pile!
My brother took it to a photo shop,don't know where,and dropped the pile of 5pence - sized bits and said "here's one for you"...!
Above is the result of their work! Where some bits were missing,they used their skill to re-create them.
Only me and my brother know where they did the edits,cos we are both miners.My Mother and Sisters couldn't tell the repairs!
Can you spot them?
Cheers, Bill !

Erics dowta :- Wow they really did make a good job on the photo. Amazing what they can do! 
Someone mentioned now adays they`d never manage to work down the pit at the age of 15....how right that is too! 
Maybe if we still had work like that there wouldn`t be so many low lifes walking the streets! A good honest days work never hurt anyone! 
Cheers for the pics!

high pit wilma :- Cheers Eric's Dowta!
When i walk past the local high school,and watch the actions of a lot of the 15-16-17..yr old "kids",as they wait for the bus home after school,i 
cannot help but shake my head,and wonder.........at that age,me and big Bill were working in atrocious conditions,up to the eyes of water and clarts,trailing miles in and out of dangerous roadways,humping heavy steel girders,and machinery,etc,for £4-0..odd a WEEK's pay,before offtakes such as tax and national insurance.....
If you try to talk to some kids,like i did in factories,when i left the pits,all you get is a derogatory...".....errrrrhhhhhh here wi gaan again...when aa worked doon thi pit ...snore...snore....."!
A used ti say ti them,if they had to go doon for a shift,they would be crying fo' tha mammies,inside an hour...![probably as they were going down in the cage...even..!]

morrisoxford61 :- its another world - an amazing picture, did the ponies ever see light of day, or did they live their entire life underground?
it must be a horrible feeling going down into a cold wet dark place, were you mentally prepared for it the first time?
you must miss the comradeship of your workmates, nice earthy humour as well?

high pit wilma :- Hi Morris! Ponies at most pits came to the surface,only for the two weeks summer holidays,[as it used to be in those days].At Choppington high pit,[my buddy icon name...],the ponies never came to the surface,once they were down,unless they were injured,which was just about every other week,for some ponies,or to retire them altogether.
My last pony at Choppington high pit,was a 35 yrs old stallion, with only one eye,he only had an empty socket which used to weep with a slimy discharge constantly,and he was too big to travel under the "air-crossings",[where roadways pass over each other,to prevent the airflow from short-circuiting,and depriving the coalfaces of a fresh supply of air],so i had to tell him to "put your head doon,French",[his name was french..],and he would stop at the low part of the roadway,bend his head right down to the floor,as if to drink,then he would bend his knees,and proceed to scrape his way under the brick and steel girder structure,while pulling a pair of arched steel girders along the rough ground,only about 4' high,with me hanging onto the other ends of the girders,like the handles on an old fashioned horse drawn farmers plough....
This was bloody hard work,by the time French got through the underpass,his hide was usually torn off down to bare flesh,and bleeding,his collar would be damaged,and i woulds be foaming at the mouth,wanting to kill the government inspectors,who had just passed through,ten minutes beforehand,on occasions,turning a blind eye to the way that these air-crossings were built,causing cruelty to the ponies,after just "fining" us young lads,5/- [5 shillings] - [25 pence now..!],for throwing our left-over bait-papers down,at the place where we would sit for our baits...in a stinking water-logged mine roadway......it wasn't exactly littering the highway........
Yes,i am writing a book about my life,and working years,underground,and i can tell you a few hair-raising stories along the way...but i reckon that nobody will publish it,unless i edit,for political correctness,and there's no bloody way i will do that...i have named names,and told no lies,it's a pity the pits have all gone now,but one thing is for sure.....Dosco Roadheader machines,and the like,costing £30-odd million pounds each,are still lying down thier,under the sea,and they will take a few hundred years to rot,if they ever do,so someone in the future years,will stumble across an Aladdins cave,of artifacts...complete longwall mechanised face installations...£100millions of pounds worth,at one pit alone...reckon up all the pits in the country,especially in Nottingham,and you will have the equivalent of the Chancellors purse..!!
...Or....just look at government archives,and read how much they invested in the Coal industry,before all the closures....it's all still lying down there...!
"Cheaper to abandon it,than to salvage,Wilma...",was the answer i got,as far back as 1965,from the manager,at Choppington B pit',and at other pits,as they were closing in turn.....
The stuff in my pics,are just a grain of sand on the beach,by comparison...!
I never missed the bad conditions,as no other miner would, but i did miss the exceptional comradeship,and banter, it wasn't all hunky-dory all the time,you know,tempers used to be raised,arguments would break out,but never a fist thrown..everybody knew it wasn't worth risking losing your job for a disagreement,and most times,men would patch up an argument in few minutes,with a social "pinch of snuff"!
The plain matter of fact was,you HAD to work together,and just get on...you were miles away from civilisation,in a very hostile environment...you would be the first man there,to help an injured marra,who you might just have had a blazing row with,minutes
before he became injured....
At bait-time,the laughs would fly fast and furious,for half an hour,and there were some very witty young miners....!!

morrisoxford61 :- the miners social clubs had great humour in them and quite a few of you used to play a good game of Cricket I recall - you should write about it warts and all. Allan Sutton Publishing print books like that, I would happily buy a few copies this is social history after all
Some years ago I was talking to a butcher up in Ripon (grand place) and he told me he employed two big lads who started out at thugs but he used to send them out on those big heavy pushbikes all over the hills delivering meat, by the time they got back they were too tired to fight any one
I reckon these youngsters need bloody hard work its good for them
never did me any harm, and now I work for myself you will often see me working high up late into the night finishing a job when all the other have gone home to watch tele
I am used to long hours and hard work, and you get respect for it

Slippy Cundy :- I remember when I was a scruffy young oik at Ashington Colliery. A newsflash flew through the place. "We're getting a laser-steered face cutter" was the cry. It cost millions. Many many millions. I remember seeing it being assembled above ground and then tested before dismantling for taking below ground.
If I remember correctly it was placed in a lovely deep seam and fired into life. Within days it had hit faults and bad gound conditions.
At the same time the mine closed - that machine, in all its lovely whiteness, lies lifeless and hopelessly abandoned below those lovely fields of Northumberland...

I won't go too much into the politics etc of the mines except to say that we, the people it affected, know the true reasons behind the closures.

Up in this part of the country our communities lie shattered. They are a mere fraction of what they once were.
If you travel to Ashington or some of the outlying villages there is still a faint "whiff" of that spirit. I fear that it won't be very long now before that is gone too...

high pit wilma :- Thanks VERY much,Paul! You confirm what is my MAJOR soap-box gripe,when Government leaders talk about the financial crisis,and that is,how Maggie Thatcher virtually "cut the ropes" at all our mines,leaving literally thousands of millions of pounds-worth of machinery,cables,rails,girders etc,underground,to lie rusting away,for ever.
Modern machinery contained tons of precious or semi-precious metals in their gearboxes etc. They tried a "Nucleonic eye" [ isotope-powered] "steering device"
on a longwall shearer face,down the 3/4 drift,at Bates pit,in the '70s. The shearer was about 30 feet long,and it had to shear along a face ,which was won out through the most atrocious undulated conditions,with "rolls",and short hill-tops,and deep swalleys,throughout!!
The roof was solid "post"[sandstone],and on the first shear,so far up the face,the shearer man shouted over the D.A.C.S,["TANNOY"]
for the maingate men to watch for the shearer "top-plate",and also the "nucleonic eye",cos both had been ripped off,due to the low roof,and the shearer dancing up and down on the conveyor pans,due to the extremely hard cutting causing "reverse-torque".
Nobody saw this twenty-foot long steel plate,two-feet wide,come down on the conveyor......[a bit hard to miss..i thought!] A few minutes later,the shearer man came over the speakers again...."aav found it.."..."it's on top of the face chocks!"
The machine was riding up over a steep hill-top,then starting to shear down into the swally,couldn't bend itself to the task,the top plate rattled loose with all these tons of machinery dancing about like crazy,and as the machine took to the dip,the top plate kept it's course,and forced it's way straight through all the wood chocks etc,which was keeping the roof up above the six-legged hydraulic face chocks......![and it stayed there..as well!]
After a few more hard-working attempts to get the shearer working,it was finally abandoned,and i personally tripped over something lying in knee-deep black water,in the main-gate,as i was walking in,one day,and,thinking it was a big stone,i bent to lift it out of the way. Guess what it was..!
This thing was about 18"long,and about 5" thick,round,and weighed an absolute TON![with the glass lens still intact..] 
I put it onto a tram to go outbye,and never saw it again. 
As time went by there was a glut of lads,fitters,faceworkers etc,who died at an early age,some as young as thirty-odd years old,after working on that face,with luekaemia,and cancer-related diseases,but this went by un-noticed,except by people like me,who couldn't prove any link with this nuclear device.
The "eye" alone,cost over 30,000 pounds,in the 1970's...and it was scrapped,just like that!

Slippy Cundy :- I bet that eye lies buried below a reclaimed pit heap or a road surface like the Spine Road!

I've always wondered what it would be like to get hold of a Geiger Counter and wander round the area we live in - I bet it goes daft at the most innocent looking stuff.
I know that some minerals and composites have a higher than normal level of radiation but I bet there are tons of metallic everyday items with dangerously high radiation in them. We can only guess how much radioactive material has been smelted as scrap in steelworks - there was a well known incident in Spain a few years ago.

Beamish Museum  :- Great photo Wilma!

high pit wilma :- Thanks for all your kind comments folks!
Paul, we'll never be able to describe how much was left down there,in a month of Sundays!!

John Lee :- That is just great. A terrific historical photo.You must print and frame this shot.

high pit wilma :- Thanks Johnny, my Brother,who rescued the "jigsaw" of very small shreds of the photo, after it had been carried around in my father's inside jacket pocket for probably all his life,[and he was 87yrs old when he died,about 5yrs ago...],had this photo enlarged and framed for my Mother,[who was 93 yrs old on her birthday...last week...],for a xmas present,and she was thrilled to bits!...[she tells everybody..including doctors etc,that she still has "all my marbles"...!].....
And she has as well.!
Tough lot, my Mother's generation......

high pit wilma :- Johnny,you have me thinking,your right,i should also have it printed,for safety back-up,cos if the computer crashed out totally,i have no back-up.
I never thought about it,before,but i will do that. Thanks for the prompt,Johnny!

Billy Embleton :- Nice and rare underground shot.

high pit wilma :- Thanks Billy,wish i could find more pics or archive material on Choppington High Pit.

high pit wilma :- Can you even start to imagine any 14 year old kids working even five minutes down a dirty hole in the mine,nowadays,like this photo of my Father......look at the size of his arms and shoulders!!,no easy task lifting pit tubs onto the rails,["the way.."],when they became de-railed.
But down there,you had no-one but yourself,and you HAD to keep the tubs supplied to the hewers,or you would be sacked!!
You soon learn't to grow up to be a man!

Edited by Eggy1948

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