Tell you what,Canny Lass,when I went down Choppington High Pit ,as a kid,I went straight inbye,to go onto heavy transport,which was taking anything steel and heavy,such as coal-cutters,conveyor belt driveheads,pipes..[21feet long and HEAVY!!],cutter cables which were 170 yards long and about3 inches thick,girders for supporting the roadways,etc etc!
There were no rails on the ground in the Mothergates,[main air intake roadways],so everything had to be trailed inbye with my pit pony,and long " Tracing chains" attached to each side of his collar with hooks on the other ends,along rough stony ground through long swalleys of deep black stinking water,up the knees and above.Lots of physical demanding lifting and carrying,which after a few months turned me from being a small skinny kid from school,to a pretty-much athletic muscular sort of lad,through sheer hard work...and still only 16 yrs old!
I never did any work at the shaft bottom area,which was always considered as ..."Light Work.."!!
That is...until the High Pit was about to close in 1966,and I was sent to Bedlington A pit,in 1965,[a few months before closure],as a fully experienced coal-cutterman/coal filler faceworker.!
For the first few months we High Pit Lads were treated as "Strangers" ...[pit terminology meaning we weren't Bedlington men!!]
SO! We were sent to all sorts of places in the pit to fill in for absentees,which saw me and my Marra's doing work at the shaft-bottom for odd spells of a few shifts.
The shaft lads had the worst deal in every pit in the country,lowest paid,longest hours cos there was no travelling time..you started work the minute you stepped out of the cage and hung your bait-bag up.....and worked until the Buzzer went, on the surface ,at the very last minute of the working day!....and it was always freezing cold,summer or winter!!,with a cold blast of downcast air which ventilated the whole of the mineworkings..which was a mighty big blast of air!!
Now one day,the Overman said to me "Wilma,gaan onto the kip at the High Main..[seam],and tek Jockies oot.."
"O.k Alan"..and away aa went up onto the kip.
The kip was only about five feet high,so I was walking along for about twenty yards,back bent,meeting single tubs flying towards me at about ten miles an hour,free-fall,after being un-hooked ..[or "loused off" from the haulage rope..],and me having to quickly reach out at arm's-length,and quickly lift the jockies [front and back of the tub],from out of the cock-holes,and lay them in an arranged pattern,around a hatch-hole,on the floor where I worked,so the dish-lad,below the level where I was, could reach up and take them two at a time,to put back into the empty [chumming] tubs to send them back inbye to be loaded with coal again.
Well,as strong as I was,THIS was a different ball-game!!
The first half dozen tubs went flying past with me frantically running,bent-backed desperately trying to unhook these damned jockies which was a lot harder than I expected!!
I had to use my right arm stretched out full,and synchronise the speed of the tub with my effort to lift [or "Snatch"],the jockie out,then as the tub flew past,reach out quickly,with my left arm,and snatch out the jockie from the back of the tub,whilst still holding the heavy jockie in my right hand.[the actions resembled a Matador with his cape to one side of a charging bull!...picture the elegant way he turns his body......that was me.....but swearing like hell at the stupid things for being so tight to snatch oot!!]
Well,after a few weeks,the muscles under my arms became more developed,and I was snatching the jockies oot like they were made of wood,and light as a feather.....but being bent-backed for a full shift, and walking back and forward to snatch jockies out of thirty-score of tubs every day,took it's toll on my spine!..[30 score=30 x 20 tubs =600 tubs every shift!]
All that was apart from the number of tubs that jumped off the way,with 15 cwt of coal in them,and had to be lifted back onto the rails["the way"] using arm and shoulder-power!!...and THIS was regarded by management as ..."LIGHT WORK"...!!
More like hard labour!!