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Here is a brilliant story for the forum members. Enjoy 137 years ago two young East Northumberland brothers, worried because of the declining number of jobs in the coal mining industry, decided to start a new life in Australia. Nowadays, the journey is comparatively safe and a comfortable one, but not so then. For they set out knowing that they were almost certainly leaving the land of their birth for-ever and heading to a country still largely unknown. Their trip was by sailing ship, horse and cab, train and foot. Diesels buses and cars were still inventions of the future. But they made it. The two brothers were Isaac and Thomas Hetherington, who were to become two of the first to emigrate "Down-under,â€ from East Northumberland. To tell his family back in Bedlington just what the journey was like, one of the brothers, Thomas, kept a diary of the passage from London to the thriving coalfield of New South Wales. It is an enthralling tale, written by the hand of a man with virtually no schooling and whose only way of putting across what he had to say was to write what he saw and felt in plain and simple language. He sent the diary home where it lay forgotten for many years, but it has eventually turned up for the Sixtownships to digest how hard it was for them in tackling this journey and the group has given permission for me to share it with the forum members of Bedlington.co.uk Here are extracts from the diary of this young pitman. London, January 5th, 1886. Dear brothers and sisters. I write to let you know that we landed at King's Cross safely but very cold and they told us we would have to wait a good bit before we could get a train for Aldgate Street, so we took one of the Company cabs. After that we had our dinners then we down the main street from our lodgings at White Chapel Street to try to get to the end of it, but we had to turn back after about walking about two hours and a half. When we were coming back we met more funerals than there is coal sets goes past besides when they are all at work. It is astonishing how many people you see here and not know anyone. January 6th: We left Fenchurch at half past nine and reached Gravesend at eleven o'clock. Then we went straight on to the Austral. It snowed all the time till we got our luggage out. We had a cold time of it. January 7th. We sailed from Gravesend about ten o'clock. It was very thick with fog. We had to drop our anchor after we went a short distance. Then it cleared away a bit. We tried again but we did not go very far till we had to stop again for all night. January 8th: We drew our anchor and set off again. When we were passing Dover there was a man along with us belonging Shields, the name of Dixon. He comes to me and says he had a good mind to get out and take the train to Cardiff. After that he said he had lost his bunk and we had to take him to it. Then he picked up all his clothes and came on deck and came right along and said he must not lose the train and he was just going to jump overboard with them when they stopped him. The doctor got hold of him and took him away. We had a grand concert in our cabin last night. There was a good few passengers sick after she started to rock a little. You can very nigh throw a stone into Dover you go that nigh to it. January 9th: We left Plymouth after staying about one hour. J. Todd had to go before the doctor and tell them about Dixon. When he was coming out Dixon asked him if he was not going to pack his luggage up and catch the train. They say on board that he is right off his chump. There is a lot of passengers sick today. Isaac and J. Todd had to go to bed. We entered the Bay of Biscay about seven o'clock. January 10th: We had sailed 331 miles from Plymouth by half past twelve o'clock. They say she is going about 14 or 15 miles an hour. We had a birth on board today, but it was dead. We have had a good passage through the Bay of Biscay. We got through about ten o'clock at night. We sighted the lights of Cape Finisterre, that is just after you pass out of the Bay. January 11th: We are in the Atlantic Ocean now, we have run about 350 miles since yesterday. They buried the child today. January 12th: We saw a shoal of porpoise pigs today. They were still diving about in the water. We have gone 320 miles today. We passed Gibraltar Rock about two o'clock. There is some very high mountains just after you pass by it. We are going through the Mediterranean now. January 13th: We have gone 342 miles and there is a good many passengers sick today. January 14th: We have run 332 miles. We are going past a place they call Sardinia. January 15th: Today we ran 320 miles and got to Naples about one o'clock. It is a nice place to look at. As you are coming into it we stopped close by the burning mountain of Mount Vesuvius. The smoke was coming right out the top of it. The flames were coming right out of the mountain at night when we were leaving. January 16th: Morning we are passing through the Straits of Messina. Italy is on one side and Sicily on the other. I think it is better scenery than Naples. There is a great high mountain right along and houses right along the bottom of them. January 17th: The sea is running very high and she is pitching up and down just like a sailing vessel. There is one young lad belonging to the ship got washed down on the deck and was hurt a little. We have gone 200 miles since yesterday, but we have just been going half speed for a good few hours/ Three parts of the passengers is sick. The times I am writing this the water is coming over the fore-end and some of it is coming down our cabin steps. Isaac and the other two were all sick today and it was very rough right up till about two or three o'clock in the morning. It was as good as a play in our cabin, the boxes and tins were rolling about in all directions. January 18th: It is a good deal calmer today but she is rolling from one side to the other, but we are going a great deal faster. It is a grand sight to see the water running so high but it makes you feel rather queer. January 19th: We have had a good run today, 352 miles. We arrived at Port Said about ten o'clock at night. We are there. It is a nice little place to look at but I think it is about as bad a place as anybody could go into. The public houses is all like concert halls. There was two fiddle bands there half of them were women. You should see them carrying the coals onboard. They are just like a lot of black devils. They carried about 1,300 tons on in about 13 hours. It was just like being on the pit heap everything was that black. Nearly all the men are dressed like women some of them like a priest. All the women that I saw going about the street you could not see anything but their eyes they had something like a net hanging down from their mouth. January 20th: It is just like a summer day here. I hardly know that I have been born till now. We left Port Said about one o'clock but we did not get very far up the canal till we had to stop and let two ships past. We had to go very slow up. It is just like going up the river at the Furnace it is so narrow. Note: The Furnace he refers too is Bedlington Furnace. January 21st: We passed through the Ismailia Lakes this morning. We had a lot of little Arabs running alongside of us. We were throwing them biscuits. It is a pleasant sail up the canal. We reached Suez about five o'clock at night. We left about one o'clock in the morning again. I have heard often about the sandy deserts but I have seen none of them till now. January 22nd: We are in the Red Sea now. We passed Mount Sinai. We are close into shore at both ends. January 23rd: The sun is that hot today they have put a canvas right over the deck to shade it off. We are right out of sight of land. January 24th: I saw a good sight at night looking over the side of the ship. The porpoises in the water was shining just like stars. The water was that smooth you could hardly know you were going. January 26th: We passed through the Straits into the Gulf of Aden sometime in the night. We reached Aden about half past nine in the morning. January 27th: They were trying what depth of water there was. They got to 80 fathoms and they were not at the bottom. We passed Cape Guardaful at night. They say it is about 300 miles from Aden then you enter the Indian Ocean. January 29th: We saw a lot of flying fish this morning. They are very small but some of them fly 30 or 40 yards. We get boiled rice and condensed milk twice in a week now. Anyone coming out should fetch a sheet with them the blankets are too warm and the straw beds are beginning to smell. January 30th: We had a bit of a disturbance in our cabin today. There was a few not satisfied with the meat we are getting and they are trying to get a paper signed to send to the chief steward but they failed. Taken on the whole I think it is very fair and they try to keep you as clean as possible. You can eat your meat off the boards. You have got to alter your language a good deal or they cannot make out what you say. There is about eight of us from Northumberland. January 31st: We crossed the line today. February 1st: We had to sleep on deck last night. You could not stop down below it was that hot but they waken you at four o'clock on deck to get them washed. There was two or three men saying that they dare not leave the port holes open in the fine weather that she was not fit to carry passengers. February 2nd: We passed five island this morning. They were all full of coconut trees. We arrived at Diego Garica aboot two o'clock. February 5th: We had another death onboard last night. An old woman about 70. It would have been something fearful if it had been hot this time because you cannot get them to keep the port holes open. February 6th: We are beginning to get rather weary of it now. You think it is a long time before you get across the Indian Ocean because you cannot see anything but water on all sides. February 7th: They say we are through the hottest of it now what they call the Tropics. There is very few onboard knows what part we belong to. Some of them asks us if we have come from Ireland and others Wales so we are highly honoured. February 8th: I was up in the morning soon on and I saw the seven stars - what we call Charlie and his waggon. I had a dream one night and thought the ship was coming down the Hathery Lane and we got into Swan's field and was going sailing about it. It has been a good deal cooler this past day or two. We passed a sailing vessel today, the first we have seen in the Indian Ocean. The heat was too much for brother Isaac's fiddle, it made the tail piece give way. February 11th: We had J. Dawn on shaving us. He did very well for the ship to be going. I was looking to be getting my throat cut. It is the whole talk now how long it will be before we get to Adelaide. February 12th: We sighted the shores of Australia today. Everyone was looking out. You would well nigh say we had never seen land before and everybody seemed that pleased. February 13th: We are out of sight of land again today. We have made a mistake in not bringing a few books to read on our journey. February 16th: We passed the Kangaroo Islands in the morning. They say it is about 108 miles from the starting of them to Adelaide. We reached Adelaide about 12' o'clock. I saw in the papers here that there had been some rioting in London and that there was going to be a meeting with the Socialists. I hear that Gladstone got into Parliament again. February 17th: All along the coast here you can see the smoke rising. You should have seen me and J. Todd on patching his trousers. We made a grand job of them. There was a shirt hung on deck today after it had been washed and you could see the great big lice running on it. February 18th: We put into Melbourne Bay. February 19th: We were up at Melbourne. It is something like Newcastle in England but the streets are a great deal wider. February 20th: We left Williamstown Pier at two o'clock in the afternoon. This is nothing like the same country here today it is that much colder. February 21st: The sea is rather roughish today but we are going very well. With her pitching many a time when we are eating our meals our plates would be sliding up and down and you just had to get a bite when they were going past. The following day Thomas and Isaac Hetherington arrived at Sydney and on Thursday February 25th they landed at Newcastle. They found Australia far from being the promised land but despite hearing of unemployment and poor pay soon found work at nearby Wallsend Colliery. Thomas ends his tale: "This is the country for young men. If I keep my health I think I will bide here altogether.â€ Yes a tale from long ago and so interesting as its from our neck of the woods.
ï»¿ï»¿Hundreds, maybe thousands of miners, including young boys, have lost their lives while working in the pits, not only in Northumberland, but the whole of the country. Now, painstaking research by the Six Townships Community History Group is helping to keep their memory alive. We are currently putting together accounts of how these miners died in the Bedlingtonshire, Wansbeck, Blyth and Morpeth areas. Tyneside Collieries is online too. Deaths in coal mines were a sad and inevitable part of life in the colliery communities. Mining disasters claimed many lives and these tragic events often made the headlines, but today only a few of the worst colliery disasters are ever remembered. In truth there are simply too many deaths and disasters to recall and, like casualties of war, most mine deaths are only remembered as statistics. Attempts are being made to compile definitive statistics on how many men were killed in the mines in our locality, but it is an almost impossible task and we will probably never know the true figure. Read for yourself how these miners died in the bowls of the earth. They should never be forgotten. Latest update to the sixtownships website is now online. It is all about coal mining fatalities in our area and Tyneside http://www.sixtownships.org.uk Latest update to the sixtownships website is now online. It is all about coal mining fatalities in our area and Tyneside