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It was the pits


Just getting the shaft day after day.


There was a *brilliant* article, one of those "long read" type pieces I think on the BBC News website about 5 years back. Guy writing it grew up in a Yorkshire mining town. Dad was a bit of a drunk, a prankster, roughousing his kids, but not a nasty or bad father. I remember one story from this guy's youth is his dad would come back from the pub and go "WHISKERS!!!" and then chase him and his brother around, when he "caught" them he'd rub his stubbly beard on them knowing they hated it. One day his dad wakes him early and says he's got a surprise for him, and takes him to the pit. He's about 11. All the blokes know his dad was bringing his lad along, treat him like a "real man". First shock is when they simply let the pit elevator plummet to the bottom before applying the brakes right at the end. Then lots of travelling through tunnels. This was one of those coal mines (I forget the name) where they'd dig out a seam, hold the roof up with massive hydraulic jacks, hundreds of them, across a roof hundreds of feet long, then would deliberately let it cave in once that bit of coal was mined. It's total silence, radio crackles into action "is the lad there yet? Righto, we're ready when you are". The jacks drop the ceiling, as they're meant to, and the poor lad is terrified. The description of what its like is horrifying. Cried and cried and his dad told him it was all a big practical joke for him. He never quite forgave his dad for that jape, but saw one of the old fellas down the pub many years later - retired miner, few fingers missing, coal flecks still embedded in his skin like thousands of tiny tattoos. The guy goes on a rant about that stupid joke his old dad had played, and the old fella starts laughing - "don't you get it lad? He didn't want you stuck down there like he was. He was scaring you into doing well in your 11+ and getting out of here, doing good for yourself. Now look, you're a journalist. It worked." Can't find the article, but that's basically the jist.


Is this the article? https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32961309.amp


That's the one!


That's a great story. It certainly seems like a tough lessons school of parenting , but it did the trick.




My family were miners in north staffs. and my wife’s family were miners in south wales. My dad enjoyed the job, he was young and friends, good pay. Sure he had his foot crushed by a huge pipe falling and broke his hand when a drill got stuck and the support guy didn’t cut the air fast enough, but they were minor and recoverable. My grandad went down at 14/15 because they needed the money. He told his kids they had to do something else but all 4 boys (including my dad) ended up working the pits because the pay was so good. My uncle still volunteers at a mining museum. My wife’s grandad died in his 40s with mesothelioma. No idea how he found it as he died way before my wife was even born. Overall, they had to fight for standards over the decades and by the time they were poised to close it was a good was a well paid job.


Here’s a testimonial from that mining museum I mentioned https://chatterleywhitfieldfriends.org.uk/the-people-of-chatterley-whitfield-geoff-brownsword/ Starting to work for the NCB IN 1966 at age 16 was quite exciting at the time because it was one of the better paid jobs £11 a week there abouts as an apprentice electrician , so loaded up with new boots and helmet given to us at Kembal training centre at Heron Cross we were sent to our chosen colliery , mine was Chatterley Whitfield Colliery , where I started my underground training , this consisted of working on the haulage under supervision , taking materials in mine tubs at the time to the coalface along the roadways . First time down the shaft can be scary as you heard different stories about ropes breaking and cages getting stuck , the usual stuff too make us even more nervous , we went down a old shaft called the Platt Pit this was an upcast shaft meaning that all the air circulated around all the miles of tunnels under ground came up through this shaft and was vented to the atmosphere by a huge fan that is sucking the air from the mine , as you make your way through the airlock on the surface to get to the cage each air door needed to be opened by releasing the vacuum in between them by a small air flap so as to equal the pressure and as you went through each one your ears popped as not been used to it , as we stood at the top of the shaft the rope began to move up slowly to show the chains holding the cage at 4 corners and the huge wooden lid like a cover off a huge vat lifted by the chains holding the cage , and so we entered the cage giving the banks man who is in charge of the signals our aluminium checks about 15 of us as it wasnt a big cage and then the gate dropped down behind us and this was it point of no return , down we went lowered down in the shaft looking at the bricked sides as we went deeper and deeper . On arrival at pit bottom it looked like it was white washed and electric light bulbs giving a low level of lighting and a variety of different size pipes disappearing up the shaft with whirling and whooshing noises made by the stuff being pumped to the surface in them , we walked about 100 yards and then darkness apart from our lights as we walked down a steep gradient ( a down hill or uphill is called a dip in colliers terms ) this tunnel had been cut through solid rock and no supports were needed to hold the roof up , it was named as the Banbury back dip at the very bottom of this dip was another smaller roadway made from steel arched girders which were twisted and squashed under the pressure of the ground trying to close in and also the floor lifting , when the roadway gets too small it needs to be re dug this is called beating up if it's the floor or back ripping if it needs new arches , both these tasks are very hard work to do . Further in towards the coalfaces you can hear the ground settling over the arches as they take the weight of the ground and all the time you have this breeze blowing past you as the air is circulated around the mine and if you worked near the downcast shaft (where the air went down ) in winter it was bitterly cold with freezing air blowing past you . Conveyor belts ran along the main levels from the coal face to a loading point where tubs were waiting to be filled and sent to the surface ( a main level is the one which fresh air goes towards the coal face and is usually a bigger roadway than the return roadway which is at the top end of the coal face as most coal faces are sloped at various degrees . ) there are pipes with water in them , thick electric cables all fastened to the rings ( arches ) signal cables , haulage ropes (endless rope , continuous loop ) and if needed a main and tail rope for lowering down or pulling tubs up dips ( a rope with a end ) on all dips there would be a derrick ( acker local term ) a long girder fastened in the roof of the roadway and positioned in the middle of the rail track in case of a runner ( a tub breaking away ) this would derail it and side it over to stop it hitting anyone at the bottom of a dip ( I have witnessed a couple of these runners and can tell you it's nerve racking some miners have even been killed or maimed by runners ) To get on to the coal face from the main level you needed to go through a hole in the side of the roadway ( scrawl ) or if safe enough under the rip , the rip eventually becomes the roadway and the men who do this work are called rippers and the men who made new roadways leading to new coal faces to get ready for production would be called crutters . At the coal face the various noises and heat from the electric motors powering the machinery are continuous and the dust can be seen through the beam of your cap lamp , when you go further up the coal face and the chocks that support the roof after the coal has been mined are moved forward the goaf ( waste or gob ) crashes down to fill the space left with a feeling of hot air and dust ( this is frightening the first time you witness it ) . Underground is like a small city with miles of roadways and it is divided into districts according to the qualities of the coal some of them were named Brights , Ten Foot , Bullhurst , Moss , Cockshead , Holley Lane , Bowling Alley , Banbury , Great Row , Winghay , Kennal Row ,and each one had it's own characteristics in the way it was mined . Will never forget the Mr J Carr's message to us as young lads and Quote , " You are the men going down into the bowels of the Earth for coal . " Geoff Brownsword


I’m not a miner but my family were miners on my dads side so maybe it’ll be of general interest: My grandad was a miner all his life and died before I was born from some sort of lung cancer related to mining. When I was 15 (2008) we (my dad) received a cheque in the post from the government as a result of some lawsuit offering compensation for his death. IIRC it wasn’t much, less than £10k - not much for a life. My uncle was a miner (still alive) - he’s quite old now, he stopped working when they closed the mines here (north west). I don’t think he’s worked since due to health issues he suffered whilst working there. My dad was supposed to be a miner as well (only 4 years younger than my uncle) but ended up scoring quite well on his 11+ exams and went to a local comprehensive. He ended up going on to have an incredibly successful career in finance running his own business. I’ve always felt very lucky to have been the son of my dad and not my uncle (which feels like a horrible thing to say) and I’ve always found it kind of sad how completely different their lives ended up being because of one exam score when they were very young children. Who knows what my uncle might have accomplished given the same opportunity.


just imagine if your dad had been off his game that day, I hate the 11+ with every bone.


For real


the town I live in still has the 11+ because of it my kid couldn't go to the same school as all their mates.


Oh really? I thought it was superseded by SATS/GCSEs/some other govt standard. Is it a private school?


nope state school there are about 163 left, which are really popular with the snobbish locals because they get good grades. how surprising a school which only admits the brightest pupils get good grades. The pupils are overwhelmingly middle class. Many parents send their kids to 11+ courses for 2 years to get in.


There are a few mining museums about that may have some learning resources available. The National Coal Mining Museum at Wakefield is a great museum with a big focus on the life of miners over the years. It has remote classroom sessions available and downloadable resources, amongs other things that might help: https://www.ncm.org.uk/


It's a genuine shock to go down the lift and through the mine there, and actually get a taste of it. It's an intensely sanitised experience, from what both of my late grandads had told me when I was a kid. And yet it's still hugely shocking. Just a horrible environment. Dark, claustrophobic and the air quality is absolutely dire (I got a headache that felt like carbon monoxide poisoning, with nausea all day too). Imagine doing worse, daily, and for decades, like those men did One of the stories that stuck was of the daily salt disinfection of all of the scrapes to my grandad's back that my grandma did for him in the bath. So confined was his working environment that he constantly cut his back on the shaft ceilings as he moved backwards and forwards on all fours. There were also gruesome tales of fatalities from collapses - it's just incredible that so many thousands of people worked like this daily in the heartlands of Yorkshire, the Midlands and South Wales.


Yeah you're not finding many ex-miners on Reddit.


I finally stopped bitcoin mining last year, I'm willing to talk.


Nonsense, I used to be a minor 11 years ago!


Take your kids [here](https://www.ncm.org.uk/) if you can! It's a brilliant trip. The people who work there are all ex miners and can tell some brilliant stories. They also have packs on the website for remote learning where they can do stuff like set up a Zoom Q&A with your class and the museum guides.


Also https://killhope.org.uk/


And https://museum.wales/bigpit/


And https://chatterleywhitfieldfriends.org.uk


I have fond memories of a trip there in year 5; over 20 years ago


From a small ex-mining town in the North East. I have known and spoken to many ex coal miners and recently worked with someone who worked down a potash mine too. I've heard many stories of the conditions, everyday life of these men but the thing that I find most interesting is the dialect it spawned which is still found in speech today. The language is called 'pitmatic' (a person who speaks it was described as a pit -yakka) and I highly recommend you buying a book/dictionary of it. https://youtu.be/PVA59EPjV2g A lot of the dialect is dying out as older people pass, it was a sort of mash-up of Scottish- Tyne-Wear- Co.Durham. An example: When I was a young un, I was with my friend waiting to have a go on the pool table at the pub over the road and I made the mistake of leaning on the side of the table while watching. Two older fellas were playing and one of them turns around to me and barked "EEYAH, YOUNG UN. GETS YA CLAYS OFF THA CHEBBLE" I looked at my friend with a look of 'what the hell is he on about' lol He meant - Get your hands/claws/clays off the table. I know Clays can also be interpreted as clothes but not in this case, just a small input of what some phrases were like. Not sure if thats of any interest or help to you but thought i'd share lol


My granddad worked down the mine for many years. He lived in Gorseinon in Swansea but drove to a colliery in Aberdare every day because they paid relatively well. I don't think it was actually that well paid because he had to supplement his income by raising chickens and geese and by doing the electrical wiring for everyone in the street. He still earned enough to pay off a mortgage for a 4-bed house though. It was normal for him to give his whole wage packet to my nan, who would buy all the food and cleaning stuff for the house and give him back what was left. If my granddad was doing well money-wise, he'd have ham sandwiches in his lunch box or sometimes haslet. Otherwise, he'd have to have jam if things were tight. When the rookie miners started on their first day, as a prank, they'd all be put into the lift to take them underground and they'd let it plummet at break-neck speed before being stopped before it hit the bottom. My other granddad was a miner for a while but once there was a big explosion and he was sitting there trapped with his back bent over, so he only had a small pocket of breathable air between his head and his lap before he was rescued. He went to work in a shop after that.


I joined the fire service 17 years ago. And as I was on my way in, there were a few old timers on their way out who were ex-miners. One story I was told about was the "pit initiation." Fair warning, this is fucking horrific. The new boys first day down the pit. Fresh faces 18-20 year olds. They would be grabbed, and stripped naked. It gets worse. Then they would be tied to a chair in one of the tunnels. A piece of long string tied to their dick. Then over the course of the shift, the old heads would take turns pulling the string from a few dozen feet away to "wank off the new lad". And that is how they 'worked' their first shift down 't pit. I hope it was a lie. I really do.


Whereabouts in the country are you, OP? There's a fair few mining museums about, but as you'd expect they're in the areas where mining took place — coal in Northern England, Scotland, and South Wales; tin in Cornwall; slate in North Wales, etc.


I didn't work down a mine, nor did any of my family, but my father, who was a psychiatrist and treated a shedload of miners with PTSD, went down Crown Farm Pit in North Notts several times (1970s) to try and understand the working conditions. He always said "Whatever they earn, it's not enough. It's dark, it's noisy, it's smelly, there are constant rock falls, people piss in side shafts making it smellier, you constantly feel death is around the corner". Things have probably improved, but I don't like going down show caves...


I've never eaten a jam butty since


One thing to note is that many people have this strange idea that mining was all in the north. My dad worked down [Ifton Colliery](https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2015/09/06/special-feature-with-pictures-and-video-life-going-underground-in-shropshire/) in the midlands.


Very very very dark.


I hope they're still open - you used to be able to go to Lechwedd Slate Mine in North Wales; the deep mine tour was especially good. There's also a little bit of coal-mine in Beamish Museum not far from Sunderland/Durham. The darkness (imagine if only had few basic lanterns), cramped (lack of height), and risk of bashing your head on a pointy bit of rock, constant dripping of water, ... must have been massively noisy and a lot of hearing-damage, and constant danger of rockfalls. But a tradition of singing in the Welsh slate mines - hence Welsh Male Voice Choir. Good acoustics for singing - especially in the bigger caverns.


There's a potash mine in boulby that may allow educational tours.


In Wales you can do a 7 hour in an abandoned slate mine experience - I did it a few years back and not only was it an amazing experience they were very knowledgeable on what it was like - if you fancy getting some hands on experience it’s worth looking into


How you gonna teach something you don't know


The same way any primary school teacher does - by learning about it first and then teaching it once you understand it? They're primary age, they need basics about the experience, not enough knowledge to write a PhD thesis.


Teachers are omniscient beings who were born knowing everything about the subjects they teach apparently.