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Bob Williamson - Page 14

Thirty Years Man And Boy - When I started to write this account I did not consider who the readership might be

Chapter 29 The End For Ollerton

On 19s we had got the face conveyor installed and running. The big gate end chocks had been delivered and installed. Private contractors had got everything ready to transfer 18s chocks over onto 19s.

The rest of the pit was flying, as usual. Then came the call for a meeting of the workforce, at the welfare. They even gave us two days off, one day to make us the offer and the next day to vote on closure. We didn't have any idea that we were earmarked for closure; the pit was doing so very well.

They were desperate to shut the pit at any price. They even offered £3000, on top of the offer, to shut it tomorrow, we were all stunned.

Anyway we voted for acceptance of the offer, so tomorrow was the last day of the pit. We had been sold out to the faceless men who wielded the red pen, they promised that if we stood with the government during the' 84 strike they would look after the Nottinghamshire miners. Did they f**k!

They said that they would have to shut 32 of the most uneconomical pits; in the end they shut all but a hand full. These will soon be gone as one by one they disappear.

We elect politicians to govern and they are so used to lying they have forgotten how to tell the truth. The small minded, mealy-mouthed bastards just wanted their revenge for the ' 72 strike when the country backed the miners.

They eroded our employment rights and gave the mines away. Their buddy, the Robber Baron, took over these 'uneconomic' pits and paid off the £95 million price tag from the first year's profits. They were ours and yours; all of us, we should have had a share.

When we wanted to know how it was cheaper to import coal, they said that we didn't understand international trade. We knew one thing though; the foreign coal was cheaper because it was heavily subsidised by their own governments. They watched while we closed our pits, then the price went up, we knew this, why didn't they?

They presumably weren't saddled by Nuclear Generating costs as we were. Oh yes, we had that debt as well and could never have made a profit. Now you have got the debt.

What of Ollerton?

They closed the pit on the day after the ballot to take the money. It was weird on that last day, they sent me to 19s to carry out planned preventative maintenance checks and I thought what is the point.

So I played cards with the lads, after we had been through so much. Solid gold to the end and I would never see them or their like again.

That was it. A private mining company offered £7,000,000 to bring K3s back. But they said it was going to shut, they were gong to switch off the pumps and let it flood.

No salvage, nothing.

Sayonara Ollerton.

Personally, I never voted in favour of any industrial action of any kind. Perhaps you think me bitter and you'd be right. We didn't deserve the treatment we received.

Miners were the salt of the earth and I am proud to stand up and count myself as one of them. The end of a tradition, with three hundred years of proven reserves left in the ground.

Maybe I am not the sharpest knife in the box but I know that energy means power, political power. They claimed not to want or need our coal and opened up gas fired power stations. What happened next? Yes you have guessed it, the gas ran out. We went cap in hand to the Russians who would sell us gas, at a vastly inflated price.

Who will pay this price, not the Government but you, the long suffering consumer. We will always have to fork out for political blunders, whist they posture and preen. Which ever political party is in power they are all as bad and corrupt as ever.

Chapter 30 The Completed Tale

I finished at Ollerton in the February of 1994, and had to find a job. I went on a course to re-train to be a domestic electrician. The adage that you can't teach old dog new tricks was probably true in my case.

Some few interviews later, I realised that at 47 years of age, it was the scrap heap for me, unless I could land that illusive job. I now realise that I was aiming too high; any sort of job would have been the right thing to do. Then look around from a position of being employed.

Whilst some of the other younger guys had employers clamouring for their services, all I got was, what have you done since you left the pit?

Sod all; no one would take a chance on me.

My life fell apart and my self worth took a right battering. It's not too melodramatic to say that it was affecting me mentally. I had a good wife who put up with my moods and supported me in every way possible.

So 6 months after I had walked away from the pit, I was back, working for a private contractor to British Coal. Why I kept my old pit boots and helmet, who can say, a premonition maybe?

Anyway, they kept me moving around to various collieries in the North Nottinghamshire Coalfield.

Then I was moved onto a salvage job taking chocks off a coal face, at Welbeck Colliery. Why contractors got the job was that the British Coal staff wouldn't tackle it, (it was that good). It was wet, often over wellington depth, hot, humid with a real chance of cement burns. The guys were all old miners and we coped, just.

Then it was a spell at Bilsthorpe, after that, Thoresby. When I had been back at the pit for 6 months, the Robber Baron took over and the red pen came out. My name was on the list as no longer required.

The company offered me a job at Coventry, 'Travel daily,' they said, 'Its only eighty miles each way.' It gave me great satisfaction to tell them to stick their job where the sun does not shine!

The last thing that I did before leaving was to throw away my boots and gear. As the vernacular had it you kicked your helmet over the headstocks, mine sailed over.

When I went for my interview, all those years ago, they asked me if I had any relatives working in the pits? I didn't know why they would ask me such a question but answered that my paternal side of the family had a long history in mining. After thirty long years I now know why, it's in the blood and the genes. I guess they knew what to look for and I didn't prove them wrong. So that was that, from school at fifteen to forty seven, thirty odd years, full circle.

Your work has been good and your work has been hell.

They damn nearly killed us. That is the truth.

Adieu – For now.

Beardy Bob clocking off.

Trevor Gaunt 
26 September 2011
Bob Williamson

Hi Fionn,
I have just read Bob Williamson's review of his life as a Mining Electrician titled, 'Thirty Years Man And Boy', and found it to be a brilliant account of life as a Mining Electrician, such that l thought I was reading about my own life story - the similarities between our two lives are unbelievable. Would it be possible to introduce me to Bob? as l'm sure we could exchange lots of tales appertaining to our individual experiences. We both attained AMEME (Hons) certification.

In his report there is a spelling mistake which stands out viz : 'Chapter 7. Time Out'. The above qualification is presented as AMIME (Hons). Hey !, l'm not trying to be clever here, just passing on my observation - please don't be offended.

Thanks a lot Fionn.
Trevor Gaunt

Thank you very much for your email Trevor and your correction, I am always making mistakes, sorted it now.

Bob Bradley

** Note....Ollerton was never on the closure list and was exceeding records left right and centre and making colossal profits. It was closed suddenly on the pretext that there was a bulge in the shaft walling that was getting worse and could collapse. The bulge part was where a fault was passed through when sinking. I have always been convinced that it could have been put right by the Area Tunnelling team at weekends and nights and pit holiday periods. It was a large area. Another excuse was that the mines were over producing and tonnage would have to be lost as the power stations were not buying as much coal. If you remember several pits were closed immediately for production but remained on 'care and maintenance' until after the Parliament furore.

I have always believed though that the main reason was that Thoresby was fast running out of reserves in Parkgate and would have had to close within 5 years, as at that time the trial heading in the proposed development into Deep Soft had been put on hold and thought to be not a good prospect. Thoresby was always looked up to as the big hitter and very efficient mine and had surely been so but now things were changing. They were to find out.

The remaining reserves at Ollerton were transferred to Thoresby and they took over existing development and worked that for a further 10 years but the last face was some 7 and a half miles from pit bottom almost up to the Holocaust Museum near Eakring. Ollerton could have worked further areas beyond that for the same distances or less and the infrastructure was far better with coal clearance at its best with 2 x 1,000hp conveyor motors on the 4th Drift. Manriding by rope and conveyor and FSVs and coal clearance and supplies became strained and had the law not been changed to allow 12 hour shifts some of those panels could not have worked. In fact the last panel from Thoresby in Parkgate in the old Ollerton take got into trouble with hard dirt and a swilley and took more than 6 months extra to work than planned. All the panels were on retreat but only one panel worked at one time, all on roof bolted roadways.........

Ollerton was the sacrificial lamb for Thoresby in 1994 as was Welbeck similarly in 2010 for the Deep Soft.

Deep Soft panels were worked at Thoresby and the last panel more dirt than coal, the vend being as low as 47%. The dirt tipping space was depleting fast and although Town & Country Planning department had extended the height that was allowed they would run out of land and have to close as they could not extend further to the village of Edwinstowe and of course slurry ponds were necessary also. Ollerton tip had more area. Thoresby output began to fall and lost money for at least 5 years, probably the only times in its 87 years life. - Amendments and additions made by Bob Bradley