1957 - Page 2
On 19th April 1957 Harry Abell, chargeman on 70s Dunsil face at Teversal (Nottinghamshire) was injured in a shotfiring accident, being struck by a flying piece of coal to his rear. The recognised distance that one should be away from a single shot is 20 yards (18m), however it is possible for odd pieces of debris to fly further. Before firing a shot, after tamping the explosive, stemming the hole, examining for gas, the Shotfirer also has a duty to place sentries at the minimum distance as well as himself to prevent anyone passing into the zone whilst shotfiring operations are in progress, before connecting the wires to the exploder and shouting ‘Fire!’ before turning the key to detonate the explosive. Red discs were attached to the cap lamps as a warning.
It was particularly nice to know when we used to ride through the face on the conveyor shouting ‘Hold your coal off’ as we passed by the colliers wafting their shovels. On occasions I have given the odd collier a hand to throw his coal on, using the size ten shovel, but I could never quite master the art of balancing a 7’ 0” (2.14m) W bar on my helmet and trying to set a steel prop, with a top lid on it underneath, at the same time as trying to knock it tight to the roof and to make it secure with a big hammer, and of course in the correct line.
Helping somebody in the stint where the coal cutter was, usually in the fast end, certainly opened your eyes to the unpleasantness of coal face work. The machine would be red hot and you could burn yourself on it. The previous team had undercut the complete face with it and the gummings would be piled up high to start with. These needed to be thrown into the gobbing, before coaling could start, not an easy task with the machine in the way and the heat from the machine draining your strength away at every shovelful, and making an 8 pint Dudley of water disappear before snap time. Generally mates around would give a dig out occasionally and proffer water later. The other thing was that a shot would more than likely have been needed to break in and the cry of ‘Shotfirer’ would be sent down the face.
The other bad stint was at the gate end where everybody else’s coal would pass before dropping onto the gate belt to be carried away, and it seemed like half of it would fall off into the space just cleared and would need to be shovelled up again, particularly when a big lump got fast and coal piled up behind it sometimes blocking the face entry, until somebody stopped the conveyor. I saw a couple of colliers on one occasion, I think it was 60s topside Dunsil face at Teversal, knock 2 or 3 props out, stop the belt and with a bit of pushing and pulling roll a huge long sline of coal about 3 yards (3m) long onto the conveyor, reset the props and signal for the belt to start again. Minutes later there was mayhem as the huge lump had reached the Loader gate lip and gate belt and got jammed with coal piling continuously up behind it until someone was able to stop the conveyor. The cursing and swearing that went on when the lump needed smashing up with big 14lb hammers and of course all the coal needed to be shovelled away as well and it was not that man’s coal, it had come from somebody else’s stint, but who? The chargeman came hurtling up the face to find out who had done it but to no avail as everyone denied it and looking at the gap between the timber there was no way the lump could have got on the belt. When he had gone the pair of them chortled away because they had had a welcome break whilst the belt was stood, now all there was to do was to cast as much coal as possible into gobbing in readiness for the packers on the next shift. They really should have been shovelling coal onto the face belt and the packers should build packs with stone out of the waste. What happy days! But the odd half crown at the weekend certainly helped to boost my meagre earnings, whenever the chance arrived, providing that is, I was on top of my job in the first place. If a collier promised you a tip they never reneged on the deal and they would arrange to see you in the canteen after Friday knock off when they had picked up their pay.
There were now 24 collieries in the East Midlands Division using rope-hauled Anderton shearer cutter-loaders and the second one in No3 Area was installed at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) on 5sB panel in the Top Hard, an ex double-unit Meco-Moore face (nicknamed ‘5s Bastard’ on account of the numerous teething problems with the new machine and the different system). A new washery plant was completed there to deal with the new product. Lofcos were installed in the pit bottom and on the pit top for mine car handling.
The Dreaded Panzer Creep
However with the installation of panzer conveyors came the dreaded ‘panzer creep’. Generally in the early days the faces were set out square as for the handfilling systems. No consideration was given to dip etc and as the shearer machines cut one way and ploughed the other, or cut up and down the face (bi-directional), the panzer conveyor would tend to creep towards the lower gate by gravity. The gate that it crept to would invariably ‘go off line’ until the decision was made, invariably by the Undermanager to take a pan out and then transport it to the other end of the face and install it there, so keeping the length of the panzer same as before. Of course all this took time and effort and whilst the panzer was ‘broken’ it could not be used. A normal pan length was 5 feet or 1.5m but other lengths were manufactured such as half a pan or ¾ pan. Then it was found that by ‘pushing forward’ the gate that the panzer was creeping to it would arrest that position until it began to creep back the other way, virtually like a snake. By making weekly or regular checks on the straightness of the gates and face the Surveyor would inform the Undermanager, Overman, Deputy etc of the position and fly cuts would be done to straighten the face and also to try to prevent the face creep. When a new face was set out on a steep dip, from previous experience me as the Surveyor would work out an angle for the new face line to be headed out at, hopefully controlling the panzer creep when the face began production. Of course once again, as the dips altered so would the amount of lead that a particular gate would need to be. Usually with co-operation from everyone the amount of creep would be minimal and minimum fly cutting would have to be done. This came in very useful when the face men were paid on lineal yardage (metres) in the 1970s as allowances would have to be made for fly cuts.
On 5th March Sam Thorneycroft (2499) Manager at Thoresby was interviewed on ITV...the subject being 'Make way for tomorrow'.....promoting mining.
Bishop of Southwell
The Bishop made an underground visit at Bilsthorpe Colliery accompanied by the Manager Johnny H Williams (4368) and No3 Area Assistant Area Production Manager John T Rice (816).
During the week commencing 17th March 1957 a further 50 more Hungarian refugees drafted into the pits were transferred from a camp in Rhyl, North Wales, to Forest Town Hostel, Mansfield in readiness for introduction to some of the local pits.
EMDivision No3 Area Output Results
Easter bull week 13th April 1957...Bilsthorpe 15,035 tons; Blidworth 17,726; Clipstone 18,035; Harworth 16,682; Mansfield 17,795; Ollerton 21,145; Rufford 21,002; Sherwood 10,072; Shirebrook 17,027; Thoresby 28,300; Warsop 18,023; Welbeck 23,611.
The week after Easter holiday...Bilsthorpe 12,017 tons; Blidworth 12,840; Clipstone 16,578; Harworth 10,425; Mansfield 15,622; Ollerton 17,459; Rufford 16,973; Sherwood 8,823; Shirebrook 11,908; Thoresby 22,850; Warsop 15,814; Welbeck 20,181.
Ollerton Colliers' Rates Of Pay
Getting and filling rates for machine cut blown coal at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire) for 201s and 203s handfilling faces in the Top Hard seam: 3s 3½d (16½p) per cubic yard (0.91m) of coal if less than 3 feet 4 inches (1.02m) thick. Rates decreased proportionately to 2s 11d (14½p) for 3 feet 10 inches (1.17m) or more thick. By comparison 5s panel was 3s 1½d (15½p) per cubic yard (0.76 cu m). Ripping rates for 13/14 feet x 10 ft (3.96/4.27m x 9.14m) arches was £12 5s 6d (£12.27½) in a loader gate using Groetschel bars and one bull rail. Setting 13/14 (3.96/4.27m x 9.14m) arches of 5”x 4½” (0.13 x 0.11m) H section in 55s supply gate was £14 per lineal yard (0.9m) advance. Packing per lineal yard for 5 feet (1.52m) advance varied from 6s (30p) for over 2 feet 6 inches (0.76m) to 3 feet (0.91m) high in increments to 9s 9d (48¾p) for between 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet (1.75 to 1.98m) high.
Manager of Ollerton Died
Jack Lewis Prince (5506) started work at Clipstone in 1938. In 1942 he moved to Welbeck and progressed through to face work and became a Deputy, then in 1949 went to work for the Nigerian Government as an Overman in a coal mine in Nigeria. He returned after 2 years in 1951 back to Welbeck as a Deputy. In 1953 he was promoted to Ollerton as Undermanager. He was subsequently promoted again to Assistant Manager in July 1956 and finally promoted to Manager of Ollerton in November 1956. He died in post in March 1957.
Chancery Court Order
A Chancery Court Order of dated 13th March 1957 required that before working under certain specified areas within the ‘town area’ the NCB had to give 12 months notice of proposed working to the County Council, Mansfield District Council and Severn Trent Water Authority, with a plan showing proposed method of work. It was thought certain that the Council and the owners of large buildings would object to the mining due to the probability of subsidence damage. Should the parties not agree within 3 months, to the method as laid down on a plan supplied, then the matter was to be referred to the Court.
Group Surveyors appointed in No7 Area, Apr 1957 (£900 - £1,250):
- MT Giblin (promoted from Mining Estates Surveyor, Durham)
- HT Calow (promoted from Unit Surveyor
- D Gregory (promoted from Unit Surveyor).
Outburst At Ireland
There was an outburst of firedamp from the Deep Hard seam, 220 yards (201m) deep at Ireland colliery.
Reorganisation at Babbington
A major reorganisation was begun at Babbington near Nottingham.
New Surface Drifts
‘Walton Way’ surface drifts for ventilation and reserves access to the old thick coal workings were driven at Donisthorpe (Leicestershire). In the past the ‘old men’ had only worked 5 feet (1.52m) of the total thickness of 14 feet (4m) of coal to give large lumps. Now retreat mining on the gobbings could be achieved with less chance of spontaneous combustion.
At Bretby (South Derbyshire) the new Stanhope drift was driven to the Stockings seam.
Selston output record reached 11,330 tons
Ormonde 15,727 for 5 days and 17,207 tons for 6 days.
- Blackwell A Winning 13,885 (5) and 15,353 (6)
- Pleasley 14,520 (5) and 15,600 (6)
- Newstead 18,501 (5) and 20,585 (6)
- Kirkby 19,523 (5) and 20,585 (6)
- Bentinck 21,231 tons.
NACODS Unofficial Dispute
There was an unofficial dispute when Under-officials in the East Midlands Division refused to supervise coal turning on Saturdays. The Board took proceedings against them for breach of contract and at Nottingham Assizes judgement was given for the Board.
Welbeck Sports Ground
Welbeck colliery Sports Ground opened 11th May 1957.
Wage Increases And Bonus Payments
Wage increases were settled in May 1957 for Daywage man and pieceworkers’ rates continued to be negotiated locally.
From 3rd June 1957 the proportionate bonus became payable for each shift worked, and therefore the entire bonus was not lost owing to a day’s absence, unless through a strike.
Saturday Morning Coal Production Ended
Saturday morning coal production was stopped at all pits at the end of June 1957.
Demand For Coal Fell Dramatically
The demand for coal fell dramatically. It was muted for the first time that possible redundancies could arise or movement to other vocations in the Board, with the decrease of the collieries following the Fleck report of the 1940s that had recommended a large increase in staff jobs etc. There was always a natural wastage with miners as some tended to leave and drift to other types of labouring jobs such as building work etc. However with white collar staff with each colliery closure the numbers had tended to remain. From now on things would have to change.
Age Limit for Underground Work Raised
No boy allowed to work underground unless 16 years of age after 1st July 1957. A difference of 6 years minimum from when boys and girls were employed way below 10 years old prior to 1842.
British Empire, Leprosy Relief Association
Exhibition in Mansfield in 6 July 1957 for the relief of the unfortunates (the disease of the living death) and Coal Extract is combatting Leprosy.
Thoresby Rexco Plant
The Minister of Power, Lord Mills, opened the new Rexco Plant, belonging to the National Carbonising Co Ltd. It was three times bigger than the Mansfield Plant with 7 retorts manufacturing 350 tons per day.
Mineworkers' Pension Scheme Compulsory For New Entrants
Membership of the Mineworker’s Pension Scheme was made compulsory for all new entrants. New terms and improved conditions for Deputies and Overmen including longer annual leave and payment for additional attendances made in a quarter.
Clean Air Act 1956
Following the 1952 smog, when 4000 people died in London the Clean Air Act was passed. Mansfield joined in the 700 year old fight against smoke.
Four new grade structures above the clerical level were agreed between BACM and the NCB, where previously there were 50 categories. Undermanager’s salary £975 - £1,300 per annum.
Sewage Works Out Of Action
The sewage works at Alfreton (Derbyshire) was put out of action due to mining subsidence caused by workings from nearby pits. They were to be replaced at a cost of £500,000.
Welbeck And Glapwell Reconstruction Schemes
During the reconstruction at Welbeck it was found necessary to close one shaft, so an emergency exit was made through to Thoresby (Nottinghamshire). A connection was made underground in the Top Hard seam. This allowed shafts to be closed at either pit for maintenance purposes etc and the usual contingent of men to work underground rather than being restricted as another means of egress was available at both pits.
A reconstruction begun in 1956 at Glapwell (Derbyshire) was completed in 1957.
Notts NUM Miners soon to have a Rest Home at Chapel St Leonards.
Strike At Ireland
From 15th to 19th September 1957, the 900 men at Ireland (Derbyshire) came out on strike following a dispute.
At nearby Markham colliery (Derbyshire) the No2 pit was stood from 10th to 26th September following an underground ‘cave in’, which stopped production.
Underground Fire At Harworth
From 2nd to 4th October 1957 Harworth (Nottinghamshire) was closed due to a fire in a disused part of the Barnsley Bed (Top Hard) workings.
The Barnsley seam at Harworth was particularly susceptible to heatings, and also gas emissions.
Last Pit Pony At Mansfield
The last pit pony was brought out at Mansfield ‘Crown Farm’ colliery (Nottinghamshire) in November 1957 and the Deep Soft seam was developed using electric endless haulages for supplies.
Piping Small Coal Up The Shaft
In 1957, success was achieved at Markham (Derbyshire) with piping small coal through a large diameter pipe up the shaft to increase production rates.
Now It Was A Buyer's Market
Coal was finally de-rationed in 1957. There was a World glut of coal and for the first time the NCB found that it had not got a ‘sellers’ market’. It was now a ‘buyer’s market’ and spelled the ‘run down’ of the industry as muted earlier.
Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1957
The Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act 1957 was passed making the NCB liable for any subsidence damage to a building or structure, sewer, drain, electricity mains, gas pipes, water pipes, telephone services etc.
This was obviously a major step, good for the recipient, and of course correct, but a death knell for some of our local pits as the cost of mining the coal under certain areas would be prohibitive. 6 years was allowed and under Title Deeds 12 years was allowed to claim compensation.
- Norman Siddall (3655) was appointed Area General Manager of No1 Area, Bolsover HQ (1957-1967), replacing W Vic Sheppard (2853) (1948-1957) who was promoted to National HQ
- George Inverarity (2666) was Production Manager
- No1 Sub Area Manager Robert Scott (4454)
- No2 Sub Area Arthur W Baddeley (2543)
- No3 Sub Area Len Gross (2351)
- No4 Sub Area Arthur G Douthwaite.
- During 1958 Ben Kendall (1944) was appointed to the new post of Deputy Area Production Manager (Operations) and Tom M Cope (4164) (Services)
- No3 Sub Area Frank T Murphy (4644) succeeded and No4 Sub Area Jim H Stone (4524) succeeded by 1958.
- Tommy Wright (3048) was Area Production Manager at No4 Area HQ with Charlie Round (2996) as DAPM (Ops) and John Atkinson DAPM (Planning and Survey £2,000-£2,850 pa).
- No1 Group Manager, Jimmy A Wright (3926)
- No2 Group, Jack L Merry (542)
- No3 Group, Humphrey F Watson (4986)
- No4 Group, Jack Frith (3831).
- At No5 Area HQ at Eastwood Hall, Cecil V Peake was Area Production Manager.
- No1 Group Manager, S Sam Thornhill (3123)
- No2 Group William Murday (4631)
- No3 Group, Jim H Stone (4524)
- No4 Group, Arthur Dennis (4207)
- No6 Area Noel R Smith was Area General Manager, Walter Sharpe (2223) Area Production Manager. DAPM, Len C Hogg (3275) (Ops) and DER Lloyd (Planning and Survey) were appointed by 1958.
- No1 Group Manager, Eric P Lawrence (3181)
- No2 Group, John K Walker (4319) (promoted from Welbeck)
- No3 Group, Arthur Walmsley.
The output record was broken at Pleasley (Derbyshire) with 14,520 tons for 5 days and 15,600 tons for 6 days.
The highest ever output was achieved when 612,397 tons was produced by 1,062 men underground and 273 on the surface in 1957.