Change Wasn't Anything New For John In Recent Years
Nearing the coal face now not in production he saw lights ahead and they would be the men. He walked toward the Gate End (junction of the coal face and roadway) and the men had already started work; he met up with one worker and introduced himself. The man Terry Harkes, new he was coming today and showed him around the area where his mates were pulling powered supports off of the coal face.
John said he didn't think Jack Gore was at work and another Deputy named Danny had sent him Inbye. Terry looked around at Phil and Jim as if he wasn't telling the truth. Terry knew Jack was at work today after meeting him in the canteen before getting changed. But just passed it off as the newcomer had got it wrong. The men carried on working as Terry familiarised John with their operations.
John left the workmen to it and made his way to the Stage Loader console where the district report book was. He read a few pages from the last few shifts to see what the district entailed as regards defects.
Even at a new pit, some things don't change; the feeling of a district that was once in full production sits derelict of industry. Dust has had time to settle on the electrical switch panels, the ventilation was slowed down which still made it hot and stuffy. The noise was noticeable in its absence. No face conveyor rattling away spilling coal flight by flight onto the stage loader, in turn conveying it onto the belt and then disappearing out of sight up the Loader Gate. Followed by ton after ton during a shift, now all quiet. But, it was all part of modern mining, the teams that worked this panel would be moved over to the next production face and then a salvage team (Terry and his men) came on to here to finish the job.
Salvaging. It's the end part of the pitwork. Headers develop the main roads, and then head out a new coal face, machinery and supports are then installed and then it goes into production. Numerous anomalies in between but at the end of the day the miners make it work, against nature, machinery, politics and strife.
Their life, their past and their future. Once the grinding of a cutting machine and the clatter of the conveyors, warning claxons , men shouting and bawling orders and instructions as well as jokes and Mickey taking keeping up their spirits. Not to mention the dangers. Who knows when that roof is safe, how far do you go to risk your life for money? How much harm is that dust doing to you? Joints bones, sinews and sanity worn down and will be rendered useless with age one day.
An hour had passed and Danny the Deputy hadn't showed. John began to think this a bit unusual. He hadn't got jurisdiction of the district and the control at the surface hadn't told him of any hold ups, so he thought Danny may have examined the district from the opposite end (the Supply Gate); therefore taking a while.
It was about two hours now and John began to be a bit wary of, no Danny. Terry came into the gate (roadway) and he asked where Jack had got to.
"He's usually here before now"
John didn't want to tell the regular men that it wasn't Jack who was on here today and the conversation ended with a short silence. Before it worried him there was a light coming toward them. As the light got nearer he, as the somewhat outsider felt at ease.
His age, weight and a 900-yard slog made old Jack blow as he hung up his oil lamp and needed to get everyone's attention. They were all close by anyway so he beckoned the men before he spoke a word. Getting his breath back in deep painful inhalations he spurted out what was on his mind.
Just before he started he put an arm round the new Deputy and still breathless cocked his helmet upward and wiped sweat from his brow with the sleeve on his other arm.
"Thank God you didn't wait for me" pause. He continued. "They've had a mishap" he put casually and nervously taking deep painful breaths.
"They let a run of supplies go from half way down the drift and I thought you'd still be at the bottom."
"Thank God you came Inbye you'd have never heard them until they had hit you, and fortunately not a soul was about."
The slip up would have been catastrophic if any men had been at the bottom of the drift. A full run of ten tubs of supplies got loose and careered down the incline gathering speed and with the rails being maintained so well they never left the rails until the last moment at the very bottom. The tubs clattered into the side of the ay at the drift bottom and ended up a mass of deformed metal with the heavy steel wheelbases and wheels still in any recognisable form. A freak and almost impossible accident but it had happened and fortunately no one was injured.
John stroked his chin as the rest of the men talked of his luck. Then John intervened in a puzzled way and mentioned Danny, another Deputy who had sent him Inbye.
The men gathered round to hear more about this Danny as there was some misunderstanding with the newcomer earlier.
Jack ripped off a chew of tobacco and Terry screwed the lid off his tightly shut snuff tin and offered it round.
"A Deputy you say" quizzed Jack.
"Yes" replied a confident John.
Jack ensured him there was no Deputy at this pit named Danny. All parties stood in silence; then Jack seemed as if he had come up with the answer.
"Dave Winslow, we called him Danny, I worked with him some years ago."
John Winslow turned and said "My granddad?"