Those of us that worked at the loader gate end of the face would ride the “gate belt” (conveyor belt) out at the end of the shift, this was downhill for most of the way. It was whilst riding the belt on the way out that some practical tricks would be played on your colleagues; the most common, would be to empty the remains of your water bottle onto the belt and watch the water run down the belt and wet the man in front. When riding this conveyor there were parts of the gate that you had to lay down due to the low height of the roadway; it was at this location that you mostly did this as the man in front had no alternative but to remain in a laying position and let the water soak him. Once this prank backfired, I remember the stage loader driver Jack Reddington was the victim of such a prank; instead of remaining in a laying position without thinking, he got up and collided with the roof supports. Jack was knocked off the conveyor and finished up in a heap at the side of the belt, he was lucky not to be seriously injured.
Waterloo 3s coal face operated on a two shift system of days and afternoons, each shift had an overall chargeman who ran the face, one was Ken (B****d) Housely, the other who’s shift I was on Hector (Night watchman) Evans. I must say that the whole of the face team that I worked with was like one big happy family and if one man was unfortunate to be off work for a few weeks, a collection would be made to help ease any financial burden. At that time of day you had to be off work for more than seven days before you could claim any sick pay; if I remember correctly, if you were off work again within thirteen weeks you could claim sick pay after three days absence. However should you make thirteen consecutive weeks at work, you had to forfeit the first seven days.
My brother decided to get married at the age of twenty and most of the face team decided that he should have a stag night to remember (or they should) and would organize a trip to the Festival Inn at Trowell. Harold (Burglar) Shaw hired a bus from “Leahs” a local firm at Huthwaite where he lived; the bus was to pick up at Sutton, Teversal, Tibshelf and Pilsley. Harold was the first on the bus and decided to sit in the courier’s seat at the front of the bus and to direct the driver to the various pick up points. On arrival at the Festival Inn, all disembarked from the bus and hurriedly made their way to the bar. It wasn’t long before quite a few of them had consumed a little more beer than they should have except David and myself; we needed to keep ourselves sober as the wedding was the next day and we didn’t want a hangover to spoil the day.
Photograph taken at my brothers “Stag Night”
(Click Photo to Enlarge)
- 1 - Graham Rogers
- 2 - Alan Harpam
- 3- Hector Evans
- 4 myself
- 5 David Roebuck
- 6 Frank Euerby
- 7 Tony Maksymski
- 8 John Brown
- 9 Bill Rhodes
- 10 Stan Bailey
- 11 Eric Kirsup
- 12 Albert Elton
- 13 George Anthoney
- 14 Ken Marshall
- 15 Les Walters
- 16 Herbert ?
- 17 Alwyn Sinfield and
- 18 Harold Shaw.
Not all of the men who attended are in the photograph.
It was time to leave the evening’s festivities behind; getting everyone on the bus at times seemed almost impossible; as soon as you got one on, another got off and when we did get them all on an argument ensued. Hector had sat in the courier’s seat and Harold who was well intoxicated thought that he should have the honour of sitting there, after calming Harold down he eventually went to sit elsewhere. The bus had been travelling for about fifteen minutes when Harold started to turn green and called for the bus to stop as he stumbled his way forward. Harold didn’t make it and by some poetic justice managed to empty the contents of his stomach down the back of Hectors neck; as you can imagine Hector was none too pleased about this and thought that it had been done on purpose. After a short stop to clean up the offending material the bus continued its journey without further incident.
Boring theShot Holes
|One day I was working in the stable hole and was boring the shot holes along with a chap that was a school friend of my father George Toon; George was always carrying on about me not being as good as my father, he did this just to wind me up. The coal seam had a band of dirt in the middle and it would require a shot hole in the bottom half and one in the top half of the seam; we had bored the bottom hole but were having difficulty with the top one. I asked George if he was pushing on the hand held boring machine as we were not making any progress, I can’t tell you what he said as its unprintable. I changed the drill bit for a sharp one and again tried to drill the hole to no avail; we paused for a moment just to catch our breath when I heard the hydraulic props releasing pressure. They did this when there was too much pressure on them to prevent any damage to the internal components, after a short time I heard more pressure relief valves operating and I said to George that I was worried and was leaving.
I hurried to the safety of the hydraulic chocks a little further up the face followed by George who was calling me a yellow b****d, George was followed by the rest of the men in the stable hole. We had all just managed to get shelter under the face chocks when the whole of the stable hole crashed down and it was impossible for us to get off the face to the loader gate. We all had to travel through the face and walk about two thousand metres in order to get back to the face at the inbye end of the loader gate so as to retrieve our snap bags and clothes. I wouldn’t leave George alone; all the time we were walking back I constantly asked him that if I was yellow, what colour was he? As he was the first person to follow me out of danger, I also reminded him that if I had took an “old colliers” advice we would all be dead. George didn’t tease me anymore.
When we arrived at the inbye end of 3s L/Gate we could see what had happened; the whole of the ripping lip had collapsed revealing a white wall to the left of the gate looking inbye and to the right the coal was about 3.5 metres thick. It was obvious why George and I could not bore the top hole in the coal; the drill had struck the rock in the white wall and we had only succeeded in getting the bottom hole in due to the vertical angle of the washout. The panzer had stalled due to the fall of roof, but the stage loader could be run and the loader gate rippers had already started remedial work, this would take about two weeks before production could re-commence. Unfortunately due to deteriorating conditions it wasn’t too long before the face had to be abandoned and all of the equipment salvaged.
15S Face Dunsil Seam
Due to the stoppage of 3s face I was deployed to 15s in the Dunsil Seam along with my brother David, Ken Jones and Ivor James; Joe Head was to be our deputy and shotfirer. 15s coal face was served with two intake gates and one return; the bottom gate was the loader gate, the middle gate was a return airway and the top gate served as an additional loader gate and intake. The coal face was a stint face with no regular workforce and was primarily used as a standby and had not been in constant production, this did not help the roof conditions. The roof of the face was unstable due to its geology; from the bottom loader gate end of the face there was only about 300mm of undulating weak mudstone above the seam, though this increased in height as it progressed to the top loader gate and this had an overlying layer of rock of varying thickness. Our job was to carry out each task as to those carried out on 30s coal face in the Dunsil seam as previously described; only our task was to be much more arduous due to the fact we were not being able to complete a full cycle per day, in some cases it would take weeks to complete some of the tasks.
I remember one day at the top end of the face where we were timbering up an area of fallen ground; Ken Jones was holding a wood prop that was about 1.8 metres in length and pulling it towards himself as I struck it with the hammer. He was doing this as the prop was a little too long for the job and was bouncing back; suddenly I lost my grip on the hammer due to sweat and the wetness of the hammer shaft, the hammer only just missed Ken and flew into the gobbings. Ken never said a word he just retrieved the hammer and motioned for me to hold the prop, but if looks could kill I would not be here to tell the tale.
Joe Head the deputy was of the old school; there was nothing he didn’t know about mining, he was good for a laugh but serious about his work and never shrank from his duties, you might say that he was a good old stick. I remember one morning as Joe was leaving the pit baths for home when Jack Gilbert an overman who was drying himself after bathing waved his “old lad” at Joe inviting him to take it home for his missus. Without hesitation Joe grabbed hold of Jacks private parts and led him out of the baths naked and walked outside to a waiting bus, Jack who was squealing had no alternative but to follow like a dog on a leash. Jack never did offer this invitation again.
It was whilst I was working on 15s coal face that I experienced the gobbings flush for the first time and I have to thank Joe for ensuring our safety on that day. As a coal face advances it leaves behind a void; packs are built to support the roof that is left in this void, but after a time the roof will fail with a sound louder than thunder and the rush of air and dust from the gobbings when this happens can be overwhelming. On this particular day we were stinting and you could see as far as 40 metres into the gobbings before the roof appeared to touch the floor and if you remember earlier I mentioned that rock don’t give any warning when it fails. 15s had a rock top overlying a weak mudstone roof and I hadn’t noticed any changes taking place, but Joe did and he ordered us off the face with some urgency. We had just about reached the loader gate when some of the rigid steel props started to fly out; this was sufficient incentive for us to increase our speed of travel and we were soon in the loader gate. The roof in the gobbings crashed down with a thunderous roar and the force of the air being expelled was enough to blow you over; fortunately this only happens once as weight breaks regularly occur after this and the roof in the gobbings collapses frequently but less spectacularly.
One day my brother David purchased a pair of leather gloves (not free issue in those days) to protect his hands and it was whilst wearing these that he appeared to adopt the habit of waving. He would hold one hand up and do a kind of wave so as to empty any small debris out of his glove soon followed by the other hand; I couldn’t help but wave back to him every time he did it, though I did find a cure for this habit. One day I was stood on the gate conveyor belt and was about to empty my bladder when I saw David scratching away some dirt on the floor to recover some boring bits that he had buried earlier; I noticed that his gloves flared out at the wrist just like a pair of gauntlets, I couldn’t help myself, the temptation was too great I just had to fill what made a wonderful receptacle with pee. For some reason or another he didn’t like this too much and chased me down the gate screaming what he was going to do if he could catch me.
It was Saturday 27th. March 1965 when I got married to Christine; we both took a couple of weeks off work following the wedding so that we could spend some time together. When I returned to work I discovered that some of my tools were missing and immediately went to look for them. Remember Jack Reddington Waterloo 3s stage loader driver, well he was now a transfer point attendant close to 15s loader gate and I found that he had got my shovel and shaft (pick). I metered out swift on the spot justice and the least said about the matter the better.
I wonder how many people can remember when “Jaffa Cakes” appeared on the scene; I can, I will always remember Joe Head, he always brought a treat for us and I will never forget him bringing a Jaffa Cake for each of us to try, though one of my favourites was his wife’s home made date and walnut cake.
Whenever there was a breakdown on any of the other coal faces or any men to spare they were often deployed to work alongside us on 15s; I remember one chap, his name was Jack he had recently transferred from B Winning Colliery, he was an experienced face worker of some years. Remember how I said it was easy to look a fool when setting roof bars; well Jack had only been used to working on low coal faces at the most 500mm high and was not experienced in what he described as “high seams” and here we were working in at the least 900mm. No matter how hard he tried he could not get to grips on how to set a roof bar in this height and was wobbling all over the place much to our amusement, eventually we did set his bars for him and he was able to complete his stint.
I can only remember one accident occurring on 15s face and this was to Jacky Barfoot; Jack was in the process of filling his stint off when there was a fall of ground, Jack in his haste to move away twisted his knee badly and was unable to place any weight on that knee. This meant that he would have to be stretchered out of the mine; we were a long way from the manrider and unable to transport him out on the conveyor belts due to the restricted height so a long arduous carry was the order of the day. Fortunately Jack was of light build, but this did not negate the effort required to carry him out; David and I were selected to carry out this task and I can tell you that carrying a stretcher over uneven ground travelling uphill all the way is more exhausting than filling a stint off, both of us were completely knackered by the time we had reached the pit bottom. Having reached the pit bottom Jack thought that he had recovered sufficiently enough to travel the shaft and make it to the medical centre alone; he was told under no circumstances were we going to permit this, we had carried him this far and we were going out of the mine with him. At that time you would be paid a full shift and permitted to go home early for carrying a stretcher case out; however had we let Jack out of the mine by himself we would have had to return to our place of work as it would have been classed as escorting him to the pit bottom.
It was about this time when 30s and 10s coal faces in the Dunsil seam had been exhausted and production had finished with most of the men being transferred to 4s and 5s mechanised faces in the Waterloo seam. One new stint face was started in the Dunsil seam and that was 20s; the men on this face were mainly transferred from 10s and some of the men weren’t too happy about this as the conditions on the mechanised faces were much better. 20s had only been in production for a few months when one of the men Malcolm Buckley decided to leave as he was fed up with that type of work (remember him from page 11) and he had got a job on the “Coal Leading”. Coal Leading was a term given to a job on the surface, though not specifically a job at the mine; this job was to take out and deliver miners concessionary fuel and I can tell you from my own experience that it can be bloody hard work. During one of the strikes I volunteered to take out concessionary fuel for the pensioners and in some instances had to carry a 1cwt bag of coal over 200 metres to deliver it behind rows of terraced houses. I will mention Malcolm Buckley again.
Waterloo 7s Coal Face
After spending about six months on 15s Dunsil, Waterloo 7s coal face had been headed out and all of our old team from Waterloo 3s face were transferred onto 7s coal face. The whole of the district had yet to be installed and this was to be our first job; conveyor belts switchgear and stage loader to install in the loader gate, all of the face equipment including the panzer, Gullick 5 leg hydraulic chocks and the face machine. The face machine was to be a little different this time; it was a Double Ended Conveyor Mounted Trepanner (DECMT) This machine was different in as much that it only had five cutting elements compared to seven on 3s face; it had two trepan barrels, one at each end, one turret in the middle and two floor discs, one behind each trepan barrel and this machine did not pre cut the floor of the seam. It was a much safer machine as you were not placed on the face side of the panzer exposed to the face coal spalling (falling) and trapping you, indeed other than for maintenance work and affixing a plough to the trailing end of the machine it wasn’t necessary to go onto the face side at all. I must point out that in the event of a roof fall it would be necessary to work on the face side of the panzer to clean debris up and to timber the roof up. The layout of the face was almost identical to that of Waterloo 3s except that it had a major upgrade in the design of the equipment, though the stable holes at each end of the face hadn’t changed.
I must admit that I found it quite interesting work setting 7s coal face up, it was a completely new experience for me and I must say that some of the methods used would not be permitted today. The panzer was first to be installed though not in the manner that it would have to be for production, the reason for this is that it would be used to transport the chocks down the face. There weren’t any pan sides attached to the panzer; these are designed to carry the power cable for the DECMT, water hose, and the signal and communication cables and to prevent the coal spilling off the panzer during production. (See photo on page 29)
The signal cables were placed out of the way in what would be the gob side of the face and we were to attach a chock to the panzer chain using a double hooked coupler; place a pan side on the panzer start the panzer up and follow (Rather quickly) as the chock was dragged down the face. Should a chock get stuck we would stop the panzer as soon as possible, if we didn’t the fusible plug in the fluid coupling between the panzer motor and drive would blow and this would cause a big delay in getting the panzer to run again. A fluid coupling could be best described as a type of clutch; the coupling is filled with a special type of mineral oil and it is only when the motor gets up to sufficient speed that the friction between the oil and the drive is great enough that it will cause the panzer to run. These couplings can get very hot; especially in a hold fast situation; a fusible plug is a safety device designed to prevent damage on such occasions and they blow at a set temperature, this releases the oil rendering the drive inoperable. Before the coupling can be refilled and a new fusible plug fitted you have to wait quite a while for the coupling to cool down, not only that it’s a ball ache to do, as you can imagine we did our best to keep things running.
Having transported the chocks to site; they had to be turned into their final position and the signal and communication cables pulled over the top to the front of the chocks and then the chock is set to the roof and connected to the panzer, the pan sides were installed at the same time as the chocks.
My brother David was placed back in his job as supply gate stable hole chargeman and I was a workman in the loader gate stable hole; occasionally I would be sent on the chocks if we stayed overtime as some of the chock-men didn’t want any overtime and this did make a change to the routine. Often on the afternoon shift we would be asked to make overtime to carry out maintenance work or perhaps to change a damaged cable on the face that would take us into the early hours of the morning with no transport home. When this did occur the pit flat backed lorry would take us home; the only problem with this was that there was not any shelter on the back of the lorry and we would have to huddle down behind the drivers cab to seek shelter from the rain or snow.
Occasionally if my brother and I didn’t get a Saturday shift we would volunteer to double back on the Friday night shift to go packing on one of the stint faces. I remember one Friday when we had doubled back on the nightshift along with Ivor James and one other who’s name I can’t remember; we hurried to the face so that we could get a good start and had completed our quota of packs before the regular men had finished, being “strags” (not regular members of the team) we left the district and headed for the pit bottom. We were too early to get out of the mine and our plan was to “get down” (go to sleep) until it was time to ride the shaft; we knew of a safe place to hide and get comfortable without the risk of being found. I have to say that it turned out to be too comfortable; when we awakened we discovered that we had overslept and had made an extra hour of unpaid overtime, we never did repeat this and in future we would stay behind with the regular packers. David claims that he didn’t go to sleep and that we were late because he didn’t have a watch and had lost track of the time; a likely tale.