Weekly And Other Examinations
Sometimes there could be extra work if you were working in a remote part of the mine; you would often have to do weekly inspections of old roadways being used for ventilation purposes, this meant leaving your district early to travel these often long routes with low roadways in a poor state of repair. I remember one such weekly exam that took you through old 4s loader gate, down old 10s S/G, through old 10s face line and back up old 10s loader gate, you then reached civilisation. There were problems in travelling this route; old 4s loader gate had a couple of right angle bends in it where the face had to be shortened due to a washout as did 3s loader gate. The first bend in this gate was at a lower level than the other and water accumulated here; there was a power supply to a Mono Pump that you operated to pump the water away. I was in the process of pumping the water out, it was very warm in this area and you just sat there for about one and a half hours with nothing to do except watch the pump. It wasn’t too long before I had dropped off to sleep; the next thing I knew I was awakened by the pump making a horrible sound, all the water had gone and the pump had run dry causing the rubber (stator) pumping element to burn out.
On another occasion whilst travelling the same route I had arrived at 10s old face line at the S/G end; this point was at the lowest level on the district and was flooded to a depth of about three feet with water and oil; two pairs of waders were left at the face line, one pair at each end of the face. It was the practice to put a set of waders on and travel through the old face line to the L/G end; take the waders from the L/G end back to the S/G end of the face line and leave them there, then travel back to the L/G end and take off your set of waders and leave them there. This practice was reversed if you entered the district from the loader gate and this ensured that there was a pair of waders available whichever way you travelled this route. Normally there would not be a problem as usually it was my brother and I that carried out the weekly inspections; but the week previous some idle pillock had left both pairs of waders at the L/G end and I had to travel the face line without any waders, as I was already soaked up to my waist I did the right thing and took a pair of waders back to the S/G end.
My brother David once escorted the Colliery Manager George Noble around old 10s and entered the district via the old L/G; David trying to be a gentleman volunteered to travel to the S/G end of the old face line to collect the spare set of waders for the Manager. David soon returned with the spare waders in hand; the manager thanked David for being so helpful as he put the waders on and off they both went paddling through the filthy stinking water. I was reliably informed that when they had travelled about half way through the face line George Noble’s demeanour changed as he soon discovered that David had supplied him with a set of waders that had a hole in them.
When I first went on the “staff” I can remember a workman Frank Greenaugh discovering heating on the main intake conveyor on the bottom belt; this was caused by spontaneous combustion due to air leakage into an old return airway that passed below the main intake. The conveyor belt was charred badly but did not burn as it was fire proof; Frank flushed the area with water and the water was pulled into the heating due to the negative air pressure of the return air, Frank was rewarded for this, they gave him a cigarette lighter. This incident was not a reportable “dangerous occurrence” as there wasn’t any flame.
A few years later I was on the Saturday evening shift with another deputy Dennis Bacon, we were the only men in the pit and we were on our first official “Belt Patrol”. All conveyor belts that had been run had now to be examined after they had been stood for one hour in case of any hot spots being left, as it was during the one hour stand period that there would be the potential for them to flare up. Both of us travelled inbye on the main intake belts but split up at a junction and went our separate ways; Dennis had two further conveyors to examine and I had four, the next two conveyors that I examined passed without incident but the third was to have problems. The third conveyor was the Scour No.2 conveyor; this conveyor had been what we call “drawn up” on the previous shift, that is to say that the conveyor had not been run constantly but just moved a few yards at a time so that it could be fully loaded and then run empty at the end of the shift. This meant that the brake on the conveyor drive had been on and off throughout the previous shift, a recipe for disaster. I must be honest; I set the conveyor to run so that I could get a ride out at the end of the shift, this could be done by spragging the start button and giving a signal would cause the conveyor to start, give it another signal and it would stop. It was easy, I could control it remotely just by operating the signals. The first time I set the conveyor to run a large flash of flame and smoke poured out of the conveyor engine house; this was caused by the fan that cooled the electric motor fanning a fire underneath the brake assembly. I immediately stopped the conveyor and went to run a fire hose out so that I could quell the flames; one length of hose wouldn’t reach the engine house so I added another and now the hose was too long, I phoned the surface to get the power turned off and went back to the fire hydrant to turn the water on. You have to understand that the pressure in a water range down a mine is phenomenal and as soon as the water passes through the hose, the hose will whip about out of control. I managed to reach the end of the hose by walking on it and was soon in the process of washing out the fire from beneath the brake unit of the conveyor; unfortunately I managed to get some water in the motor of the conveyor but in my opinion this was unavoidable. I did succeed in putting the fire out, but I did not report how I had found it.
Did I get a lighter NO!!! I got a bollicking for getting water in the motor. Not only that, Ron Wood ripped my report out of the statutory book and brushed the incident under the table. This had been a reportable dangerous occurrence; such was the safety culture at Teversal.
I can tell you that I never missed examining any part of the mine that I had been sent to; though I can say that some of the deputies fraudulently filled in reports saying that they had done belt patrols and never went on the district, some would stand at the end of the gate and say “I can’t smell any smoke” Dennis Bacon was one of them. One overman Ralph Bradshaw would telephone you to make sure that you were at the inbye end of the district and not taking any shortcuts. I remember one Saturday afternoon shift when I was still travelling inbye on one district and was about two hundred metres from the inbye end of the L/Gate when I could hear the telephone ringing it stopped before I could reach it. When I had completed my examination about thirty minutes later I telephoned Ralph to inform him of my location and that I was about to leave the area; he said that he had phoned earlier to check up on me. Crafty B****d I thought, you are not going to catch me out.
Gerry Parr |Some of the coal faces had what was called an “advanced heading” in the Loader Gate; this really means that the roadway is in front of the advancing coal face and as such has to be ventilated by auxiliary ventilation, in other words a fan. These fans have to be left running unattended and as such had to be examined as the fans on a development would have to be, usually the belt patrols and fan exams would be conducted at the same time. Often on some weekend shifts this meant spending some time just waiting around for the time to pass so that the exams could be carried out at the set times. One weekend shift I was on with Gerry Parr, we were not too far away from each other and had completed our fan exams and were waiting to carry out a second belt patrol on a conveyor further outbye and decided that we would get down for an hour (go to sleep). The next thing I knew the phone was ringing; it was Jerry, he was in the pit bottom and had done the conveyor exam, he had waited for me to “drop off” and then left.
Practical Jokes And Dirty Tricks
Practical jokes were often played on your colleagues; some of them were downright disgusting; one of the pit bottom deputies Cyril Barsons was always on the cadge for chewing tobacco; Cyril was a big bloke, not the sort that you would argue with. Often he would walk into the pit bottom office and if he saw any chewing tobacco on the table he would take it without asking. My brother David chewed tobacco and one day we decided to teach Cyril a lesson; we placed some tobacco in a tin, urinated on it and left it on a hot pipe to stew, about six hours later when we returned to the pit bottom we placed the tin (now dry) on the table and waited for Cyril to return. The first thing that Cyril did when he walked into the office was pick the tin up, take out the tobacco and pop it in his mouth “By” said Cyril “This bit a bacca’s nice and moist.” I don’t know how both of us contained our laughter; we made some excuse and immediately left the office with our sides bursting, Cyril would have gone mad had he known what we had done.
One of the best practical jokes was carried out by Gerry Parr’s father, his name was Gerry too but everyone called him Henry. Henry was on the afternoon shift and he had been talking to Billy Dawes about gardening; both were avid gardeners, Billy told Henry that he had lost all of his cabbage plants and onion sets due to an infection. Henry said to Billy, who was on the day shift, that he had plenty of spare plants and that he would bring him some the next day and that he would leave them in the Bath Attendants office for him to collect. Billy was over the Moon; as soon as he got home he sterilised his garden ready for the new plants. The next day Billy rushed through the baths, got to the Bath Attendants office and collected a large bundle of plants wrapped in wet newspaper that Henry had left for him. When Billy got home he went straight into his garden without having his dinner and prepared his garden for the plants; he placed a string on the garden so the plants would be in line, opened the plants up only to discover he had got a load of dandelions. I can’t tell you what Bill had to say about this.
Billy Dawes was quite a character; always up to some mischief, you never knew what he was going to do next, one Christmas he had taken his mouth organ underground and had been playing Christmas carols with it. It was the end of the shift and we were on our way out of the mine on the manrider; Bill was playing carols and most of the men were singing along to the tune that he was playing, after Bill had finished I asked him where he had learnt to play the mouth organ. Bill replied “It’s a long story; it started when I was only a young lad, I always wanted a mouth organ but my Mum and Dad couldn’t afford one, no-one had any money to spare in those days”. Billy went on to describe how he had managed to obtain his first mouth organ.
“My Mum had given me and my brother Dennis a three pence piece each so that we could go to the swimming baths at Mansfield; we lived in Bilsthorpe at the time and had to walk all the way to Mansfield, we couldn’t afford the bus fare and go to the swimming baths. It’s quite a way for two young lads to walk to Mansfield and by the time we got there, the swimming baths had closed so we decided to go into Mansfield and have a look around the shops. After a while we went into Woolworths for a look around; we wondered around looking at all the different sweets that were on display with our mouths watering imagining what they would taste like, we eventually chose some and walked around chewing on our purchase. We finally reached a counter that had mouth organs on display; my eyes lit up but my heart sank, I always wanted a mouth organ but I had spent my money on sweets. I stood there for a while just looking at the shiny new mouth organs; the temptation proved too much, I looked around, no-one was looking and I stole one of the mouth organs and hid it up my jumper. Nervously I made my way out of the shop, Dennis following behind; I was just about to exit the door when the shop manager grabbed me by the scruff of my neck. “Got you me lad” he said and he dragged me upstairs to his office; I was crying my eyes out and frightened to death wondering what was going to happen. The manager took the mouth organ from me and told me that he were going to call the police; the manager then said that he was going to return the stolen item to the counter and he locked me in his office as he left. I was all alone in the manager’s office absolutely terrified as what was going to happen, then I noticed his window was half open; I looked through the window and could see that there was a single storey building directly below the window, a means of escape!!!! I had got about half way through the window and guess what happened next”? “I don’t know” I said listening intently. “Well” said Billy; “the manager came back in the office and grabbed hold of my leg and pulled it about as hard as I am pulling yours”. Billy had done it again, I never did find out where he had learned how to play the harmonica.
|I remember another time when my brother-in-law Graham Bradshaw and I decided to teach the Foreman rope-man George Whitmore and his staff a lesson. The rope-men would often defecate close to their pit bottom cabin and not cover the faeces over; we decided to get a stick and spread some of the faeces across the top of the door to their cabin. The rope-men’s cabin was beneath the roadway and had to be accessed via a short flight of stairs; the door to the cabin was only about one metre high and to open it they would place their unprotected hands on the top of the door. They never did find out who had carried out the dastardly deed.
Showering in the Pit Head Baths didn’t keep you free from tricks being played on you; often you would be standing under the shower rinsing the shampoo from your hair and one of your colleagues would be standing behind you pouring the contents of your shampoo bottle over your head.
When the men would be stood in line washing each other’s back, there was always one that would be urinating up someone else’s back without the victim being aware.
Most of the men would have their favourite place in the showers; I remember one day when Roland one of the Bath Attendants had just cleaned one of the sections in the showers and had fenced it off and placed a “No Admittance” notice at the entrance. I removed the fence and the notice so that I could wash in my favourite shower; Roland who was a big chap appeared and ordered me out of that section and threatened to strangle me if I went back in. Of course I vacated this section and replaced the fence and the notice, Roland was too big to argue with. I were soon under a different shower washing myself when my identical twin brother arrived; he set about removing the fence and notice so as to wash beneath his favourite shower, there David was washing himself when Roland re-appeared. Roland exploded; David just stood there looking innocent and wondering what was going on, I just creased up with laughter. It was at this moment when Roland heard me laughing; he turned around to see who was laughing at him and when he saw me, he immediately turned back around to look at David and realised what a mistake he had made. Roland walked away cussing and swearing.
One of the favourite tricks in the Pit Head Baths was to wash down everyone that you could catch with the high pressure hose that the Bath Attendants used to wash the showers down; the water from this was ice cold and boy did it make you jump.