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Miners and Their Families
What's It Like Being A Miner?
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Mandy Murray - Bellister Ghost
Ronnie Munro - Selby Mines Rescue Station
Stan Durban - I was posted to Shipley Coppice in July 1944
John Mowbray - Brigadesman on Mansfield Mines Rescue Station
Bob Burbeck- Researching Family History
James Findlay - Blenkinsopp & Wrytree Pits
All the best, Colin Pounder. - Another and better Cotmanhay page

Selby Mines Rescue Station
Ronnie Munro
29 June 2002

Dear Sir,

My name is Ronnie Munro, and I am a rescue officer at Selby Mines Rescue Station. If you are looking for information on mines rescue then we may be of some assistance as we have a variety of photographs from by-gone days in storage.

To view these photos you must get permission from the manager (David Whitaker), and if you mention my name then I am sure that something can be arranged that may be of help to you.

Wishing you every success with your web site.

Ronnie Munro

I was posted to Shipley Coppice in July 1944
Stan Durban
25 June 2002

I was posted to the above pit after training at Creswell Training Centre, in July 1944. Did two weeks training on the bank at Bottom End, then haulage work, lived in a hostel in Eastwood. After about 3 months I was put in a stall or heading with two brothers, wasn't too popular with them, never did find out why, money I think.

Then I went on the face as a Codger, Youth clearing the spillage on the bottom belt.Worked with a team, Herbert Keeling, John Allsop, our shotfirer was Joe Knight.Then I was put boring, that was the best job I had, Derby County were at there best, so some of the lads went missing for the day and I got put in a length, the lads looked after me, I was earning good money. They tried to teach me to chew tobacco, never did take to it.

Left in 1947 when my time was up, wouldn't have missed it for the world.

You have a good site, please alter the 'Bevan' to 'Bevin' in the letter.

Sincerely Stan Durban

Brigadesman on Mansfield Mines Rescue Station
John Mowbray
27 November 2001

My Name is John Mowbray I am a brigadesman on Mansfield Mines Rescue Station I worked at Arkwright Colliery in North Derbyshire from 1978 - 1983 was a part time rescue brigadesman at Chesterfield Mines Rescue Station.
I moved to Mansfield station in 1983 till present day I found your site very interesting if you want any information about present day Mines Rescue please contact me, we are now a private Ltd company, non profit making and currently funded by a levy on each tonne of coal mined plus money generated by the staff by doing training and work for all types of industry.

Researching Family History
Bob Burbeck

13 January 2002

I've been reading your pages on the Ilkeston Mines Rescue Station with interest.

I stumbled across it while researching family history information and since my father was a miner, it was a 'natural' discovery. I have a photograph which will doubtless interest you. It is a 10" x 8" framed print (still mounted but now minus frame) very similar to the picture you have already published on your website.

The picture is titled "Mines Rescue Station, Ilkeston" and "A Mixed Team", but not dated.

My father retired due to ill health in 1971 and died in 1977. We talked about this picture when I was young and he spoke of the people with affection and comradeship. But it's so long ago that I remember only the tone and non of the detail.

I have no idea of the circumstances of my father's involvement with Rescue - I presume that he was a trained volunteer and not a permanent member of the staff.

Attached,you will find the photograph together with the caption on the mount. I also supply a higher resolution detail of Arthur Syson and my father, Albert Burbeck. I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of stories tying my father to the Mines Rescue, but I'll see what I can come up with regardless. However, you might ask if Arthur Syson had a relative who was a schoolmaster or if anyone knows about this. The reason is that I was taught by a "Mister Syson" at junior school (thin, 6ft and with a grey beard) and my father seemed to have an acquaintanceship with him, but without ever explaining properly - just wondered if it was coincidence or not. He was living on Heanor Road close to the Brick & Tile (The Mallard, as is now) not far from ourselves, at the time. Bob.

Regards, Bob Burbeck (Smalley).

(Click here to see the pictures and for more information )

Blenkinsopp & Wrytree Pits
James Findlay
19 January 2002
Hello, just thought I would send you a message about myself and where I work I work at the last reaming drift mine in Northumberland (and shortly to close). Blenkinsopp and Wrytree coal mine which are both connected underground are located in the village of Greenhead,two miles from the town of Haltwhistle, halfway between Newcastle and Carlisle on the A69.

The mine dates from the middle 1800s (on the drift entrance it shows 1842) although it is possible that it predates this maybe even as early as the 15th century!
The pit is relatively small employing 80 men at the present although when I first started there was about 125.
Most of the machinery is fairly old with some dating to about the 1940s ! The last ten to eight years have seen some more modern machines and practices being the introduction of a longwall shearer face and dosco dintheaders. There are also several Eimco tracked loading shovels for stone work (prior to this it all stone work was filled away with shovels !)
There are two unique features of the mine , at the Blenkinsopp side the drift entrance is less than 20 metres away from a castle (haunted!) which then runs under a caravan site. The other feature is that it is the only mine I know that works in a seam with a limestone roof with average heights of 5' 6".

Around this area are a great deal of 'bell pits' which were dug by local monks which probably lived in or near to the castle. At Blenkinsopp there is a small outcrop that you can see at surface at about an 1" thick. My theory is that the monks followed this seam down and with the roof being so strong mined this in the conventional manner with wood props. There are also other reports of a tunnel connecting another castle called Thirlwell and I feel the easiest way to do this would be through the coal seam.

The real relevance to the ghost story is the mine. Was the treasure put in an old working?
Also when did the transition from bell pits to the way we mine today with props happen. Is this one of the earliest examples?

The tunnels that link castles up must have been driven through coal and must have been quite a feat of engineering skill. I've heard the exit of the tunnel from Haltwhistle to Bellister castle is some distance from the castle itself, in a wood so the surveyors must have been out a bit ! More amazing is the fact that the castle itself is built on the Whin dyke fault that we had to drive through so they most have had the same problems we had. You mention about information of the bell pits.
The area around here had loads of bell pits as some of the seams were not that deep. Seeing one however is hard and a depression in the ground is all you can see usually. My wife saw several when she was little. Her family farm had some land opencasted just to the west of Blenkinsopp and she can still remember the areas carved out by the monks.
Another opencast, a much bigger operation at Plenmellor near to Haltwhistle, also revealed bell pits. In fact there wasn't as much coal as first thought (it was all robbed by the monks!) A lot of people got into trouble over the boreholes that were supposed to show a lot more coal than there was. What came to light was the fact that half the boreholes were never made !!

Haltwhistle has a similar story, One of the oldest buildings in Haltwhistle (the centre of Britain hotel) and which has massive walls, had a passageway leading down one of the walls into a tunnel and is supposed to connect with Bellister castle. It is certainly true about this passageway as my father bricked it up some time ago and complained about the smell that came from it. There were rumours about people trying to get into the tunnel but as far as I know it was far to gassy for an attempt. Not long ago the new owners, I believe, opened the passageway back up and were going to make another attempt at getting through, although that was the last I've heard about it.

This tunnel would have been an excellent means of escape after a night out drinking in Haltwhistle, and then suddenly finding the town was being attacked by marauding Scotsman !! Again I can only think that the tunnel would have been driven through a coal seam as the limestone would be way to hard to be driven through for the time. Most of Haltwhistle has been mined under.

As I have said I am in the part time rescue and we have a practice at our pit on Wednesday. If it is possible I will try to get some photos for you. There is one more face left to come out which is still be installed so time is pretty tight at the minute but I will try to get as much information and photos as I can. I have a slideshow that you can view (you will need Apple quicktime to view them, it is a free download). There are around 90 photos half of them being men that work here and the other half places in the pit.

Read more, See more - Blenkinsopp & Wrytree Pits

The Ghost Story

  From: Mandy Murray
Sent: 26 February 2005
: Bellister Ghost

My great-grandmother & father were groom and cook at Bellister Castle, and as far as I know there is no connection between the mines and the ghost, however the tunnels at one time did have another purpose.


Another and better Cotmanhay page
All the best, Colin Pounder.
8 March 2002
Hello Fionn
I have set to work on another and better Cotmanhay page - It is just that I noticed some mistakes on the list of collieries plus I have some material to add to it.
As to computers my opinion after experience with the things over some forty years is that they are still as daft as their programmers and any claimed intelligence for them goes into devising more malicious tricks each time you switch the thing on!

We had ponies in Moorgreen Pit when I was there in the 1960s. I can only remember the name of one - Robin because he would suddenly stop for no apparent reason and would only move on after he had been given some chewing tobacco.
One day at the end of shift a pony pulling empty tubs stopped outside our place and we all piled into the tubs - illegal of course - someone yelled "Goo on then" and the pony headed at high speed for the stables as it was his shift end too. No doubt way back some ganger was frantically trying to catch up with his pony.
At the stables he stopped and we all clambered out about a mile nearer the pit bottom, and without walking. The tubs were unhitched and the pony plodded into the stable and we collected our mottees and went on to the bank.
The stables were well lit - warm - and brick and timber construction. There were bales of hay and straw and the Ostler took great care of the ponies. A huge ginger cat dozed on the bales - his job was to catch mice coming down in the straw and hay.
I have read that pit ponies were blind - probably written by those in the vein of Bert Lawrence - who also find mining, trawler fishing and fighting wars, romantic. They are not blind and certainly those I saw were treated with care.
The two black ponies at Manners Pit came up for holidays and lived in a large brick stable with its own field. Mind you they did not like kids, except to wait until you were half way between stiles in the fence when they materialised like aliens and chased after you.
Shipley Woodside Headstocks - I got a photo of`em! I will put them on the new page. (Just thought I can try and insert a copy here:) By the way they did not have the original wheels. They were replaced by smaller diameter ones for some reason or other.
Someone contacted me to ask why did I not put details of the photographs - I thought I had - but to make sure I am now putting a few details plus a date if I can remember it on each photograph so each should be identifiable.
The reason for no photographs from the past is threefold -
1) We all thought the world around us had been as it was for ages and so would continue -
2) few had money for such a luxury as a camera -
3) we were treated with absolute contempt by those who appointed themselves our betters.

In the last century and early years of the 20th an individual miner being killed often did not make even local papers it was just another collier. I have rambled on too long. Come and visit my site.
All the best,
Colin Pounder.

Pit Terminology - Glossary