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When a Woman's Life Was The Pits

Surviving Wigan pit brow lasses brought one of the most gruelling jobs imaginable back to life in a major radio documentary, about 2004. Their stories combined with archive material for a special BBC Radio Four program.

Journalists spent six months compiling interviews for the hour long programme, Women in the Pit, which was the most detailed broadcast study yet of the Wigan coalfield and the people who worked in it.

Ashton author Ian Winstanley, who has written six books about the Wigan coalfield and the disasters which befell it, acted as a consultant and was also interviewed walking around the site of the former Lime Pit coal screen in Haydock.

Many of the relatives of the Wigan Pit Brow lasses included in the programme came forward after an appeal published in the Wigan press.

The last pit brow lasses - whose job involved picking stones and shale from the coal on the screen before washing - worked in Wigan as late as the early 1960's.

Hard Times - Pit Brow Lasses at work at their gruelling jobs

Ian, whose web site, Coalmining History Resource Centre, was a standard point of reference for teachers and historians, he added "I've been lucky enough to be sent a copy of the programme and Wiganers will be delighted with the finished result, which is very impressive.
"At least three quarters of the hour long programme concentrated on the Wigan coalfield and a number of named Wigan pits.
"It combined a lot of archive material with interviews recorded just weeks before."

Ian added that, after consideration, the producers had decided to stick solely to the story of the gruelling lifestyle of Pit Brow Lasses and not to include the role of the "pit camp women" in steadfastly opposing closures during the 1985 national pit strike.

If it is dialect you like, go and talk to an old pit lass. Girls like these three, seen on the pit bank at the old Moss Hall Colliery spoke nothing else.

Pit gear being lifted (Wigan 1978)

Coal cleaning 70 years ago (Wigan Evening Post)

Goodbye 'Mr Bickershaw'

Mr Bill Smith, the man known throughout the South West Lancashire coal field as 'Mr Bickershaw' retired after 41 years.

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