Change Wasn't Anything New For John In Recent Years
Some would never get the black coal dust on them again
Sunday morning saw a couple of pensioners going to church, his dad and a few more sat around smoking at the allotments,(how did they ever grow anything?) regulars, Dick, Johnny and Ron all making their way to the pub. None had jobs but they still get out for a drink as often as anyone in employment, so why did he have to go through the stress of starting a new pit. When was life going to be good to him? The answer he muttered to him self as he walked along Terrace Lane.
"Never" and his thoughts turned to Monday morning.
Watching TV on Sunday night he was restless, Emily had told him top go out for a drink, he'd sleep better even if he snored a lot after a beer or two. He didn't and had an equally restless night until the alarm clock went off at 5.30. He was due at the pit for 6.30 on the first day.
Bungling a mesh bag with all his pit gear he opened the car boot and scraped the frost away from the windscreen and rear window. Emily and Jade slept on in the warm coal fired centrally heated house. He turned and looked back before getting into the car and wondered if it will ever be the same.
For years he had worked man and boy at Newcroft, he had mates from other villages and towns as far away as Milton Grove and that was 14 miles as the crow flies. Some he would hardly ever see some would probably have settled at other pits and he had picked the wrong one. Some would never get the black coal dust on them again, never work in just underpants and pit boots sweat dripping into your eyes making them sore.
Newcroft men had the jokes, the camaraderie, the digs and friendly sarcasm, the ragging they gave and took. Maybe it would be the same eventually but in a different place at a different time; who knows he wish he had the answers.
He entered the Betteville car park and finally he had an excitement travelling through his body which he remembered from his first ever day at Newcroft. The pit yard was totally different but he was familiar with the old National Coal Board signs and similar offices. He found his way easily to the Training Office where he met up with the training officer not much older than himself. This put him at ease as he was shown around the new pit baths to get his locker. He dumped his work clothes from what he considered closing an era of Newcroft. He recognised an old mate or two from the town or village and they passed comment about him as if he weren't there.
"He's a good un your setting on Bill."
"I used to take him walks as a baby, I worked with his dad."
This put him at ease and made topics to talk about as he bedded in.
The first shift and even the first week he would be taken by fellow officials around all the districts and roadway in the Black Shale seam before starting his duties properly. He would have to sign all the forms to complete his transfer on that day so his trip down the mine was short and not far from the pit bottom. When he got on the pit top or shaft side he could smell the return air. It didn't smell like the Tupton seam but he already new that pits and seams have their own smell. He remembered the Black Shale smell from his training days at Bowen pit.
The visit was short and Tuesday he would go with a Deputy all shift on his assigned district. They would no doubt swap information and stories. The he would learn the procedures and practices of his new employment. It would be a bit of an adventure finding his way around a totally new mine; this became a home from home experience. You see since he left school the only job he'd had was in the pit all his working life so far. All miners like to see how other pits operate. It has never been a boring day to day drag in mining; John and his mates often got into conversations about their work while having a pint. Mining does get in your blood. Whether you like it or not. John remembers the friendly squabbles with lads who worked at Betteville when he had started at Newcroft. Although only a few miles away, some of the terminology they were brought up with was amusingly different to Newcroft. This caused a lot of mickey taking between rival young miners and a lot of bragging and the yardage and tonnage got longer and larger every time.
What kind of an industry, struggling against nature, striving and battling every day but able to bring men to comradeship.
He had the feeling that he was following in his fathers and grandfathers footsteps
Even later in political struggles split the unity to some extent but the fellowship of coal miners was something that brought togetherness. Wounds haven't had time to heal before the industry was torn asunder making Newcroft its latest casualty.
"It's a job" John said after his initiation to his new pit.
Emily couldn't understand why it was so big a wrench; she had worked at three different factories as a machinist in her career before having Jade. He was pretty silent the rest of the afternoon and didn't have his usual playful moments with his daughter. However Tuesday he was up and ready for the real thing, straight into the car park, he got a nod and a 'hey up' from other miners who naturally talked to you without knowing who you were. He then had the feeling that he was actually following in his fathers and grandfathers footsteps and a piece of history was being made. Who really bothered about the fact didn't matter but it gave John a bit of a feeling no one could describe and he wouldn't make his feeling known to anyone else.
He met up with an oldish Deputy for his first tour around underground; they covered most of the layout of roads after a ride down the manrider, which took about 20 minutes. Then a short ride down a 1 in 4 gradient drift took then to the Black Shale seam and then they did a circuit of the main belt and haulage roads. Tony Johnson who took him round spoke of his granddad and dad who he knew when they were at the pit, in fact he was about the oldest employee there. John got the feel for the pit now and he saw where all the production and development districts started. Wednesday he would be going with different Deputies on to these before having his own tasks and duties.
On the pit top Wednesday morning he was told to meet Jack Gore (another of the senior members of the staff) at the bottom of the drift and they were going onto B67's, which was not a production district now and was being salvaged by a small team of men who were experts in that field. The salvage team worked on a slightly different shift locally known as the 'Tisha' shift. This weird name came from the word Tissue, meaning thin, as there was not a full team on it. Then turned into 'Tisha' throughout the pit. This was so the manrider could carry all the producers in one haul. The Tisha men came on an hour later.
John waited at the bottom of the drift for Jack and all the dayshift men had been deployed to their tasks. Just Inbye of the drift bottom was a set of three Booster fans to help the ventilation, as the production districts were a good way out from that point. He sat on a large tool box and waited and the seven salvage man had gone forward as the district had been pre-shift examined. Jack didn't turn up for a while and John looked at his watch and was getting anxious. Any kind of hold up could have delayed Jack so there wasn't any need to panic; he thought he knew the way down to 67's so he was ready to make his way forward. He was a Deputy and could have been responsible for the district that shift in case of any unforeseen circumstances, but has he pondered the idea he saw the light from a cap lamp in the distance; that must be him he thought and his mind was at ease for a minute.
The light got brighter and it looked as if he had just got off of the manriding conveyor belt while the haulage rope serving the same drift was lurching and inching forward and back as the gangers would normally be getting a run of materials to go inbye. The tubs on the drift had to be secured with special 'heavy duty' clips (attachers) to the haulage rope because of the gradient.
He could tell it was a Deputy because in the lit up area at the bottom of the drift he noticed the Safety lamp swinging from his thick leather belt. The Garforth lamps bonnet was shiny as opposed to a workman's oil lamp and any men could spot a Deputy, Overman or Under Manager coming towards them (an early warning trait). It wasn't Jack but a Deputy who called himself Danny. Where they met us the noise from the Booster fans below more or less led them to communicate by shouting and hand signals.
The Deputy told him to make his way inbye and he would not be far behind him, he had some other duty which he expressed as pressing. John made his way from the bottom of the drift and walked to 67's which took a good forty minutes via roads which had suffered a lot of weight and floor lift making the original 12 foot high rings (arched supports)to be around 6 to 7 foot with undulating ground. The rails were not safe for running a tub ( mine car) on due to the broken ground and were levelled up in a crude makeshift way of wooden nogs and cleats supporting the sleepers. This wasn't anything new so John plodded on towards his district with care.
He found the Loader Gate and the road got a bit better to travel so he headed up onto the district. The gate (road) was just over 900 yards long and he walked and examined it as if it was his duty, next week he could be assigned to it anyway.