Saturday, 19 December 2009

In Dad's Shoes - Final Part

At last the big day arrived - work underground! My legs were like jelly when I first stepped into the cage for that first descent. The cage dropped like a rock, a terrifically fast descent which lasted three or four minutes. The older miners gave me plenty of encouragement and promised me I would be ok. They would look after me. This proved to be the case as I have found no stronger brotherhood of men all the rest of my life. When work is in such dangerous conditions often men have only the courage and loyalty of colleagues to rely on. These men worked together, lived alongside each other and spent free time with each other in the local Working Mens Clubs.

All the miners had soft spots for the pit ponies. The pit worked a 24 hour day with the miners working 8 hour shifts and so did the ponies. This meant that some miners worked regularly with certain ponies. The ponies lived down the pit and only came up for 2 weeks of the year when the pit closed for the August holiday. Many miners would bring little treats of grass or a carrot for their particular pony. The ponies could smell an apple as soon as you entered the stable and they would go mad whinnying and kicking. I was told by an old miner that if I should ever have the bad luck to be by myself in the tunnels when my cap light and safety light went out I should free my pony of its chains, hold on to its tail and tell it to “Go Home” and the pony would get me back safely.

My career in the pit lasted only 2 years. I had an accident and broke my arm very badly. This made me stop and think. I had lived amongst this community all my life and knew many old miners who were badly injured and could no longer work and there were some fatherless families thanks to the pit. It was a turning point for me - I never went back.

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