Park Collieries, 1948 to 1959
The First Face in the Ravine Mine
It was decided to drive a short tunnel over the top of the old Hall Pillars and into another reserve of the Ravine seam. There wasn't a great deal of coal there, but it was decided to take it out by using the longwall method. The short tunnels, both intake and return were driven through a sandstone fault. Having no compressed air, we couldn't use Holman machines, which are the best for this type of work, instead we had to use a Victor machine on a special rack bar to drill the holes, and there was a Victor scraper installed to take out the spoil. In those days, no one used water to keep the dust down. "It'll fetch flooor up" was the excuse. I decided to use a dust mask when I fired in this area, which was when I had fired all my shots in the Yard mine. The sandstone burnished everything to a shiny finish, the scraper pans, chain; even the men's spades were gleaming. I don't know what effect the dust had on the workmen's lungs but I kept the dust mask on. There was a forcing fan to ventilate the tunnel but it was very poor and the airflow was sluggish. It wouldn't have been tolerated today.
The rate of progress was slow as each shot had to be charged and fired separately. The method of firing was known as a "fan cut" Short holes to start with and then deeper fanning out to undercut the rock, which afterwards was fired down. It was in this tunnel that I found a fossilized seedpod, which I gave to the Technical College, along with a fossilized fern that I found in the Yard mine. They were put in the museum there.
When we finally opened up the seam behind the step, a small face was formed as a pilot face to develop flank faces for future production. There were only 10 colliers on the face and they each filled 5yds of coal. I remember going on to the face with an old deputy by the name of Duke Hart, Duke had been a deputy at Stone's for a long time and was approaching his retirement. He had always been employed in the pillar and stall workings and when we were looking at the setup of the new face he said to me "I'm glad to be finishing work, I don't like this way of getting coal" I wonder what he would have made of the mining methods used today.
The pilot face, which was cut using an AB15 cutter with an overhead turret, which meant that the coal was cut in the middle of the seam, produced 2 flank faces on either side. The ones on the left were soon worked out, as there was a step about 200yds away, which we couldn't go through. It was on one of these faces that Jack Waterworth, an old deputy, nearly lost his job.
We never had a lot of gas problems at Stone's, except for the odd bit that lingered in the top of a ripping, but on this Ravine face the bit of gas was a nuisance. The inspector, a Mr. Weston, came into the district this day and found a bit of gas, which wouldn't go. He finally left and said that he would be back in a couple of weeks to see what progress had been made in moving it. The inspector had warned Jack that he would be in trouble if the gas was still there. Anyway, he came back and Jack was on the face again, in charge. The gas was still there, Jack was demoted to shotfiring and was lucky not to lose his job altogether. It would have been a big blow to him, because he was 60 at the time and he would have lost his pension. The airflow on this face was a bit strange, as the air normally flowed in at the main gate and out at the return, on this face it went in at the return and out at the main gate. It was in the main gate that the gas was accumulating and it was finally resolved by making a false roof with brattice cloth, and by use of a "jump cloth" which was hung in front of the ripping lip, the airflow was directed upwards and along the top of the arches to sweep out the gas.
When the faces to the right were being worked, it was decided to use an AFC or "panzer" conveyor, just like the ones in use at Ravenhead colliery. This was instead of the Victor conveyor as used previously as we wanted to mechanize the face as much as possible. The system of support was by Prochar bars and Dowty props, these were the same ones as used in Ravenhead. The bars were 30ins long and linked together by means of a pin and wedge. The props were hydraulic and were pumped up by use of a handle inserted into a keyway near the top. The same handle and keyway was used to lower them as well, much as in the same way as a car jack.
The conveyor was set up alongside the coalface, the Prochar bars giving a "prop free front". The cutter, an AB15, with an overhead jib, was mounted on skids and placed on the panzer. When the colliers came on to the face, all the top coal had been fired, as the roof in this part of the Ravine seam was quite strong and the coal broke away to a good parting. As the tops were being fired, the conveyor was left running and as it was by the side of the coal, a lot of the coal was dropped on it and carried away. The colliers on this face were capable of shifting 12yds a man, which was around 30tons each. To shift what was left of the tops, the men would kneel on the bottoms and shovel the coal down on to the panzer. Having cleared it off the next job was to set the link bars to the uncovered roof, and then the bottom coal was fired. As before, the conveyors were left running and a lot of coal was filled off this way. We had a hydraulic pump in the heading that was used to power the rams that pushed the panzer over when the coal was cleared.
When the Ravine seam was first started to be worked longwall, John Bradshaw, the pit manager instituted a system of sandbag walls in the packing area to seal off the wastes. This was to prevent the outbreak of "gob" fires or spontaneous combustion. The system worked as follows: - As the roadside pack was being constructed, a wall of sand was made from bags imported from the surface, about one yard from the edge of roadway. With the daily advance of the face, the wall was carried on in each pack so that it formed a barrier and airtight seal to the waste. This sand wall was built in both intake and return road packs. Normally, air would leak across the waste due to the difference in pressure in both roadways. This measure prevented it. When a face was reaching its end, the return roadway was driven at a slant thus bringing the sandbag wall right across the waste and closing it off completely. By using this idea, every face could be salvaged and material re-used.
However, Stone's colliery was taken out of the Wigan No2 area and transferred to the St Helens No3 area. The director there decided that the wall of sand wasn't cost effective and we had to abandon it. I suppose at the time, the total cost of the wall was less than £10/day. That included paying the men 15shillings on each roadway to construct it. We lost three quarters of a million pounds on the first face to be salvaged after the wall was abandoned, because the waste heated up and the whole lot had to be sealed off. Talk about false economy!! Another example of the wastefulness of a nationalized industry. From then on, it wasn't possible to salvage a single face in the Ravine seam, because as soon as the coal was worked out, the stoppings had to be put on the access roads to seal them up.
Stoppings were constructed in this fashion. At the outbye end of the face roadways, ground was excavated between the arches for about a yard in the sides and roof. This was done leaving an interval of 15 yds between the two excavations, so that two walls could be built. The bricklayers then started to build the walls with brick, making them 15ins thick. Behind each wall a dirt pack was constructed, a yard from it, and in this space was put flue dust from the surface fires. The rest of the space was filled with dirt. As the stoppings neared completion, both had to be sealed simultaneously to avoid any gas problems. These kinds of stoppings were known as "Explosion Proof " stoppings, and a piece of 2ins pipe was built into the stopping, with a tap at the end to monitor the gas behind it.Characters that Worked at Stones's
There were quite a few "characters" that I can recall whilst I worked at the pit. One springs to mind straight away, Harold Blackledge, What a character this man was. He would have been in his late fifties when I knew him. I can picture him now, pants held up by his pit belt and a pair of home made braces, made from the inner tube of a car tyre. He didn't have buttons, but the ends of the braces were threaded through holes cut in his pants and secured by means of pegs that he had fashioned with his knife. He wore bands around his knees to keep his pants from trailing. A red handkerchief round his neck and a union shirt, without collar. Never without a chew in his mouth. He used "aromatic" twist tobacco, and he was a great taleteller, with a fund of old "pit tales". His job was that of a general worker or "dataller" as they were known and he could tackle any job. Prime a pump, lay a crossing, use a "Jem Crow," which was what a rail bender was known as, repair old roadways, Harold could turn his hand to anything. He told one tale about an undermanager that worked at Stone's years before. His name was Jack Smith, and he was the father of Jimmy who worked on the haulage when I did. Jack had the habit of coming into a working place and giving the last prop set, a hearty smack to see if it was tight or not. Harold and his stepbrother Joe were working as collier and drawer at the time and Harold said to Joe "Just watch me soort 'im eawt." Harold said to us "ah geet an owd orange box un took eawt uv it sum o'them two pointed nails us thi pur in um fer t'owd um t'gether. Ah knocked um inter t'prop un waited fer owd Jack fer t'cum in t'place. Sure enough, e cum in an gi' t'prop a gradeley smack. Tha should a sin his face when t'nails geet 'im! 'e didnt smack any moor props in eawr place."
Harold had a shop near the bridge over the railway just before the Seven Stars pub, going into Wigan. It was a real "junk shop." I went in a couple of times to pass the time of day with him. He sold a bit of hardware and anything else that he had picked up secondhand. What a man!
Harry Barrow was another real character. He was a deputy, and had been when my dad worked there. Harry kept pigs and poultry on a pen near to where he lived. Another deputy, Jimmy Thornley, told me of an incident with Harry's pigs. He had been to Harry's pen one day and he said to me "Tha should a sin it, Harry 'ad aw these little lads in t'pen tryin' t'ride th'owd sow. Er kept chuckin um off. Finally one little lad managed fer t'ride 'er aw reawnd t'pen un then 'e fawed off in t'slutch."
My dad told me of another time when Harry had a ferret. Someone brought a rabbit to the pen for Harry to have a look at. Harry said, "Shall we try 'im eawt wi t'ferret?" Harry said, "wi purrum t'gether i'this pen un there wuz a straw bale i't'middle. Aw us tha could 'ere wuz 'swish,- swish' us they went reand t'bale. Wi left um to it, but tha knows, when wi cum back, t'rabbit wus nowheer fer t'be sin!"
My dad told me of another incident when Harry was on the cutting shift. A man had been caught by the picks and his legs had been dragged under the cut. No one would go near, but Harry went and cut with his penknife, the tendons that held the remains of his legs fast, thus releasing the unfortunate man, who later died of his injuries.
Harry was a good Catholic, and each Christmas he would kill one of his geese and raffle it off for the church funds. He was selling tickets this day and he asked old Josiah (Jos) Roberts if he would buy one. Jos was a staunch Methodist and he said that he would but added, "I don't believe in gambling, but I'll support your good cause. If I win it I'll give it away again" sure enough Jos won the goose and turning to his mate Cyril Sudworth, said to him "Do you want it?" Cyril didn't refuse!!
Cyril was the bricklayer and old Jos was one of his labourers. It was a job given to most of the old men when they were past piecework. "Owd Jamsie" was another of these. James Henry Littler was his real name. He was a barber and a watch mender in his spare time, and he lived in Garswood somewhere. He was still working when he was 73. One day, Lambert Hodgekinson, who lived in Billinge Road, brought his gold Hunter watch to show to Jamsie. I can see it now, Jamsie with a mouthful of baccy, saying to Lambert "Howd thi 'at underneath it in case owt drops eawt." as he opened the back of the watch with his knife. Lambert was petrified!!
There was one man, an undermanager who worked until he was 80. I saw a report of it in the "Observer." It was before my time, but the story came down to me. His name was Harry Pennington and he lived near the wagon road crossings in Gibbons Lane, Garswood, at the back entrance of the pit. He was always known as Owd Harry Ploddy.
Apparently, at one time at Stone's there was a place underground known as "t'cock chicken shunt". Along this level were places, or stalls to the rise and to the dip. All the seams at Stone's dipped at about 1in7. When the only power was "britches arse steam", as it was known locally, working to the rise was the easy option. Empty tubs were pushed up and filled, scotches were used to bring the tubs down again. However, working to the dip meant that the full tubs were pushed up the rise, and this meant having a haulage lad or "thrutcher" as he was known to assist with them. This also incurred more cost, as the lad had to be paid from the wages.
Some of the men had allotments where hens were kept, and to make sure of a place to the rise, they would kill and dress a chicken, tie a tally round it's legs and drop it over "owd 'arry's" garden wall. He then would note whose tally it was and make sure that they got the working place that they wanted. Bribery and corruption!!
Another old character was Tom Grimshaw. When I first met Tom he must have turned 60. He was another Methodist from Downall Green. He used to work at the end of the face where I was doing my training. As the face advanced, Tom's job was to set props and wooden bars to form a track for the next flank face to the left. If we were short of men, Tom would take a stint on the face. He had white hair and a big white moustache and for his age was a powerful man and could fill 17tons easily. He lived with his wife and unmarried daughter in a row of houses near the RC chapel of Our Lady in Downall Green Road. The houses didn't have flush toilets; they had pails, which had to be emptied each week by the corporation men. To do this a small door was built into the toilet wall, so that the men had access. Men who lived in the neighbourhood, such as when, as children, they had lit fireworks, opened the door and dropped the "banger" in the bin had told me of various exploits.
Tom's unmarried daughter had been to the toilet one night, and had come running into the house," A man has just touched my bottom in the toilet," she said. "How do you know that it was a man?" "He had segs on his hands" was her reply!
We had a lot of Poles and other Eastern Europeans at Stone's, and some of them had unpronounceable names. It was said that one fireman, to enter a Pole's name in the time book, had written it on a piece of belt with chalk, and dragged it down the face to the heading where his book was! We had a Ukrainian there by the name of Joe Mychalczuk. When the afternoon shift was paid, they had to take their wages underground or get someone to come to the pit to pick them up. You could leave them in the baths locker but it wasn't a wise thing to do. The wages clerk wouldn't come out at night and pay out. This day in question, Joe had put his wages into his boot, whilst he got changed into his pit clothes, and someone had stolen it. I remember that it was £22. Which in those days was a lot of money. Joe thought that he had lost it underground in the pack that he had put on, and he went back down pit and stripped the whole pack down again. It took a lot of hard graft to do this when you think that the pack was 4ft6ins wide 3ft high and 30ft long. I think that they finally caught the man who had stolen it, but I don't know what Joe's reactions were!
Another Ukrainian was Mykola Lytwynenko, otherwise known as Nicky. He had a degree in maths at home in the Ukraine, but at Stone's he was just another ripper. He and another man, Wilf Grice, were working on a repair job, that is, removing damaged arches and replacing them. They were paid piecework on the ground removed, which was measured in cu.ft. The ground that they were removing wasn't uniform, so it was a bit of guesswork as to the true amount of dirt removed. As was the case in all these jobs, there were arguments, the men thought they were entitled to more, and the management thought it the opposite way. The two men concerned were in the office this particular day, arguing with Cliff Green, who was a "tight wad" where money was concerned. Lytwynenko was winning the argument as he proved his point with mathematical precision, when Cliff, who was no match for him in this field, said; "Ah con beat thee on squared paper!" Cliff didn't like losing.
Tommy Hilton was a collier on the Yard mine. He lived in the village of Downall Green and was a real character. He had two sons working at Stone's, Gerard and Tom, who were a few years younger than me. Tommy liked his ale, and, one night, after a liberal dose of bitter in the Blue Bell, the "local" in Downall Green, he went home and, still in a befuddled state, he mistook the walk-in wardrobe for the toilet, and relieved himself over the clothes there, giving them a liberal sprinkling!!
He would come to work with the smell of the previous night's ale still on him. Tommy was a pianist but he couldn't read music and he played by ear, and people said that when Tommy was on the piano and swaying about, everyone in the room felt drunk as well! Tommy would come onto the face first thing in the morning to fill off the "scuftings" and sweat would pour off him. He looked like a drowned rat. By this time the ale would have started to work on his digestive system, and there would be a shout from him. "Bum scawder coming up!" as he parted with the flatulence. Boy, did he smell!! There were no toilets as such underground, so any relieving had to be done at the roadside or in the waste. With the colliers on the face, it was a matter of squatting over the spade and then throwing the resulting pile on to the conveyor to go out with the coal. Tommy used to wait until someone was reaching over the belt for a bar before throwing it on, especially if it was Tommy Wynne, who had the next but two stint away from him. Wynne had a "tickle stomach" at the best of times and that didn't improve things!
When Tommy was setting a bar, it was funny to watch. He would get the "shakes," possibly due to the ale, and he would be sat there, wet through with sweat, trying to balance the iron bar with one hand and attempting to get a prop under it with the other. Both prop and bar would waver about, until finally contact was made, one with the other. Tommy finished up in the check weigh office on the surface which was a union position, and his job was to make sure that the weighman did his job properly.
Whilst I was working on the back shift, we had a belt turner by the name of Peter Moylett. Peter was a single man who lived in Wigan with his sister and her husband. Peter could tell some tales, he had worked in all the coalfields in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Apparently he had bought a suit from a "scotch draper". These were men that would come to your home, and offer clothing for sale on a weekly pay system, a bit like the catalogues of today. He had only paid for part of it before going off to work away, and while he was gone, the credit draper had gone out of business and had sold his debts to a debt collector. Peter was blissfully unaware of this when he came home from Yorkshire, and he opened the door to a knock to find the Police there with a warrant for his arrest. The debt collector had taken a summons out against him for bad debt. He was taken off to Walton jail. "Ah was frichtened t'deeuth" he said. "They locked me in a cell wi' a wire nettin' top un tuk mi braces un bootlaces off mi. Nobody knowed us ah wus theer" It was the following day when his sister and her husband were able to pay his debt and get him out.
Peter lived for a while in the Miners Hostel in Haydock, where the Poles were living, and while he was there he was working at Lyme pits. He turned up for work one day, and the fireman, by the name of Spurgeon Green (so named after a famous Methodist preacher.C.H.Spurgeon) he was known as "owd Spurgie,"came up to him and said "are tha a powe (Pole)" Spurgie was a tall man but his legs were bowed. Peter said "Nowe, ahm nor a powe, but tha'd favver one if thi legs were straightened"!
There were two brothers that worked at Stone's, David and Jeremiah Taberner. They came from Garswood and were known as Mia and Davvy. Mia worked as a collier in No2 pit Ravine, Davvy was a general worker or dataller, also in No2 pit. One day, Davvy, who wasn't too bright, was sent by the fireman to demolish some obsolete air doors. They were propped open and had been part of the return before the new pit bottom setup had been constructed.
Davvy goes off armed with pick and spade, and all seemed to be going to plan until the deputy, going on his rounds tried to come through the return air doors. He pushed and shoved until finally he opened the doors, to be nearly blown off his feet!! Davvy had taken out a pair of the main air doors that were in use! These sets of doors were in pairs, or sometimes in threes, to form an air-lock, so that when a man wanted to go through into the return, he passed through a set of doors, closed them, and then opened the next, thus equalling the pressure of the air. Bricklayers had to be sent in to repair the damage and when asked why he had done it, Davvy said, "Ah thowt tha meant them dooors" As I said, he wasn't too bright!
It was said that when Mia started work, another lad from the same village by the name of Benjamin Fazackerley went to make a start the same day. The undermanager wrote out "Jeremiah Taberner", and when Ben showed his face, the undermanager said, "cum back next wik, ah've wrote enough lung names"!
Two more brothers also come to mind, the Frodshams, Myles and John, or Myley and Jackie as they were known. Myley was a collier, first of all in the Ravine straits, and then on the Yard mine. Myley was an inveterate leg puller. It was said by the men, "don't let Myley talk to thi wife, 'e'll get thee i' bother" Working at Stone's at this time was a man named Andy Spratt. Andy had been a regular soldier and had fought through the war. He had a dragon tattooed on his chest, and a sniper's bullet had cut its tail off on his shoulder! He married a girl from the village of Downall Green, and settled there. I think that Andy came originally from Tyneside. He was a collier on the Yard mine, but had been trained as a cutterman. When there was a shortage of a cutterman, Andy would step in and cut the face. He had done this one weekend, and had been paid separately from his wage on the face, thus getting two pay packets. Myley, seeing Andy's wife at the weekend in the village club, said to her "Dust know, yore Andy's gerrin two pay packets?" She said, "He only gives me one"
"Well" said Myley "Ask 'im thisel" She of course accosted Andy who admitted to it. "Heaw lung has this bin gooin on?" She wouldn't believe that it was an isolated occurrence!!
I recall another incident involving Myley and a lad called Tony McNamara. Tony was a collier on the Yard mine and had the next stint to Myley. One day, Tony was up the pit before Myley and was in the baths, having a wash. Tony, in fact was just drying off when Myley came in, black as the Ace of Spades. He made a grab for Tony and rubbed him all over with coal dust!! Tony was livid, he saw me laughing and came over with a wet flannel, and "Tha're weet tha're weet!" he said, as he splashed me with water, I couldn't stop laughing even then.
John Frodsham was known as "Mad Jackie" from the tricks that he got up to. When his daughter had twins, it was Jack who pushed the pram with "L" plates on it. One of his more madcap tricks was when there was a fog in Ashton. He got a bike lamp and a bell, and, wearing pumps, he ran around Ashton town centre, ringing the bell and flashing the lamp. One man, trying to avoid him, ran up the steps of the council building. Jack followed, ringing the bell. " Tha cawnt ride up these steps"! Cried the startled man.
There was one old collier that worked in the Ravine by the name of Jack Simpkin who used to fascinate me. He had three thumbs! By some freak of nature, Jack had another thumb on his right hand; it was perfectly formed right down to the nail. It just didn't move. When I was stemming up for him, I would be watching his hand, it was really strange. I have only seen this sort of thing once since, and it was one of the lamp men at Parkside by the name of Ralphson who had an identical one.
We had some right idiots at Stone's, especially when they had been "out on the ale." Vic Cottom was one such man. It was reckoned that one night, Vic had a fight with his mac and the mac won! He had been out for some ale and was getting ready to go home. He was trying to put his gabardine on when he stood on it. He said "Tha'rt not gerrin me deawn" as he tried to put his arm in the sleeve, but the mac won and Vic fell on the floor! Another time, after a court appearance for noisy behaviour, Vic was asked what the fine was, and he replied "A peand (pound) a baa". When asked for an explanation, he said that they were singing the Whiffenpoof song "We're two little lambs who have gone astray, baa, baa, baa." They had been fined £3!! Bobby Speakman was another who fell foul of the law. He and two more haulage lads had been out on the town, and coming home had been carousing. They were in court for "making a loud noise or outcry". The magistrate said to Bob " Do you wish to ask the officer anything?" "Yes," said Bob "How far away did you say that you were from us?" The policeman said "Three streets away" "Oh" said Bob and shut up!
In the Ravine seam, in No 2 pit, we had a machine face. The Ravine seam was always about 30yds above the Orrell Yard, wherever you were, in No1 or No2 pits. The last area of the seams to be worked before the closure of the mine was the Seneley Green. The Yard mine in this area had been worked to exhaustion; in fact, the last face in this area was only 60yds from the surface. So much so, that the fire range had to be fitted with booster pumps because the head of water in the 360yd deep shaft had balanced out and the water would no longer flow! The main reason for the closure of Stone's was exhaustion of reserves, but there was still a bit of Ravine left.
The Ravine coal had a lot of dirt bands in it and the washery at the colliery wasn't capable of removing it all. The chemical firm of Laporte Ltd, who was the main buyer of the coal, cancelled their order and this finished the colliery. Anyway, before this happened, a tunnel had been driven off the Yard mine access brow to exploit the Seneley Green Ravine.
A Distington rope conveyor was installed to bring the coal down the rather steep tunnel. This conveyor had a haulage rope attached to the edges of the belt, on either side, and it was these ropes that actually drove the belt This was to avoid the belt "freewheeling" when loaded with coal, as the tunnel was rather steep around 1 in 3.
This was the only face at Stone's that had a shearer. This itself was a prototype. It had a fixed drum that cut the bottom part of the seam and a ranging top drum that could be raised and lowered by means of a small hand operated pump. The only problem with whole seam extraction was that the dirt could not be separated from the coal, as it was with hand filling.
Although the coal seams were the same in each pit, the characteristics of the Ravine seam were different. In No1 pit, the roof of the Ravine had a strong band of rock or "metal" as it was known, just above the coal. This gave a perfect parting to work to, and a very good roof. Its only snag was that it wouldn't break down in the waste for the packers to use. We had to fire shots in it to break it down. These had to be fired "in line" with the face in order to comply with the CMA.
In No2 pit, however, it was a different situation. Here the roof was very tender, and the wastes fell too much. The packs had to be built as separate units each day in a staggered pattern. There were no big pieces of dirt to build the walls with, so hessian sacks were filled with dirt, and made into walls to form the pack.
The hessian sacks remind me of another incident. One day, as we were having a bath, one of the Ravine colliers by the name of Joe Baines, came from under the shower. Joe was a dirty washer and would never have his back washed, preferring to rub the dirt off with his towel. His towel never went home to be washed and when dry, it could stand up on its own! He said "Wheer's mi rough towel, ah left it on thar 'ook theer." Everyone was looking for his towel, until one man said "what's it look like Joe, because ah've just chucked an owd sandbag into t'bin" "That were it" said Joe. It was a sandbag, split down the seam that he used to take the dirt off with!!
I recall another instant about Joe. He had hurt his foot and had sent for me to bring the first aid tin, which all deputies carried. There was another man there by the name of George Hosker, and when Joe took his sock off, George, looking at Joe's toe nails, said "Owd mon, Joe, tha favvers ready for perchin' " His toe nails were so long!
There was an old Billinger by the name of Tom Berry, usually known as" Owd T". Tom said to Joe "Tha favvers a riven 'amper"(a squashed potato basket). Arthur Lowe, another shotfirer picked up on this and would call Joe nothing else after that!
Arthur was trying to grow a moustache, but had fair hair, and obviously his moustache was fair as well, it didn't show up very well. I noticed that when he went into the baths, his moustache was dark, but after a wash, it was nearly invisible. I then realized that Arthur was using eyebrow pencil to make his 'tache look dark! I mentioned the fact to Bill Shaw who was face chargehand at the time, and word got around. Arthur took some stick over that I can tell you!!
There was quite a good deal of humour underground, and a lot of leg pulling. On one occasion Roy Steele, who was working in the front of the main gate, filling coal, said to one of the young haulage lads. "Do us a favour, lad, tek this chock piece up into t'top road un ask Tommy Wynne if 'e'll saw it in hafe for us." The lad went off as he had been asked, carrying a piece of hardwood 2ft 6ins long and 6x6 square, 200yds along the level, through the airdoors into the return and then a further 200yds to the top end of the face. "Which of you men is Tommy Wynne?" "It's me lad, what does tha want?" "Roy Steele says can you saw this in half for 'im" "Ahm sorry lad" said Tommy "Tell 'im us ah've not browt mi saw today, but ah'll saw it tomorrer fer 'im" Exit boy with message and chock piece!!
We had a couple of men working on the Yard mine at that time by the names of Bert Earle and Bill Sharrock. These two were working behind the return end on one face, and, for some unknown reason, had had words about something. The upshot was that they weren't speaking to one another. It was funny to see two grown man behaving like silly schoolgirls. The chargeman wouldn't move either of them to another part of the face, so they used to communicate in this fashion. If one of them required anything of the other, instead of speaking directly to him, he would shout across the belt into the waste, "Gi'us a prop" and his mate would oblige! It was really funny to see two grown men behaving in this fashion.
A word about Bill Sharrock, He had been a cutterman for quite a spell in his life, and he told me of the time that he worked at Blundell's colliery. He was cutting on one face, where they were taking the coal that had been left when Worsley Mesnes colliery (owd Nat's) had closed down. They cut a face right across the old pit bottom of the closed pit. It must have been quite an experience. Bill also had marital difficulties; he had divorced one wife and married another, but still had to pay maintenance to the first one. One day, his wife came to the pit and told us that Bill had broken his leg, and that he wouldn't be able to work for a while. Everyone was sympathetic, until a letter came from HM Prison at Walton to say that Bill was serving time for non-payment of maintenance!!