Archive for March 7, 2009

Some Mining Personnel Of Old

March 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Direct memories of its coalmine are fast fading in the village. Quite a few of the current generation are  employed in the service industry and covet designer goods rather than work in a dangerous and dirty mine with jam sandwiches at ‘bait’ time. Perhaps that is a good thing! I wonder if the following details are of some interest to the ‘young ones’ [as Cliff would describe them]:

The Colliery Manager, before Nationalization in 1947, was responsible to the colliery owner’s agent. He had to complete monthly and annual reports, construct plans and create estimates. He required a very good knowledge of mining engineering – even though he would have  professional engineers on site to cover electrical and mechanical aspects of the mining operations. He would have an under manager; I believe that after WW2 many of the newer under managers were ex university men. If you look on the Durham Mining Museum site you will have the opportunity to take one of the old colliery management exam papers –  set over a hundred years ago, if my memory serves me right.

Overmen could be described as supervisors. Their main aim was to ensure good coal outputs. They allocated work and monitored the number of men working for pay purposes. They kept an eye on conditions in the mine and ensured that the right materials were available at the right time. They were often wary of the manager and supported each other by ‘covering each others backs’ when necessary!

Deputies were usually promoted from the hewers , that is from the winners of coal.By their nature they were trusted and respected. They were required to write reports and keep the Overman aware of the conditions in the mine. Part of their role was to remove redundant props and that made it one of the most dangerous jobs in the pit because of the danger of roof collapse. A significant number of deputies were accidentally killed over the years.

Hewers were brave and super energetic coal producers – often over 21 years old. They dug the coal out and filled it into the coal tubs  provided by what was called the ‘putter’. For the sake of brevity I am not going to descibe developments in mechanized coal getting – such as shearers etc.

Some of the workers around the colliery yard included masons, fitters, joiners, painters, tub menders, saddlers, farriers and electricians.

It was a very important industry and  the jewel in the crown that made the Industrial Revolution possible. Without coal miners the young ones of today would very probably not be part of an advanced nation. Even people on welfare benefits are wealthy compared to the vast majority of humans on this planet of ours and much of that is surely down to the heritage of coal  and  the raw courage of the miners.


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