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Peter Clarke

There were two very quick replies to my article on coal lying in the street. It was good to see that Peter Clark and Wilf Bell enjoyed the article. I haven’t seen Peter for well over 50 years. That sounds morbid but time flies by so rapidly.

Another vivid memory regarding coal was the never ending run of clapped out lorries carrying coal from opencast sites further up the valley to the washery and coal dump which were situated on the right hand side of the road about 300 yards from Relly Bridge. These wagons were mostly ex War Department vehicles even down to the bull bars fixed on the front of the radiators of the flat fronted lorries. I think they were Bedfords. You can see them in footage from the Second World War. Back to the coal. These lorries would not be allowed on our roads today as most were grossly overloaded with coal piled up behind the boards which had been fitted on to the original body work to give the lorry a greater carrying capacity.

There were no road markings at that time at the crossroads outside the Flass. The drivers would slow the lorries right down as they neared the junction from the direction of Esh Winning, then with a grinding of gears and the lorries swaying with the camber of the road and the bank they would crawl across the junction and into Durham Road. The crossroads were covered in coal and coal dust as the loose coal which fell from the lorries was ground into dust by the traffic using the crossroads. There was always an inch or two of fine coal and dust in the gutters at the sides of the road.

My first memory of open cast mining was on the farm of Mr. Stephenson on the right hand side of the road between Ushaw Moor and Broompark. That would be 1946 or 1947. Correct me please if I have the dates wrong. Happy carefree days before starting work and then conscription into the Armed Forces. One of the firms hauling the coal was Hunters Bros. from Tantobie. Can anyone remember the names of the other firms hauling the coal.

Brian Mc.

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Categories: Memories
  1. Alf Rothwell
    September 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I can remember the open cast site near Broompark. Someone had a bright idea that there was a pool in amongst the waste rubble etc; so we went there for a swim and came out covered in clarts, we were also warned not to go there anymore. I thought WIMPEY were involved with the site, I may be wrong!!

  2. noodles
    August 18, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Alfie,
    You are dead right. The site was mined by Wimpeys. Whem we were kids we were told that WIMPEYS stood for the words “We Import Millions Of Paddys Every Year” I hope that is not racist as that expression was coined before the word racist was in the workin class vocabulary. The country was hungry for coal the site worked 24ours a day, seven days a week all the year round. As a lad I could lie in bed in Victoria Court and listen to these huge machines at work. In one of the “cuts” which were dug into the surface to extract the coal the bucket of the excavator broke into some old mine workings. It was said that the mine was hundreds of years old and that the coal was mined for the monks at Durham Cathedral. This cut was very near to Stephensons farmhouse and farm. (Can you remember the duck pond at Stephensons farm Alfie)The site had a depot on the Broom park road where machinery was repaired and the admininstration of the site was carried out. Take care Alfie.

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