1, What were the good and bad things about being a miner?
Countless bad things about being a miner.
My main complaint was the dust which could be really bad especially so in places such as the 'faces' and transfer points. Although we tried to keep it down with water the dust got everywhere and you could see it all the time with your cap lamp.
From time to time you also got roof falls, although very rarely, thankfully.
Heat was also a problem. The mine used to be a constant temperature throughout the year, summer and winter but certain parts of the mine used to be cool and others (the furthest point from surface away) used to be warm. Not a big problem till you started to work then you used to sweat.....a lot !! I used to drink about 3 to 4 litres of water a day and change t-shirts (and sometimes socks) at least once a day when I was in the hottest part of the mine.
The heavy manual work was also not very nice. Most modern mines are set up to deal with the heavy work but our mine was not. Steel girders, props, and other mining equipment were overloaded by hand, sometimes by yourself. Things were also awkward to unload because of the height and general working area. Blenkinsopp's average height was 5'6". My height is nearly 6'. So lifting was a major problem. Banging your head was also very common when you first went down for training but you soon got used to keeping your head down and walking in a stoop which was not all that bad really.
Most travel at Blenkinsopp was by foot. The furthest point in the mine would be nearly 3 miles away.
Water was also bad. I first started wearing boots as the area I worked in first which was relatively dry but I was moved to a wetter part and started to wear wellies which were uncomfortable (if you needed to walk a lot) and because of the heat made your feet sweat causing a lot of feet problems (smelly feet !!).
Working in the dark was not really that bad but at times in the winter you might only see daylight for a few hours on a weekend.
The working day was usually 5.45am to about 4.00pm and on weekends 5.45am till about 2.00 pm Saturday and Sunday (this includes overtime).
The worst job in the mine would have to be dragging cables. It was terrible. A cable might be about 150 meters long and very, very heavy. These had to be man handled a long way into the mine by maybe a team of 6 men which would carry it on our shoulders to where it would go.
One last bad thing about the mines No toilets!
Good things were the men you worked with. Well most of them anyhow!
Blenkinsopp had some really good characters about it and I have yet to work in a place like it. It made it worthwhile going in and some you could have a really good laugh with. The hard manual work which was bad was also good. You were tired after offloading a load of props but you felt you had done something. Its a hard kind of thing to explain but it was satisfying in a way something that had taken a forklift at surface to load up you had done it by you self, by hand, in a 14' roadway with a height of only 5'6", sweating bucket loads. We always moaned about it though!!
2, What were your feelings when you heard the mines were to close?
I was not shocked by the announcement. We knew the pit had been in trouble for a long time and were only to pleased it had lasted as long as it did.
It was sad to see it close. I don't think I would have the same feelings about anywhere else if it was to close. If the mine opened back up I would be only to pleased to go back to work there. The only good point for myself was the fact that the heading we were at, at the time of closure, was being driven through a stone fault (very hard work) and the roof condition had deteriorated a lot and got to be very scary and dangerous at times!
3, What sort of help did you get from the government?
The government allowed us to take further training if we needed it. I was lucky and managed to get a job without much training. I think this training aid is available to any company which has a reasonable sized workforce and is not just for pit closures.
4, Looking back, how does your present job, or the job you did when the mines closed, compare with your job in the mine?
The one thing that you can describe about my job and the one I do now is - easy. It is so much easier. I can stand up. I can see the sun (and the rain), it’s cleaner and it’s not as physical. It’s not as good! It’s just not the same. It has not got that satisfaction I had from the mine.
5, Do you think that the area has responded well to the closure of mines?
The area has responded very well. The mine was not a big employer by any means just over 125 men who came from, not just the Haltwhistle area but a lot of the North East (which was a big coal mining area) and even someone from Manchester! Most of the men, if not all of them have found jobs. The impact of the mine closure has not really had any effect at all. If you are willing to work it is available maybe not what you want to do but work is out there.
Blenkinsopp & Wrytree Pits.