I started my career in mining in the summer of 1974 just after the strike. Like other lads I started on the haulage; there were no ponies then, I think the last ones were taken out in the 60s.
I started in the Top Hard seam. This had been in production since the Colliery first began production in 1915, the sinking of the shafts started 4 years before in 1912.
There were around 1,400 men at the pit and we were coaling with two faces, one in the north side of the pit where I was working and one in the east side, producing about 1.5 million tonnes.
PHOTO My History of Welbeck Colliery PHOTO
You had to be fit in those days especially on days when both the north side and east side got into the pit bottom at the same time. You had to be on the first draw no matter what, management tried everything to stop the stampede to a deputy standing there with his hands up, “he didn’t spend that much time in hospital”, the gates across “they made good sticks”, all this to gain 10 minutes but it was worth it.
The camaraderie was great then, every one backed each other if there was any dispute and the face team I was working with “F Troop”, used to have disputes regularly especially on a Friday afternoon in the summer.
My first dispute backfired on me, it started with a fall out with the overman over not being paid grade C. We subsequently went on a go slow, and yes it was noticed. We certainly showed him. After a week on go slow, we were called into the training office and told we were starting our face training the following week, so we went from being on days and afters to three shifts and that first week on nights nearly killed me when you’re on the loader gate rip and an “old collier” is casting back and burying you its no fun “we certainly showed him”.
The Top Hard seam started in production in 1915 and lasted till about 1992. This was by far the best seam at Welbeck it produced good quality coal for over 70 years. It was in this seam in 1975 a year after I started on the haulage that I experienced the fatal accident of one of my colleagues on the haulage. Whilst I was at the pit a further four more sad deaths occurred the last one was in 2007. In the colliery’s history there were a total of 84 men killed both on the surface and underground that’s 84 too many. These men should not be forgotten. Our local MP is in the process of putting together a monument both to the Colliery and the lives that were lost.
Whilst the Top Hard was still coaling, production started in the Deep Soft seam in 1985 lasting for about ten years, after which time this was replaced by the Parkgate seam around 1992. By this time Welbeck like so many other pits had adopted the one face strategy, resulting in the loss of significant numbers of manpower. The old colliers had gone and the atmosphere didn’t seem the same.
The Parkgate seam only lasted around ten years and we went back into the Deep Soft for the last few faces the last one being 243s which ceased production in 2010 bringing an end to nearly a century of mining at Welbeck and an end to my mining career.
Haulage, Development and Coal Face Worker 1974 – 2010
Notts Area NUM General Secretary 2010 to date