Working in the Home

An Interview with Mary & Jane Doyle  

          One day we went to interview Mary and Jane Doyle. They told us  what life was like working at home during the mining years. This is what they told us: 

Mary said that there were 14 children in her family and that they lived in a cottage which only had two rooms and a kitchen, unlike the houses these days. Sometimes there would be 4 in a bed. Mary and Jane had a father who worked in the mines but unfortunately he died at a young age of 51, he caught coal – miner's disease. There was no health insurance, social welfare or children’s allowance back then. Their mother would work in other houses to get two shillings or half a crown, which is 12 pence in today’s money. She would wash clothes in a big tub of water because there was no washing machine like today. Some families would have too many people in their family so they would send some children to a relation, who had no family.

     Mary and Jane’s father was the first to find the coal face in the Deer Park, for that he got £20 .00 as a bonus. Their father worked in many mines such as the Rock Pit, Skehana Pit, Deer Park and the Vera. He had to walk to all of them and back every day. When Jane used to go to school she would walk down the fields from Tourtane, to the Clogh bridge.  There was a path there and it was black from the "culm" on the miners clothes, they called it the "black path". They would go to school in their bare feet. One winter evening the clothes were frozen on him. The clothes would be so stiff they could stand up by them selves. 

When Jane was a  young girl, she saw her father in the field bending down gasping for air, because he had hardly any air in the mines, she did not understand that then, but now she does. Years later her father died because the coal dust got into his lungs, that disease is called "silicosis". 

During those years there were no baths at the mines. The miners would have to get into a big tub at home and wash themselves. The clothes would be put into a different tub, and the mother would have to wash them. When they would be dry she would put them against the wall and beat them with a stick, then she would mend any of them that needed repair.

     For amusement when Mary and Jane’s father would return from the mines they would sing together their father’s song  which was "no place like home". They also liked to do Irish dancing. That was what they liked to do for amusement. There was no television, radios, computers or central heating. Mary got married on the 11th of July 1934 and she was 24 the next day. There were no electric irons back then, so they got small pieces of iron, put them into the fire and heated them, then got a cloth, took them out of the fire and put them into the box. So that was their iron. They also made bums, they got culm, yellow clay and water, mixed them up and burned them in the fire.

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