Mr. Michael Doogue
 tells us his story

Michael was not a miner, his early years at the Deerpark were spent as a carpenter but he later worked in the "Time Office"  where he was responsible for recording the hours worked by the miners and most important ensuring that after a shift every miner came up safely from the pit.

This is what remains of the "Doogue House". It got it's name from Michaels' father "Willie" who worked in it for years. Willies' job was looking after the "Weigh Bridge". At one time the Watchman lived in this building. Part of it was later used as the time office. The gate to the left is where the train entered the pit yard and just to the right is the ambulance shed.

Michael Farrell

Interview with Mr. Michael Doogue  

We asked Michael to give us a general description of the Deerpark Mine and the various works carried out there.

         There  was a  main road going down the mine and  various roads leading from  it. There was about six  or seven inches of  a gummy substance under the coal. When  the Miners had that hacked out they bored holes into the coal and put in an explosive called gelignite. Removing the “Gum” was called “Gumming” and there was a special rate of pay for that work. When the gelignite went off the coal fell into the place that they had cleared out. They broke the coal with a four pound hammer and picks, then they brought it out to the main road and put it into trams.

The trams pulled the coal out to the surface and on to the “bank”. There would be wooden props to hold up the roof where the coal came out. The props would be about a foot and a half apart depending on what the roof was like.

"Copleys" was the last place worked in the Deerpark pit. It was shut in 1965 but opened again later until 1969. When "Copleys" closed, men went to other parts of the country to find  work. The mine started up again on a smaller scale and they went back to the old methods of coalmining. There were only about 180 men left then and maybe only 100 men under ground. The areas worked were Copleys, The Catbrook, Grants Flat and the Fault. In the Fault you could work for about five to six months on the one seam of coal and all of a sudden you could meet rock. It could be up to seven feet thick. The miners would blast that out with gelignite and then just worked on with the coal. 

Coal was brought from Copleys and the Catbrook to Grants Flat and  from there it was brought to the surface. Grants Flat was the main part of the mine under ground. It was about 15 or 20 yards wide. It had to be wide enough  for two trams to pass each other. Every man that worked in the mine had a little brass medal and if they lost that they would have to buy a new one. If a worker lost his tag he was to tell the time officer. They would make a new one in the Forge. It was actually an identification tag. Every morning the workers would have to collect  their identity tag before they went down the mine. They would have to give them back to the time officer in the evening. The time officer could not leave the office until every one of the workers was finished and the tags were all back in place. If the medal was not there the time officer would have to contact the fire man (the fore man). The time officer could not leave the office until the word had come as to where the missing man was.

There would be a shift in the night in which thirty or forty people were involved. At one stage over seven hundred men worked in the mines. On Saturday  they would work a four-hour shift. There would be a fortnight pay docket. There was money taken off for gelignite, hospital bills, baths, carbide, candles, shovels etc. An average worker would bring home £23.07 for a fortnights work. There was an allowance made for digging out stones and poor quality coal. There would be an allowance if the workers had to work in water or if the roof had fallen in and they had to clear it. All the dirt would be taken up to Bells Heap. Bells Heap was a heap of dirt and stones at the edge of the mine.

If you were making a road in the mines you would get so much a yard. Jobbing men were people who did every sort of  work. The Miners had  a place for hanging  their shovels, picks and hammers etc. Wedges were used for splitting coal. The hammers were used for breaking it.

In the old days the Miner went to work, worked all day and returned home in the same set of clothes. You can imagine how filthy and wet these clothes were. The mothers dried out the clothes in the evening around the fire and even by putting them up the chimney. Any hot water in these houses came from boiling big pots of water on the “hob” (the open fire) Many homes had nine or ten sons working at the pit so the work of the mother was fairly hard. In the morning the miners would beat their clothes against the gable end of the house to try to soften them. Around 1945 a great improvement in the working conditions of the miners was made with the building of the “baths”. The baths were modern hot showers with 1200 lockers. Each miner had two lockers –one for clean clothes and one for dirty clothes. This development meant that the miner could come to work in clean dry clothes, do his days work in working clothes and then return home clean and in dry clothes. Of course the Miners had to pay about two shillings a week for these luxurious showers, however they were quite happy to do so.

Boys commenced working at the pit at fourteen years of age. They  started off  picking stones and slates off the “belt”. After twelve months they had the option of going down the pit. Before they went down the pit they had to get a medical certificate of health.

         When coal arrived at “bank” ie. came to the surface in trams, a clerk at the surface would weigh the coal. The trams were checked to make sure that the workers were not cheating. They were to make sure there were no stones in the tram. If a miner had stones in the tram he would not get paid for it.

English coal “bituminous coal” had gas in it and burned with a flame. Anthracite ('comer coal) had no gas. It reddened up when burning. Because of this there was no hazard of exploding gas in the local mines and it also meant that the miners could use “carbide lamps”

 Mr Doogue sometimes had to go down in the mine with the boss Mr Bambling to check measurements.

The trams were hauled on a track by what was known as a “continuous rope”. This steel rope pulled full trams to the surface, through the “billy” where they were emptied  and then back down below to be filled again. As the trams were coming to bank the rope often broke and as many as 20 full trams went hurtling back down the mine. This was called a “play” and needless to say you would not want to be travelling the “roads” when there was a play. It was illegal to be on the roads when the haulage ropes were in motion. You would loose your job if you were caught. Every so often along the “roads” there were places to “step in” when the haulage commenced. Sometimes the young miners would jump into the empty trams that were travelling down the mines. This could save them a two mile difficult walk to their place of work but it could also cost them dearly- their “Life”.

The coal was graded on the surface. There were two areas the  "Higher" landing and the  "Lower" landing. The coal came out of the mine and the trams went down along the Higher landing. They passed through the  “billy” which tipped them over and sent the coal along a conveyer belt  where stones were picked out and then coal was graded into sizes  by screens. The boxes came out of the pit two at a time. As the coal passed through the screens to be “sized” it fell to the “Lower landing” where train carriages and horse cars backed in to be filled with coal for the market.

There were six men working in the sawmill cutting timber for the props. There were 5 Carpenters, 9 Electricians and  about 12 fitters working at Deer Park.

In the later days there was electricity in the Deerpark mines. Only the main roads in the mines had electricity. Before that the candle was used and they were replaced by the Carbide lamp. Deerpark had its own generator. It was fuelled by steam which was produced from a big coal furnace.  They did however use ESB as well. The Deer Park was the largest customer of the ESB. From November  to January there was a large demand on the ESB for electricity so the Deerpark would use it’s own generator at this time so as to allow the ESB to meet the requirements of it’s other customers.

 “Shunting” was another specialized job on the surface. The shunters work was to move the train carriages in under the landing to be filled and then “shunt” them back along a slight incline to the train. The shunting was done by placing a wooden pole into the spokes of the carriage wheels and rotating them with a lever action. This area was out of bounds to all but the shunters as the moving carriages presented a very grave danger. At least one person was killed at Deerpark in this area. He had come to collect a ration of coal with his donkey and cart, strayed into the shunting area and was hit by a full carriage of coal.

Deer Park Collieries Coal Processing

        As the coal comes from the underground it is put through various processing operations on the surface as follows; It is emptied into a burner from the trams . Then it  proceeds to the crushing or breaking down area because at this area it varies in size, from approx ½”  down to any size. It then moves on to the screening area by conveyor belts and it is at this stage that the grading into the different sizes takes place.

      This process goes through what is called a "Jigger" screening operation , which  means that there are various screens with different size holes which grades the coal to that particular  size starting with cobbles (3”)to screen breakage (3/4”) (8 different grades  from 3”to ¾”). This is then conveyed to the picking belt areas where each grade of coal has its own special conveyor.

      It is here that the final operation  of the cleaning of the  coal  takes place by  the pickers. At this point  we have the finished product ready for distribution. Each conveyor has its own special loading bay underneath for the loading of its particular grade to the customers (lorries etc.). Each conveyor can be moved up or down for loading purposes if so requested.

  1. Mr. Seamus Walsh

  2. Mr. Michael Nolan

  3. Mr. Gerry Holden

  4. Mr. Tom Brennan

  5. Mr. Michael Farrell


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