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.|
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
Doogue sometimes had to go down in the mine with the boss Mr Bambling to check measurements.
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
coal was graded on the surface. There were two areas the
"Higher" landing and the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Seamus Walsh
Mr. Michael Nolan
Mr. Gerry Holden
Mr. Tom Brennan
Mr. Michael Farrell