Mr. Gerry Holden
An Old Miner tells us his story
Mr.Holden worked in the mines as a "jobber" at first, he had a hard day's work. He had to get up in the morning at seven o’clock to go to work. In the early days the miner had no change of clothes for work. This meant that if he was lying in water all day then he had to go home in wet clothes. If the clothes were not dry in the morning he still had to put them on again. If they were dry (the wives put them up the chimney to dry) in the morning they would be so stiff that the trousers could stand up on it's own. The wife would have to beat it against the gable end so that the miner could get in to it.
When he got to work he went to collect his badge in a window. Mr. Holden was a strong and tough man so he was able for the mines. His wife had it tough also, she had to wash the clothes, and make the dinner.
The baths & lockers made a big difference to life, it meant that they could go to work in clean clothes, and come back in clean and fresh clothes . But as time went by his job changed to a "collier", then to a very tough job as a "road maker".
There was one time when he went down to clear out a box of coal, out of the way, when a big rock fell on him and broke his two legs. There was lots of money earned so he did not mind too much. There was nothing that could scare Mr. Holden down in the mines, especially not rats, in fact the rats were their friends down in the mines. They used to feed them and when there was something going to happen, the rats would run and that would alert the miners.
He had a pick, shovel and a candle to help him around. There were a lot of people killed in the mines. When there is someone killed or injured a siren would ring and all the women would come out in a panic.
When they are down in the mines they put down wood to keep the mine up. Sometimes they would be lying in water all day just to get coal. These men risked their lives in the mines. If the haulage rope was in motion you shouldn’t go down in the mine as it was very dangerous. The rope could break and the trams would kill you.
When they were going down into the mine they would go down the main shaft. Off the main shaft they would have roads cut out , that is where all the coal was, in these roads the coal was in sections. The coal was got out with a pick and a shovel and it was picked out manually. They would have to pull out the clay and the "Culm" before they could dig out the coal. The miners would have to dig down about 2 feet under the coal and then when they were under it ,they would dig it out .
The "Slippey" Brennan digging coal out from the coalface
The coalface could be 100 to 120 yards long. The conveyor belt came in in the 1960s and that was a brilliant help to the workers because all they would have to do was put the coal up on the conveyor belt and the belt would take it up to the landing.
When they were on the coalface the miners were in a tunnell about 2 feet high lying on their side. When they were in the small mine they would have to secure themselves and put up props to hold up the roof so it wouldn’t come down on top of them. The props would be about 3 feet apart. It was pitch dark in the mine and their only light was a little lamp on the helmet. When they would be looking for the coal they would bore about 24 feet. There would be 6 holes and then they would put about 20 pounds of gelignite into the holes, and then they would join up all the gelignite together, then you would have to stand back and press a button and it would blow all the gelignite at the one time.
If the roof of the mine was going to collapse, small stones would start to fall first and that would be their warning to get out of the mine. One time the mine fell in on Mr Holden and broke his 2 legs but he survived it and he kept on mining. Before the conveyer belt came in, the miners would have to shove out the coal themselves and lift it in to the trams. Their was a special miner who was called a "pusher" and he pushed out all the coal to the trams. There was a "trammer" as well as a pusher and the trammers job was to load in all the coal into the trams. The "collier" was the "miner" who dug out all the coal. Mr Holden’s last job was a "road maker".
I’d say the worst thing about the mining was
the lying in the wet and the muck. Before the baths came in the miners
would have to go home black to the wife. When the miners were in the mine
breathing bad air all day they
could collapse when they met the "good air" on the way to the
When a miner got cut he rubbed some culm into the wound to stop the bleeding. The culm also worked it's way under the miners skin and you would easily know a miner by his blue face and hands. This is Mr. Holden's hand and you can see the blue marks where he got cut. The miners wouldn't mind the cuts. They would not bother coming up for a plaster. They were like hurlers who would play on even when split open, the miners would work on. As Mr. Holden said-Time was money- and it would cost you a good bit to make your way back two miles to the pit head for "an aul plaster". Then you'd have to come back again.
Mr. Seamus Walsh
Mr. Michael Nolan
Mr. Tom Brennan
Mr. Michael Farrell