Friday, July 07, 2006

The Coal Mines

My uncle Rod was a coal miner for a while. It is, or was, a strong industry in Yorkshire. One of the mines has been retained as a museum and the history of the mines, the unions, the strikes etc... is really interesting. Also, during WWII something like 10% of all those who enrolled for the armed forces got shafted to the mines for the entire duration of the war instead. It was deemed a vital war industry. Wouldn't that be crap though, especially if you were claustrophobic... No flying planes or 'glorious war duty' - you'd have a far better chance of ending the war alive but I suppose that might seem slim consolation to a young lad being seperated from his mates. And of course they got very little recognition at the end of the war.

The highlight of the place is that they fit you out with a mining helmet, a backpack (for the portable battery) and a torch. You get then get ushered into the lift by a miner with a broad accent and taken all the way down to the bottom. We were in the mines for about an hour and it was cool but weird to. I was glad that we had the torches!! They take you through the history of mining from when you had entire families working down there; they were allowed only one candle per day and the kids would have to push the doors to the shafts backwards and forwards to help draft air down to their parents....They still have stables down there to show where the pit ponies lived. They got to see pastures and skies about once a year. They still have some ex-pit ponies living on-site but they run through the meadows all day now :) The guide took a shine to me for being a kiwi and called me nicknames the whole time and made sure tha I got a good look at everything :L He even found some shiny coal to take home; it's a good luck tradition to have the woman put it on the doorstep on the final day of the year and a dark-haired man to bring it over the threshhold sometime after midnight to welcome in the New Year -and probably pop it on the fire since Yorkshire in Jan. would be freezing!!).
My niece [well, my cousin's daughter] Lucy is five and loves it down there. Mind you she's the right height for it!


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