MANSFIELD MEMORIES: Miners are salt of the Earth

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The rear of our house faced over open country towards Pleasley and its colliery.

During the evenings and at night you could hear the steam locos shunting coal trucks. The urgent chuff chuff and the shrill whistles accompanied by the loud clank of buffers engaging,

I remember it with fondness even to this day. Coal and its associated industries dominated the area. Every direction you looked you would see a colliery spoil tip, a chimney stack and of course the seemingly ubiquitous headstocks.

I always thought how lucky we were to have a wonderful blend of industry and the beauty of the local countryside with Sherwood Forest, the Dukeries and Derbyshire all close by.

Among my some of my most endearing memories are those who worked in the mines. Sometimes, if I happened to be up early, I would hear the segs on boots worn by some, as they made their way to the bus stop. They would often wear a flat cap and a jacket, later the famous NCB donkey jacket. They all seemed to me as a child to have a very big belt and often braces to hold up their trousers.

Because of various shift patterns, you could see miners waiting for buses at different times during the day, there were special pit buses at main shift times. The miners would often have a cigarette between their lips and at that time they were not tipped. Sometimes they would take a pinch of snuff and if you and your mates were close by they would jokingly offer you a pinch. I once tried it much to the amusement of my mates as I sneezed my head off for some time. “Gerrit down yer lad it’ll put hair on yer chest,” was the miner’s response, along with a big grin.

One thing you saw then was miners often squatted and patiently waited for the bus as opposed to standing. An old miner once told me they worked in that position for much of their working life so it was more comfortable. Some had obviously suffered injuries as they had limps, scars or other bodily damage.

To this day I still regard miners as the salt of the earth.