Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Miners




One piece of data that caught my eye in the report of the findings of the 2011 UK census was the state of the coal mining industry. The mining and quarrying industry as a whole employs 46,478 people, which is down 12,913 on 2001 figure.

The decline of the coal mining industry has been well documented but it comes as a shock to see the extent of the fall. The coal industry reached its peak in 1913, when 280 million tons were produced, of which 90 million were exported. The industry employed 1.3 million men and boys.

The Staffordshire Moorlands had worked coal seams in Cheadle, Biddulph and even at Quanford. Even the names of places speak of the  presence of mining in the area. I was driving toward Cheddleton and drove down Coalpit Lane, which followed down from Wetley Moor. Small coal pits existed around the moor.

Conditions were dreadful for much of the time until nationalisation in the late 1940s, but an insight into what people had to put up with can be gauged by an account of a local Miner writing during a strike in 1892

“I have been a miner for 30 years. At 12 I was sent down the pit and did not see the light from one weekend to another. My wages started at 7d a day. The mines were owed by Mr Bateman who was very kind but paid low wages. There was no union and everyone was frightened of Mr Bateman and no one dared to ask for more. Many a time I have come home from work scarcely able to put one leg in front of another and milk and meal was all my widowed mother could afford. My father was killed when I was very young working in the 8-foot seam at Williamson’s.

Times have changed since then but if it were not for the Combination we would be back in those “ good old days”. We are blamed for trying to protect our wages, but no one says a word against the masters protecting their capital. We have a good a right to look after ourselves as anyone else. Some people think that the colliers are getting a great deal of money, but those making such fuss would not like to exchange work and wages with them”