Marian @ Krysan

 THE WELLBEING CONSULTANCY

Planting Golden Seeds across Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and Durham

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Durham Cathedral from Framwellgate Bridge

The North East of England

HONOURS THE 

BRAVE MEN WHO WORKED

'THE GREAT NORTHERN COALFIELD'

Keep an eye out for the  link to 'COALMINING' which brings history to life and also to the link to 'PIT TALK' where some Old Durham humour is given a rare airing.  Here, for your amusement, you will find a unique cache of miner's jokes on their first 'public' airing in one hundred years!  

For those in a hurry, simply go to the 'ARCHIVES' for a reminder of the dialect of the miners as spoken in the heyday of the Great Northern Coalfield.  It is rarely heard today, but some of us remember with affection such words as 'hinney', 'cracket' and (of course) 'nettie!' 

For those who like to linger, why not experience a taste of things to come in poetry?  The three poems below have been chosen because each in its own way is evocative of the pride and the tragedy of pit life as it was lived in The Great Northern Coalfield. 

 

Durham Miners' Gala Procession


Putters, pit ponies and even the coalmines are the golden dust of the past, but the memories live on.  Every year, the Durham Miners' Gala is held on the third Saturday in July when people gather in their thousands in Durham City. 

The poems below are a tribute to what the Gala stands for - those brave men - the coal miners of Durham; their families, their communities, their principles, and - above all - their spirit.  To start, here's a very old Coalfields' poem simply named,

 The Pony Poem

 We hear praise for the flowers,

The sun and the stars that shine,

But a praising word is seldom heard

For the ponies down the mine.

Year in, year out these ponies toil,

Never seeing the light of day,

Oft covered in sweat, they pull a set

Of tubs along the way,

And often when they have to stop,

Beat by too big a set,

A whip or stick, aye, oft a stick,

Is the only help they get.

The inventors have done wondrous things,

And it is hoped they may

Invent something which at last will bring

These ponies to the light of day.

Anon.

 

Unfurling of new Houghton Banner

 

The Durham Big Meeting

I see them invade our fair city, their coloured banners high.

I hear the martial music, as each lodge goes marching by,

My heart is filled with northern pride that all we miners know,

And I, with teaming thousands more, reflect an inner glow.

Oh! Come you Durham miners, come across the River Wear,

With many a laugh, and many a song, and many a hidden tear.

With banners fluttering in the breeze, and many a head held high,

Each Lodge comes gaily into view, and then goes marching by.

As I pass the County, each band outplays the rest,

For there the miners' leaders stand, with many an honoured guest.

I wonder what our leaders feel, like generals, as they view,

The best shock troops of Europe were never quite as true.

They must be proud, Sam Watson, Jimmy Kelly, and the rest,

To know that passing years have proved they really stood the test.

Above the River Wear so proud, erect, serene,

The beautiful Cathedral lends its grandeur to the scene,

As it has done through all the years the miners rallied here,

A monument to all their hopes, and to their God so near.

So yearly let it still unfold, this pageantry so dear,

And let the miners' lodges march across the River Wear,

And, we'll be there, we Durham men, to give a Durham greeting,

To welcome all the miners as they come to their BIG MEETING.

JOHN MCNALLY

A miner of the Morrison Busty Colliery, Annfield Plain.



Straker and Love (Durham Coal Owners)  

 

Hey! Bonnie Lad

So, hey bonnie lad will you follow your dad,

Will you work down the pit with me?

By your shift is done, will you hew ten ton?

Will you work down the Nack with me?

Can you lay on your side, in a seam two feet wide,

And work till your neck would snap?

Each and every day can you learn to pray,

When you hear those timbers crack?

 

In the Maudlin Seam where the Pyrites* gleam,

Gan canny when you swing that pick,

For a spark in the dark is just all it takes,

For death to come right quick.

Have you got the guts to go down below,

To a thousand feet in the Busty?

Your pillow of coal down this black hole,

Your pick and your marra you trust in.

Can you crawl on in where the seams are thin,

And work on your back in the water?

When you look at the roof and it's all jet black

And think of your son and daughter?

Then one day before you're old and grey,

And you haven't been crushed or maimed,

When you cough and your spit is as black as the pit,

And your life is ebbing away.

So, hey bonnie lad will you follow your Dad?

Will you work down the pit with me?

When your shift is done, will you hew ten ton,

Will you work down the Nack with me?

Anon.

 

* Pyrites.  a combination of sulphur with iron, copper, cobalt, or nickel, so-called because it strikes fire with steel.

 

Coal Miners (Job: Hewers)

 

- ENDS -

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