Marian @ Krysan 


Bringing the past to life across Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and Durham



C  O  A  L  M  I  N  I  N  G


(Stories from the very heart of the Great Northern Coalfield of North East England)

7,012 hits @ 2015-02-02





A Durham coal miner's daughter


Calling Durham Past.

Only those who have toiled in the depths of the earth know the true price of coal. This link to COALMINING is my tribute to a much loved father, Joe Bell and also to a dear friend, Laurie Moran. Both were Brandon men who began their working lives as screen hands at the nearby Browney Colliery. This job entailed screening out the stones as the coal passed by on a conveyor belt.

This was at the beginning of the 'hungry thirties' when they were fifteen-year-olds.  After this initiation, they entered the cage to work underground. Laurie worked first as a pony driver and a putter and then as a  hewer, working three-shifts and in the wet to mine coal from the very shallow seams typical of this area.  Later on, he worked as a shotfirer at Brandon's C Pit.  My father rose through the ranks to become an official, an overman at Pit House Colliery.  

Despite the hardship, the responsibility and the ever-present danger, both men were always glad to be in work and both were well-known, well-respected and part of the mining community of Brandon.  When their respective pits were abandoned in the 1960s, they retrained for other work outside of the coal industry.  Idleness (which is what they called it) was never an option for either man.  Brought up before the cushion of the Welfare State, this was just the way they were made. 

Laurie reached the end of his long life in early 2008; my father died in 1985.  We all shared a love of County Durham,  My father gifted to me my precious life and Laurie gifted to me the precious rights to a book which he wrote and published himself after he retired from mining. 

A labour of love. The book is named, 'The History of Brandon Colliery 1856-1960', Brandon being the place where my father, Laurie and I were born and raised.  Laurie Moran's book is now out of print and difficult to buy, but not impossible. I rather think its author would be quite amused to learn that this history book, sold for a time from a stall in Durham City's Market Place and elsewhere (usually with some difficulty), is now fetching around £30 to £120 per copy and is a collector's item on Amazon - or it was the last time I looked.  The glimpse I will give you here of this portrait of a colliery and its people is necessarily selective, but I hope it will be enough to help you better understand the lives of brave men who did extra-ordinary jobs under the ground.  And, now having dipped the proverbial toe in the proverbial water and with every likelihood that I will open the proverbial can of worms, I proceed.  

This is a story of how men lived and died. Just as an aside, there's a tie-in between Laurie's description of the 1863 Rocking Strike which follows and the much reported 1984 Miners' Strike.  The more recent dispute precipitated the demise of the Great Northern Coalfield of Northumberland and Durham.  It also saw the crushing of the once great and powerful National Union of Mineworkers.  Like many of you, I was there.  I was a young school teacher working at the chalk-face and engaged in preparing young people for the world of work.  I was not alone in trying desperately to pick up the pieces when old jobs, old skills and old industries disappeared forever.

The Technological Revolution.  In the mid- to late- 1980s new computer-based technology, new ways of delivering information, and even brand new subjects flooded into our schools  It all happened in what seemed to be the twinkling of an eye.  In 1984, we teachers watched from the safety of our staffrooms as an unequal battle between Labour and Capital was fought out on our doorstep and were equally horrified as unemployment in Britain peaked at 3.2 million.  The brunt of this was born by the North East of England and was to blight the lives of young and old alike.  But, whilst we witnessed the sad demise of traditional jobs and expectations, we educators rose to the occasion and officiated at the birth of the new enterprise culture.  The trappings of same were dispatched with great haste to our little outposts in the suffering north east.  They came carrying the seal of government approval at the highest level; the mission was to save us all.  And it did (I think) until now when the greed of individualism seems to have overtaken the whole world. 

It's not only journalists who have an opinion on ethics and who enjoy the privilege of a ring-side seat on history.   And, I was not just an observer.  In the 1980s, I was an active participant in the process of changing the face of business education forever.  There was no other choice; the tide had turned; transformation was radical.  Old King Coal had died.  

The enterprise culture was born. Although never so rapid as the Technological Revolution of the 1980s, change has always been with us.  Laurie Moran's book about a small mining community in the North East of England is about change when 'there was no other choice'.  It is important as there are few, if any, works of such detail in existence.  Laurie, an ordinary working man all his life, was attempting to keep alive the memory of a remarkable community of people that has all but disappeared.  The miners of the Great Northern Coalfield were good, decent folk, deserving of a good, decent write-up.  This is why a decision has been taken (by me) to make a selection of Laurie's writings freely available on the world wide web for everyone and anyone who is interested in times past.  As Catherine Cookson said, Laurie wrote of 'conditions that should not be allowed to be forgotten'. 

That you have even found your way to this particular webpage on this particular website, makes me rather suspect that these are your sentiments exactly!  And, if not now, when?  It is not just mental illness that is the product of man's inhumanity to man (and woman).

The Rocking Strike of 1863, described in some detail below, was to my reckoning the very first major strike of miners in the Northern Coalfield.  As you will find, it ended in defeat of sorts for the miners and untold hardship and misery for their wives and families.  But, this sad fact is only touched upon in the his-tory books.  These were the very early days of the British Trade Union Movement and unions, then as now, were not popular in some quarters.  As someone from mining stock, and a long-time champion of the rights of working people, I had often wondered from whence came this passion for fairness and justice.  Now I know.  It's maybe in the genes, but much more likely an abiding sorrow deeply felt, passed down through generations.  This is based on a tradition of oral history, my mother's stories of times and people past. 

But to get back to the business in hand, there is a new section on the website which is a Glossary of Mining Terms.  This is to be found in the ARCHIVES and might well come in handy for those who are strangers to these parts.  Alternatively, it might be useful to those who wish to have just simple reminders of the Old Durham dialect and, thus, of days gone by.  PIT TALK serves the same purpose. 

Gone, but not forgotten. For quick reference, I have added 'KEY WORDS' under the dates of the narrative which follows.  Explanations for most key words are to be found in the archives mentioned above.  In relation to the Rocking Strike of 1863,  I think the key words of discontent, smallpox, depression, slack tubs, check weighman and strike just about sums everything up.  Being thrown out of one's tied cottage at Christmas and watching belongings being piled high in the street must have been a catastrophe beyond our comprehension.  I know from the oral history of my own family that many made shelters with their meagre sticks of furniture in the hedgerows and some were even forced to emigrate because they were blacklisted for being active in the new union. 

One pregnant woman died. The menfolk were no longer welcome in the so-called 'Great Northern Coalfield', the Great Northern Coalfield where babies died of cold and hunger and women wept silent tears at the futility of it all.  Meanwhile, and as the century progressed, the workhouses flourished throughout the land as did the lunatic asylums built to house their overspill.  Some of the old asylums linger on as 'the institutions on the hill' - out of sight but never quite out of mind.  Unused now, perhaps, but what an inheritance!  It's enough to break the heart of old Durham all over again. But, on a lighter note, I did appreciate a Daily Guardian reporter's words written at the time under review. He said this of the Brandon Colliery strikers who he encountered on the road from Durham to Willington in 1863,

"I found these pitmen - whose decent Sunday dress, perfect cleanliness, and general appearance of sober and careful habits belied the common notion of character in the mining districts of the country - as well informed set of workmen as any I have met in a gathering of the same number."

Bravo!  That the strikers 'triumphantly sent off a pigeon to  spread good news' when they obtained support from an unexpected quarter is something which I visualize with some merriment!  On this occasion, assistance came from members of the Durham County Constabulary.  This is another fact which I applaud.  Bravo! Whatever your political persuasion and whatever opinions you hold on a host of other things, all this comes to you in good faith from a miner's daughter who became a police wife and thus someone with a tender foot in both camps over many years.  I hope you find what you're looking for.  If not now, when? 

It's now over to Laurie Moran,  but first I would mention a letter containing a few lines of encouragement sent to him when his book was first published in 1988.  They came from no less a person than the world-famous author and champion of the working-class, Catherine Cookson, a woman who knew more than most about how to spin a good yarn.  By today's standards, Laurie Moran's work is not glossy or polished.  However, it is based on hard facts most taken from newspaper reports at the time.  Laurie tells of a time when love, compassion, respect and understanding (community) were not just empty words.  Finally, we do not change as we grow older, we just become more of ourselves.  

I am proud that I will ever be a Brandonian and forever a part of a great mining community which served Britain in peace and in war. We are all 'family' and this is A History of Everyman.

Marian Moore (2008)


MORAN, LAURIE (1988), The History of Brandon Colliery 1856-1960, Durham, pub Laurie Moran 




Looking Backwards to the Future.

Coal was once the lifeblood of industry and a key part of life in the North East of England.  Coal was King, and it fuelled industries like steel and heavy engineering.  At its peak in 1913, the Great North Coalfield employed almost a quarter of a million men, producing 56 million tons of coal every year from about 400 pits.  The North East produced a quarter of Britain's coal in 1913 and was heavily dependent on 'carboniferous capitalism'. 

Download a souvenir copy

of "Reality News", a legacy from Cherry Knowle Hospital, Sunderland

Click here 

This magazine contains interesting snippets from Laurie Moran's book and original mining artwork by Joe Brett.  Both Laurie and Joe were Durham miners.






MORAN, LAURIE (1988), The History of Brandon Colliery 1856-1960, Durham, pub Laurie Moran


FIRST FIVE YEARS 1856 - 1861

* Download Moran Brandon First Five Years.pdf




... There is a general depression in the coal trade.  Brandon Colliery, among others, is only working a three day week.  Pitmen and their families are hard put to manage on their earnings.  Pitmen at the colliery are discontented, working a short week adds to their troubles; they are 'playing hell' about the big tub and not getting a just weight.  Ugly rumours are abroad; some diehards are shouting 'enough'; there is talk of strong action being taken. 

... Short working weeks, discontent at the pit, and smallpox, have combined to create deep depression in Brandon Colliery.  An epidemic of the dread diseae is taking a heavy toll of life; twelve residents succumbed during the first five months of the year.  Of that number, nine were infants.  ...

Messrs. Straker and Love, due to the expanding property at their colliery, have had their houses, coke ovens and other pit property re-rated under the Parochial Assessment Act.  The new rates are: Engines at each pit £50 each; miners' cottages £3.12s. each; coke oven, where the smoke is not consumed are rated at £2 each; £1.10s. to be charged where the smoke is consumed.  The latter charge in the rating is to encourage the reduction of smoke.

A week of heavy thunderstorms, lightning and copious showers of rain over the district caused heavy damage to wheat and uncut grass.  The weather did little to cheer men in their present mood.  Pitmen met in the Colliery Inn, others at corner ends, most were unwilling to continue working under the existing conditions.

Squire Brook, George Maddison, Richard Lamb and Will Hartley, all young coal hewers with families to support, left their work in the Hutton Seam on Monday 19th October.  Black, tired and hungry after their nine hour shift, they were grimly determined that the time for positive action to be taken had arrived.  They had heard that the collieries at Willington, Brancepeth and Oakenshaw, all owned by Straker and Love, were on the brink of a strike for similar reasons.

On the evening of the 19th a gig travelled the four miles from Oakenshaw where a meeting of colliery workers had been held.  The driver of the gig, amid much gesticulation, announced that the men at Straker and Love's collieries were withdrawing their labour from tomorrow.  Brandon Colliery workmen immediately followed suit.

Next day, October 20th, knots of apprehensive women gathered, worried, but totally behind their menfolk in demanding justice.

Silence reigned at the pit-head.  Coke ovens cooled off as cinder drawers left their work to make a total of 308 men and boys refusing to work at Brandon Colliery.  Of this number 214 were members of the Union.  About 1,000 men from neighbouring Willington, Brancepeth and Oakenshaw collieries came out on strike.  Houghall and Shincliffe collieries, under the same ownership, being sympathetic to the cause, may follow suit.

Mr Love retaliated by having twelve of the striking pitmen arrested.  Pitmen from the collieries concerned in the dispute crowded the Police Court at Durham.  To their great delight, the twelve men were discharged.  Triumphantly a pigeon was immediately sent off carrying the good news.  The pitmen continued their strike; heartened by their first victory, they sensed some early outside support.

The strike is over the men not being paid for alleged 'slack tubs'.  The banksman is the sole decider whether the tub is passed as full or slack.  He works for the owner.  The men want a representative at the surface to keep check on the tubs; they do not mind being paid lower wages for slack tubs being sent up.

Pitmen from the four collieries feel justified in taking strike action.  They have named the stoppage "The Rocking Strike'.  The name arises from the custom which obtains of setting out tubs if they are not level full when they come to bank.  In order that this might be attained, the hewer walks around the tub and strikes it with his mell; he even shakes and rocks it, so that the jolting on the road out-bye does not settle the coal lower than the rim of the tub.  If it settles below the rim the entire content is liable to confiscation.

This sytem is enforced in a glaring manner: the master's man is paid a commission on every slack tub he finds.  His judgement could be at fault.  The 1861 Act requires that the men have a weigh man, this is being denied them: the demands of the men are payment by weight and an advance in wages.  Four days after the commencement of the strike, each striker received a printed notice:

To the men of Brandon and Willington Collieries:

"Take notice, that by your having absented yourself from our service, you have determined and broken your contract of hiring with us; and we hereby require you to deliver up to us the possession of the cottage house which you have occupied as our servant before the 27th day of October, 1863; and in default of you doing so, you will be turned out of possession',

Dated the 24th day of October 1863.

'The Owners of Brandon Colliery'.

Mr Love asserts that the true origin of the strike is an advance of from 20 to 25 per cent.  He further asserts that a good workman at any of his collieries can make 5s. and upwards in eight hours and that is the standard by which he fixed the price in every colliery.

He has taken the average of 20 for the last six fortnights at Brandon Colliery and finds it upwards of £3 nett to each man.  The advance asked would increase the average to nearly £3 a fortnight.  He goes on to say that any advance is impracticable much less the demand of 20 to 25 per cent.  Finally, he states that however long the men may be able to stand out, the masters have no alternative but to resist.

The owners offered 9 l/4d. per ton working.  This offer the men rejected as they claimed this would be 1/2d. per ton less than previously.  One cause of the strike: the men demanded a change from measure of coal to weight.  They wanted the appointment of two men, one of whom would be paid by the men, to see that the tubs were weighed and properly accounted for.

Newspaper reporters condemned Mr Love's action of ejection.  They said that he must have a heart of stone.  War could not be a greater misfortune to these desperate women and children.  Men, women and children are being put out of their homes in the cold, winter weather.

Grace Anderson, twelve years of age; Will Sugget nine; Ned Parkinson, a twelve year old striker, and Will Levine, another striker at the age of fourteen, searched the spoil heap for remnants of coal.  Coal which had adhered to the layer of band sent out of the pit and had been rejected to the heap.

Trespassers Edward and Will, windblown, one eye open for P.C. Coverdale, set to with manly vigour; household coal allowance now spent, they had elected to scrat for replacement.  Work palling, out of shape tin dishes, battered and ejected tin bath-tubs were commandeered to serve as sledges to skim the steep slope of the spoil heap.  Amid youthful shrieks the improvised toboggans careered the slope with consequent wear on breeches and boots.  Grace would have to give good account of her torn skirt.

On entering its third week, the strike was reported on by a special correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, who dispatched the following:- 

"Deceived by the treacherous gleam of sunshine yesterday, I took an early walk along the pleasant road from the city of Durham to Willington, a distance of some eight miles.  About midway, a little past a spot called Langley Moor, I fell in with a party of the Brandon Colliery men, who are out on strike with the Brancepeth, Oakenshaw and Sunnybrow pits.  Conversing with them on the subject of their difference with Messrs. Staker and Love, their employers, I found these pitmen - whose decent Sunday dress, perfect cleanliness, and general appearance of sober and careful habits belied the common notion of character in the mining districts of the country - as well informed set of workmen as any I have met in a gathering of the same number.

"They fell to discussing all the circumstances of their present position, with a calmness indicating their faith in the justice of the cause to which they are pledged.  They had heard no news that morning from Oakenshaw, to which colliery they looked as a special source of information, it being a kind of headquarters.  (The men seemed well informed having read the Newcastle Chronicle and Durham Advertiser).  On walking away they met a chap who had ridden from Oakenshaw in a gig, they broke into their own mystifying dialect." 

Two days after the reporter's encounter with the striking pitmen, Mr Love sent a letter to the public through the Durham Advertiser.  He denied that there were 1,200 men on strike at the collieries of Messrs. Staker and Love.  He said in the statement that the Coke Burners are underpaid on these collieries is an untruth.  He suggests that the real secret of the conflict is whether the regulations of the Colliery are to be carried out by the Owners or the Union Committee; the latter is impossible.

John Henry Garbutt at eight years of age, sensed the dramatic change in his home.  His father, once kind and patient, was morose in his enforced idleness.  His mother, showing facial lines born during the struggle to manage on a pittance, seemed divorced from the mother he knew before the strike.

John Henry, his sisters Mary, Margaret and Hannah, returning home from school in the village, carried broken branches from the near denuded trees in the lane; their coal allowance from the colliery being long exhausted.  They had, with some success, gathered cinders which had escaped complete incineration on the fiery heap which had become their daily Mecca.  Spent cinders poor substitute for coal, their bath night became a lukewarm game.

John Henry lived only a few yards from the now silent pithead; he missed the incessant clang of the pit cage, he missed too the beat of the clog or pit boot work or homeward bound.

Out of work ponies, brought to bank when the strike looked set to last indefinitely, revelling in their new-found freedom, their thick coats sound protection against the winter weather, scattered, startled by excited human sounds.  James Anderson, Will Leighton, Will Parkinson and Tommy Dixon, all striking pony drivers, staged an impromptu rodeo; the spoil heap being an excellent grandstand for the less adventurous.  Settle, Tiger, Bonny, and the other ponies were granted a reprieve on the arrival of P.C. Coverdale.

Striking pitmen, in their determination to overcome injustice, organised a march.  On Thursday November 13th between 400 and 500 of the striking pitmen of Straker and Love's collieries marched through Durham bearing banners.  The men went to Shincliffe for the purpose of meeting pitmen from Houghall Colliery which had struck two days previously.  Houghall and Shincliffe Collieries are owned by Mr. Love.

John Dunn from Brandon Colliery addressed the meeting.  He said he was no public speaker, but their case made him more able to express himself.  He said they had stopped work in order to do away with the iniquitous system, under which they had been labouring for years, and which they were determined to banish from the country.  He alluded to the system of 'tub rocking'.  He believed that the men were determined never to 'rock' another tub for Mr. Love.

They had been bowed down by a most unjust system, without any means of redressing their grievances  - without any chance of asserting their just rights - otherwise they received 'Notice to Quit'.  They were anxious to raise themselves as working men and establish their position in society.  They had not been treated as men.  They did not want to be termed as paupers - they wanted a better state of things than had previously existed.  The cause of the Union was spreading in all directions.  They had shown by their conduct that they were a peacably disposed class of men; and this, he thought, was proved by the fact that they had allowed their wives and families to be turned to the door in the most wretched and miserable weather.  He was convinced that their masters would repent their conduct, and eventually grant what the men required.  But he was satisfied that the men would never return to their work under the system of 'rocking tubs'.  The wonder was that they had so long submitted to the system.  All they desired was that they should be paid for their labour; and he contended they were fully justified in the steps they had taken to obtain their just rights.  They wanted justice, and the men would never raise a pick to fill a tub under the old system, and without they received extra pay for their extra labour.

John Dunn's brave and spirited remarks drew applause from the pitmen present.

Up to the beginning of November a sad cortege had left the colliery rows almost at weekly intervals.  To add to the depression, thirty souls had been buried at Brancepeth, of that number, twenty-five had died in early infancy.  For the some the journey to Brancepeth had been their only one.

Life is becoming increasingly harder for the strikers and their families; no coal, little money with which to buy necessities.  Ingenuity is born through strife.  Jack Brown's goat, Edward Forster's sow, Thomas Gibbon's rabbits, and Tom Gill's chickens are sacrificed.  Men, without money, forsake the Colliery Inn; rabbits mysteriously adorn kitchen tables, field produce fills children's hungry bellies.  Shopkeepers are good, their credit seems endless.

By Thursday November 29th, the thirtieth day of the strike, the whole of the families of Willington, Oakenshaw and Brancepeth Collieries had been turned out of their houses.  The settlement of the dispute seems to be as distant as ever.  Brandon Colliery pitmen are perturbed, the owners are reported to be seeking the eviction of the men on strike.

The weather during November has been mild, it is hoped that it continues so for the evicted families.  The men have been peaceable and orderly; to deter any outbursts of passion, all of Messrs. Straker and Love's agents have been sworn in as special constables.

A meeting was held at Gateshead by a few of the representatives of men on strike.  Matthew Charlton, a coal hewer of Brandon Colliery, gave some account of his experience at the colliery and the hardships he had borne there.  He said they intended to stand out.

Adding to their worries, Will Garbutt lost his three year old daughter Ann.  Matthew Brown and William Snowdon, both striking coal hewers, each had a bereavement in the family.  Matthew lost his two and a half year old son, William.  The Snowdons lost their three and a half year old daughter, Jane.  The bereaved family lost three children in the space of five months, all were buried at Brancepeth.

Meetings are being held at regular intervals.  Delegates travelled to Newcastle on December 11th.  They said that the plight of the striking pitmen was serious; the men had been out seven and a half weeks, one week they got 3s.1d., another 3s.10d., and another 4s.5d., and last week 5s.4d.  One speaker believed it was Mr. Love's intention to starve the miners out.

It was decided to impose a levy of 1s.6d. per fortnight on working miners as long as the strike lasts.  The application of the levy would be a welcome addition to the pittance striking members of the Union are drawing.

Mr Love sent the following letter from his home, Mount Beaulah in Durham.

Notice to Miners

Messrs Straker and Love, owners of Brancepeth, Oakenshaw, Willington and Brandon Collieries in the County of Durham, have resolved not to employ men connected with the Miners' Union.

They offer work and good wages to pitmen who are at liberty to give their labour unrestricted.  Upon the above named Collieries the wages generally vary from 4s. to 7s. per day, but there are good workmen making from 8s. to 9s. per day at the present time.

House, Coals and Garden for 6d. per fortnight.  Families will be removed free of cost.  Brancepeth, Oakenshaw, Willington 'A' Pit and Brandon Collieries are all at work, and Willington 'B' Pit, it is hoped, soon commences work.

Application to be made to the Overman at the respective Collieries.

December 5th, 1863

Mr Love, in his letter, said that Brandon Colliery was at work.  His information was proved to be inaccurate.  As the letter was being delivered, a large meeting of pitmen was held at Brandon Colliery.  Mr. Leighton again took the chair; he stated that on the morning a delegation had proceeded to Mr. Love's residence in Durham and made known their visit.  They waited in the yard a short time, when a servant came to them and said that Mr. Love would not receive any more deputations from his men, and that they could not be seen.

On the motion of Mr. Dickinson, seconded by Mr. Lamb, a vote of thanks was passed, amid cheers, to the Editors of the Durham Chronicle and Durham Advertiser for the calm, clean and temperate manner they had covered the strike.

Another big meeting was held on Saturday, December 12th.  a reporter from the Newcastle Daily Chronicle noted complaints from men whose collieries were involved in the dispute.

At Oakenshaw, forty families had been ejected from their homes.  It was stated that a woman named Bird, while in a state of pregnancy, had been put out of her house, and had died in childbirth a few days later.

Jack Scott, Brandon Colliery, stated that when their pit first started, about six years ago, their standard weight was 8 and a half cwts. per tub for the first three months, then one quarter cwt. was added for which 6d. per score of twenty one tubs was paid.  This continued for four months, when another half cwt. was added.  After eighteen months half a cwt. more.  Two years elapsed, when half a cwt. 4 lbs. extra was put, making a total of 10 and a quarter cwts. 4 lbs. no higher price being paid for any of the extra filling after the 6d. for the first additional quarter cwt.  The same dissatisfaction existed amongst them as at Brancepeth; they often remonstrated against the 'big filling' and confiscation, but it was of no use.  Mr. Love told them he did not want more than one, at another time, two tubs per day per man confiscated.

For the same reasons as the Brancepth men they joined the Union, and the same system of sacrifice was resorted to against them.  Jack Scott went on to say that the cinder drawers had suffered reductions of about 4s.6d. a week.

Young John Henry Garbutt, not yet eight, did not understand why families were being put out of their homes onto the street; even at such a tender age he realised that something was amiss.

Mr. Love had obtained a number of ejectment summonses at Durham County Police Court on Monday December 14th.  Two days later the evictions began and were continued on the Thursday.  John Henry would never forget the women's tears and the men's curses as their furniture was heaped in the street.  Prospects looked bleak indeed for Christmas.

After weeks of struggle on their meagre strike pay from the Union, men drifted back to work.  Weeks of threats, cajolery, then final eviction, had sent the last dissident pitman, cap in hand, to seek to renew his bond.  All the strikers were back at work on December 28th.

Cupid was at work during the strike.  John Dunn, a twenty year old pitman, married Catherine Westgarth.  Another pitman, Tom Gill, married eighteen year old Mary Burrell.



1866 and Brandon Colliery is now ten years old.  From the few square inches exposed when the first sod was lifted, an expanding, busy and smoky industry has developed.  Scores of bee-hive coke ovens dominate the area south of pit; streets run in straight lines to the four points of compass.  South, East, West and North Streets are occupied.  Durham and Sunderland Street, the longest, hug the north-east side of the pit. ... 


Another five years pass and by 1871, there are two hundred and sixty houses in Brandon Colliery occupied by colliery employees.  Men and boys work the four seams: the Busty, Harvey, Ballarat and Brockwell seams are fully operational. ... Brandon Colliery has seen the first generation grow; born almost with the shadow of the pit's heapstead, weaned - breeched - a brtief period of schooling - then work at an early age.  ...

Baff Saturday!  August 12th.  Pit lads and mates, Jackie Sayers and James Needham, both thirteen years of age, walked to Durham to attend the Miners' Great Demonstration.  ... Jackie and James were among the five thousand who paid for admission.  Four men occupied the platform; men renowned for their oratory, they came from Glasgow, Barnsley, North Staffordshire and Sunderland.  After the heartening speeches a band concert entertained the crowd, £20 was offered in three prizes.  One Staffordshire man sang a melody:

  • 'It is a glorious Union, deny it who can.
  • That defends the rights of the working man'.

... Having listened to the orations and enjoyed the lively band music, the lads returned home inspired by the spirit of the day.  The gathering of pitmen was the largest held to date.  After evident success some talk of more and bigger meetings in the future.


MORAN, LAURIE (1988), The History of Brandon Colliery 1856-1960, Durham, pub Laurie Moran


Dear Readers

At the end of his book and after the Glossary, Laurie Moran acknowledged his readers by thanking  them for 'plodding through the fruit of a decade of research'. 
He concluded his book on the history of Brandon Colliery by saying, 'you deserve a mention in the acknowledgements' and finished by quoting Mark Twain, thus:

"Mark Twain said, 'Find the truth then you can twist it to suit your needs'.  Research revealed facts, which if twisted would have wrecked the truth.  My exhaustive albeit exhilarating investigations unearthed treasures of interest which made the effort worthwhile.  My two grandfathers were reared in colliery-owned houses denude of basic comforts.  

"At the time of the 1871 National Census, Brandon Colliery boasted ten streets with a total of two-hundred-and-eighty-one houses whose nineteen-hundred-and-twenty-six inhabitants still carried water from springs fifteen years from the birth of the colliery.  Vertical ladders leading to the upstairs rooms had been in vogue for a similar period."  MORAN, 19

As a Brandon miner's daughter, there's nothing I can add to that.  And, here I must leave the history of Brandon Colliery - at least for now.  Thank you for joining me on the Krysan website.  I trust that we meet again under the Brandon banner  ... same family ... connected ... forever ...

Marian Moore (nee Bell)





7,757 hits @ 2015-11-03

©2008 Krysan. All rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy Creative Business Support & Website: tr10.com