stuck in the shaft

In the coal mines there was three main shifts two AM and nine AM., were coal getting shifts and five PM was the stone shift. So if you were a coal filler and had a mate who liked the two Am shift you could work the nine Am all the time. The five pm shift for the stone men was also the shift for getting supplies down. Once the men had descended and the supplies were down the cages would be brought to same level and left half way up the shaft.
I was a coal driller Once the coal had been removed I had to drill holes before the coal was cut for the next shift. So about nine pm I came out and got into the cage all by myself. However the cage didn’t go to the surface it stopped half way up. It was winter and I only had a shirt over my vest. I had no watch but realised I could be hanging there till the next coal shift at two Am. I shouted ans sang all to no avail. The cage was just the height of a full tub about four feet. We usually emptied our water bottles when we got near the bottom of the shaft. But I had some water and kept having a sip.
It could have been an hour I was stuck in the shaft then the cage started to descend slowly. The men at the shaft bottom shouted are you stil there my teeth were chattering they rapped away and the cage went up rapidly. There was about six men to greet me but I wanted to get into the warmth of the pit head baths. After I’d showered and got clean clothes on. I found out what happened. The man who was driving the winding engine had been at my class at school. The men at the bottom of the shaft thought my shouting was bairns at the horse hole.
And the men on the heap thought it was bairns on the waste heap.
Old Mr Wilson lived in the next street to Gordon Tce where my wife was brought up. So if I complained he’d be in trouble so I just forgot about it. But after that I carried an extra jersey.
Of course not all shaft mishaps had such an ending as my episode. To get girders down the shaf tit was neccessary to put them through a hole in the top of the cage and chain them together.
Shafsmen with their leather hatswith a big flap to protect their backs rode down on the top of the cage. If the chain came loose and the girders got loose and jammed in the shaft wall. The cage couldn’t be moved until a lorry with a drum on came from Gateshead to lower men to clear the obstruction. A man I knew was jammed in the cage and while waiting for the lorry to come a shaftsman climbed down the shaft to comfort the injured man. Un fortunately it didn’t have a happy ending the man died.
Robin Cook was welding my car and his friend came over to see him Robin was underneath the car and I was watching to see if the upholstery caught fire. However it turned out his friend was the son of the man killed in the shaft. So when I said I knew him and how he used to amuse us in the pithead baths. I got sistracted and the upholstery took fire we each got a pail and were running back and forward opening the car door throwing in a pail of water and shutting the door again. Once we got the fire out Robin said your wife was laughing at us, it wasn’t funny. I told him as I was running I was pumping too. So we both laughed but he said don’t tell my dad about this episode. It was all done in the dark because once we got running we knocked the temporary lighting out. I never did tell his Dad because it was actually my fault.

This entry was posted in Mines and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>