The return of a Miner

Blantyre's Ain Website

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Poems about Miners

The return of a Miner

The return of a Miner

A three feet seam called the Meadow Vein,
just before the war.
Belt conveyors and shakers too,
and thick black dust galore.

Shovels with shortened handles,
timber was cut in the gate.
A sledge and a sharpened mandrill
for the collier and his mate.

The cutter went up on the night shift,
cuttings piled one foot high,
With a one foot squeeze to contend with,
the day shift standing by.

Like animals caught in a one-way trap,
knee pads were strapped on tight,
And pushing their lamps ahead of them,
they crawled through the dusty light.

The conveyor lies there impatient,
as each man crawls to his place.
The cuttings must be cleared,
it’s a grim and deadly race.

No time for supporting timber,
this is not some schoolboy game.
Each man has his stint to do,
his helper has the same.

The engine-boy looks up the face,
and sees a waving light,
It’s the emergency signal,
he turns the blast off tight.

I often thought,
what if the boy was facing the other way,
And didn’t see that warning light,
would a life be thrown away.

The conveyor is strangely silent,
light gather up the face,
A fall has trapped young Vivian,
they free him with frenzied pace.

His father helped to carry him out,
his face in the light looked grim,
Later ’twas said, he’s broken his back,
no more mining for him.

To work in the middle of a hundred yard face,
upon your hands and knees,
To hear the cry “it’s coming boys”
the dreaded cry of a squeeze.

To see the pit props snapping,
as you crawl through that lowering maze,
It’s a memory you carry with you,
right to your dying days.

I’ve left that place now thirty years,
for a more rewarding trade,
I often return to ask about mates,
who’d shared that face hell-made.

The answers I get convinces me,
they all suffered deeply.
A lingering death, or broken and old,
for coal that was sold too cheaply.

Mohab, the late Edgar Everly of Abertillery

Oil painting by John Hodgson Campbell (1855-1927)

~~~

If you have any Poems… Send them to Bill

Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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