When I was old enough, my father reluctantly took me to his colliery to try to get me set on. The pit, called the Dean and Chapter Colliery, was nicknamed locally as ‘The Butchers Shop’, owing to the number of accidents there. I was offered a job a an underground datal lad (paid by the hour) and when I signed on the dotted line the official said in his deep voice “You’ve just signed your death warrant son”. After I had been given a lamp and a disc I moved out of the lamp- cabin to be confronted by a flight of steel steps leading onto a gantry which crossed the mineral line. At the opposite end of the gantry reared a great pit-head, together with its pulley wheels and ropes. The men climbing the steps with their oil lamps looked like fireflies trapped in a great steel spider’s web. As the shunting engine passed below them, they became lost in a cloud of steam, which reflected the arched window lights of the colliery like a cinema screen. As we stooped down to enter the cage, which held twenty men at a time, I was confronted by the fact that I was amidst experienced men, quite used to the descent into the pit. We finally landed at the shaft bottom and I was relieved to find that it was well lit by electric lights. A Tunnel curved away into the distance. My mining career has begun. ” Norman Cornish
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