A Tunnel of Darkness

A miner from Ashington discovers his wife's infidelity. left alone he faces an uncertain future when the pit is set for closure. the strikes of 1969 force him to relocate to South Yorkshire where he meets a young school teacher. who pushes the young man to make a better life for himself.


5. 5

The Daily Mirror news paper was still on the chair as Ged picked it up and began to catch up on the news that day. He started the crossword but his eyes began to get heavier and he fell asleep.


The next morning he arose from the chair he was stiff from sleeping in one place all night. Stretching himself he looked at the clock; it was five o’clock. He made himself a corned beef sandwich from the left over bread wrapped it in the “Home Pride” bread bag then stuck it inside his bait bag. He quickly swilled his face with water then used the toilet before leaving the house to go to the pit. Walking down the road he saw many other men from the close knit community heading to the same place.

Woodhorn Colliery was rationalised in the early 1960’s Most of the coal was hand cut then, each man was expected to extract thirteen hundred weight of coach each. Then the pit started making a loss and that figure went up to eighteen hundred weight.

Life expectancy was only fifty five years of age because men were breathing in coal dust and soot most of their working lives. Then there were the accidents that took a lot of men’s lives either by a roof fall or gas explosion; due to the build up of methane under ground. Ged earned twenty three pounds a week without overtime and got his free coal allowance which bumped his wage to over thirty pounds per week.

They still used ponies over four years old to pull the coal wagons around they became blinded after years of working in the dark and they were either sent to the glue factory or they were bought as pets. The men became attached to the ponies and each one had a name. They were cared for and respected by the men and boys.


Ged walked into the yard and saw three of his work mates Johnny Watson, Dave Curry and Peter Jamieson.

“Morning Ged they said as they made their way to the locker room to change into their work clothes.

“There’s a meeting with the union at 7pm in the Ashington Welfare Club Ged; are you going?

“Suppose so, what’s it all about?

“The same old crap Ged, the management wants more profit and pay us peanuts for the privilege.”

Ged took off his cap, folding it then putting it in his coat. Then he took off his trousers

Put on his boiler suit and his safety helmet. He tested the light to see that it was working before putting on his work boots. Right I’m ready said Ged as he made his way to the cage that would take them below ground.

Twenty men stood side by side as the doors were closed and the cage lowered. Once the cage reached the stop they all got out then walked down a set of metal stairs to the bottom where a series of tunnels took them to the coal seam. “Lights on lads said Alf Harris the foreman all the men clicked on their lights before setting out into the darkness.


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