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West Allotment – Life in a Mining Village

My grandfather walked each day to and from the pit, a distance of approximately five miles.

We lived in the shadow of the pit heaps. Most of the small roads were laid with clinker. That’s where Catherine Cookson got her title ‘The Cinder Path’. A number of small railways crossed the roads and wagons would rumble past taking coals to the staithes at Wallsend. A short distance from our house was the house of George Stephenson, famous for his engineering work and builder of the ‘Rocket’. At the point of the road where the wagons crossed was a small signal cabin where the signalman sat. He changed the signals by hand and stopped the traffic with his red flag and sent it on its way with his green one. My paternal grandfather was a miner for all his working life. He walked each day to and from the pit, a distance of approximately five miles. His life came to an end in the signal cabin where he suffered a heart attack well before his retirement was due.

My maternal grandfather was also a miner. He had fought in the Boer War and the Great War, but later lost an eye while working in the pit. He received no compensation for this, but, after a period of convalescence during which no money came into the house, he returned work. He couldn’t work at the coal face any more, so his wage was greatly reduced.

As far as I remember, miners were given free coal as part of their wages. Miner’s widows also had a less amount of free coal. They often sold this to the neighbours. They weren’t supposed to, but the colliery turned a blind eye.

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