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Alan Smith - Local Ironstone Miner

Interview by Margaret Craddock on 18 May 2009 with ALAN SMITH local ironstone miner born 1922

Photograph of Alan Smith


I went down the mine too young at 17.  War was talked about but they said it wouldn’t last twelve months.  I wasn’t worried about war at 17.  I wouldn’t have been eligible for call up until 1943.  We weren’t called up as it was a reserved occupation.  I had to work every day and I had to carry a card.  If I was stopped by the police I had to show my card.    I used to have to change it every twelve months.

I started mining at 17 just before the war started really.  I worked at the mines in Islip underground.  I went with my dad.  I couldn’t get on with factory work, I didn’t like it, making shoes,   My dad took me down the mine.  He said, “You’ll never do it boy, you won’t be strong enough.”  But anyway I did and then I worked there while 1942 I suppose.  I used to bike from Finedon.  I cycled there every morning to get there for 6 o’clock.  Six to two and two to ten the shifts were there.  Then I’d cycle back home.  That was about 6 miles each way.  That was after a day’s work.  I left Islip in about 1942/43.  I’d asked for a transfer to Irthlingborough.  They wouldn’t give me one; told me to get lodgings at Woodford.  Then after about six months or more they closed the shift down and I did get a transfer to Irthlingborough.  They’d got too many miners because when they came back from Dunkirk some of the miners were put back into the mines again.  The transport underground then was horses and I did get a transfer then to Irthlingborough.  I worked there during the rest of the war years.  I’ve been all over the different districts and done this job and that job.  Then after the war we were allowed to leave the mines but stop in the same industry.  So I went down Finedon mine.  1946 I went there.  It was an old fashioned pit.  Everything was dug by hand.  You drilled by hand and everything.  It was really old fashioned.  Then came the snow of 1947 and in the January of that year Stewart and Lloyds took it over.  When the snow went it flooded our mine out.  The last week we worked there we worked as far as we could get in.  The ironstone from Finedon went to Wellingborough furnaces.  Irthlingborough ironstone went to Wales.

The conditions were wet, in that mine, like all mines, you’d got no sanitation whatsoever, nothing like that down the mine.  If you never took any drink you hadn’t got any.  You’d got to take your water and your food.  No sanitation – rats used to clear up what you didn’t want.  There were bats down there.  You didn’t wash your hands down there before you ate your food.  You had nothing to wash them in only filthy water.


We got the iron ore out by blasting it.  We had to drill and blast.  I got an explosive licence when I was 19.  I’d done 2 years at the face under instructions of dad, charging explosives and one thing and another.  So at 19 I got my explosives licence.  I could have a man working with me then if I wanted because we worked in pairs – a miner and a filler. 

The explosives were obtained from the mine.  Stokes used to deliver our explosives.  There were two magazines at Burton and another at Finedon.  The buildings were lined with wood and had copper nails.  They would transport it to the mines and the quarries.   (Lewis’s, when I first started there, that was where Stokes kept the lorries that carried the explosives.)  There was a big magazine at the Harrowdens.   They didn’t give you anything down the mine only a place to work.  You bought your shovels, you bought your lights, you bought your carbide to put in the lights.  Everything you bought.   A shovel would last me about six weeks.  The back wears out - 4/6d  we were charged for them.  The pick handles, if you broke one of them, you could either have a 9d one or 1/6d.  The 9d one was ash and the 1/6d was hickory.  They lasted because they had more spring in them.  The only thing they did give you was a brush handle to put the powder up the hole after you’d drilled it - a ‘stemming stick’.  The wooden handle was used to stem the powder up the holes.  You couldn’t have metal because there was a detonator in there that fires the explosive.   You had to buy all them.  When I first started the detonators used to come separate.  We used to have a little pouch for them.  We used to carry about fourteen or fifteen in this little pouch.  The fuse you used to light was in coils so that when you charged the hole you had to get the detonator and they had all been packed in sawdust.  You had to make sure all the sawdust was out before you put the fuse in.  Then you had to crimp it down on to the fuse so that when you put it in the hole it didn’t come off.  We used to bite them on.  They used to sell us special pliers to do it  - 4/6d they were – but they weren’t any good.  When you bit them on, the little puncture marks from your teeth they held and they didn’t come off the fuse.  If you lost your powder you had to put some more in.  I used to bite mine and that’s what has upset all my teeth.  The detonators were aluminium; half had no explosive in them because each detonator would move half a ton.  If it went off on its own it would move half a ton they reckoned but I never tried it.  We used to put the powder up the hole, make a hole with the copper point for the powder, shove the detonator in, fold it back and push it up with the stick.  Powder used to come in four-ounce sticks.  We used to carry twenty down a day.  If you wanted extra then you’d have another ten.  It was the miner’s job to think what he wanted – some wanted two, some three. When I first started you were only allowed one blast at a time.  Then you were allowed to do two.  But when the drilling machines came in they drilled the whole face and blasted the whole face so if we wanted to put extras in then we used to put them in.  They blew the whole lot out on electric detonators.  Towards the end the detonators used to come ready fused.   There were about twelve or thirteen in a pouch.    We used to carry them separate, not with the explosive.  That was in a wooden box.  We used to take 24 sticks a day.  It was a fair weight beside your food, etc.


We used to rail in the headings as we advanced.  All the rails, we had to lay them for nothing.  We’d put pit props up for nothing.  The trucks went on the rails and we were driving nine foot wide and about eight foot high – the tunnel.  You could stand up in it; about eight foot, anything higher it would be more difficult because you’d got to get up there to drill it. Most of the time I was down there, it was drilled by hand.  There were no electric drills at that time and then they did introduce electric drills but we had to pay for them. The best machines we had were Black and Decker.  They were the best drilling machines.  We had Chicago pneumatic.  They were heavy damn things – they wanted two men to lift them.  Never mind about working yourself.  Then Wolf, German, they came in and they weren’t too bad.  Black and Decker were nice and light and used to work well. 


How ever much you got for a ton they docked it; they took so much off for the electric drill.  We were paid by the ton we produced.  You had nothing only what you produced, you loaded and sent out.  It was absolutely piecework.  When you started Monday morning you owed the company some money because you owed for your explosive and your detonators to take with you.  You owed them for that and that was taken out of your money before you got it.  When I first started at Islip, like when I worked with my dad, I was paid by my dad and not by the firm.  He paid me.  There was only one pay packet and Irthlingborough was like that.  When I first started there the miner paid the mate.  When PAYE came in it altered things quite a bit.  The boss had to name what the miner would be paid.  If you had a good man with you before, whatever you earned you split it.  Then you could get two separate packets.  The driller got a packet and the miner got one.  You told them at the office that you were splitting and then the expenses were taken out.  The rest was split between two.  That made it a lot easier on Fridays – they got a packet each.  You had nothing, they didn’t give you anything only a place to work.  All your tools were yours apart from the electric drills and then they did knock two or three pence off a ton to pay for it.  It was a dirty job, the temperature was 52 degrees in there.  We used to work with shirts off obviously, didn’t want to have shirts on because you sweat, the sweat used to run off you.  Boots used to be wet through with sweat. 

There was one place in an airlock where there were two double doors.  Irthlingborough mines were ventilated by a fan and that used to run day and night.  There were airlock doors so that the air was transported across the working face.  You had this brattice cloth like a hessian that didn’t rot and we used to hang that down to divert the air across the working face and after so long they would put a brick wall in because when you blasted you got a lot of smoke from the blast and you had to get it clear of the working face.  The only gas we really got was the carbon dioxide.  You get that down there.  You didn’t have to wear a mask.  It wasn’t dusty.  Carbon dioxide is heavier than air.  We used to carry candles and light them to see if there was any gas there.  If you gradually lowered it, if there was too much gas it would put them out.  It was time you weren’t there then!  It was like coal mining but we hadn’t got the explosive gas though.  If the ends had got this cloth on and the brick walls were in, it would keep the air flowing across the working face.  It would come a bit more difficult towards the end when we were blocking up under the roads because we would stop the ventilation. 

The last two stoppings we did there was a lot of gas because we couldn’t get rid of it.  Lots of headaches I had on that.  I’ve been on a pacemaker for my heart for the last five years but that’s not due to the mines.  My lungs are alright.  My neck has gone.  When you are mining, the roof has to be trimmed down after blasting.  You use a lever to pull some of the rock down but you can’t put it on your shoulder because there is nowhere for your head to go.  So you put the bar on top of your head and you squash your neck. 

When we were loading the wagons if you were on your own I wanted my wagon, just over three and a half ton, out in twenty minutes,   The tractor would come in and pull it out.  Then I’d get another one in.  That was a load and two men.  If I was on my own - forty minutes.  You had to shovel a ton every ten minutes all day.  You’d go down for eight hours but you had to get to your job first.  You had to get to where you were working which might take half an hour.  You had to get out at night – another half an hour gone.  Every time you blasted you had to come out, round the corner whilst the blast has gone off and the smoke cleared a bit.  It’s all time out of your time. I used to do about seven trucks a day when I’d got a mate down Irthlingborough, and they used to hold about three ton twelve, three ton fourteen each when you loaded them.  So you wanted seven a day.  You’d got to drill and blast that out and then pick it up with a shovel.  It was hard work and my knees have gone through the mining.  You had to stand on a heap of rocks to trim the roof down after blasting or get the wagon near and stand on that.  We used to fill the wagons and then put rock around the edges so we could get a bit more on.  It had to go through the tipplers.  The wagons used to go into this and turn over, empty the rock on to a belt underneath.  To save loading too high they put a bar just before it went to the weighbridge.  That was a steel bar and as the wagon went under, if the rock was too high, it would be scraped off.  If you piled it too high at the front it would be scraped back and the company would have that.  We used to pay a man to be on our side to make sure that we were getting the right weight.   It was all push and shove.  If you wanted a wagon in you had to go and fetch it and push it in.   They didn’t bring it in.  You had to push the empty wagons in then they’d pull the full ones out but if they didn’t come, you’d push those out too!  You didn’t have time to hang about.  I used to like to do about 48 trucks a week - me and my mate.  That would be seven a day and Saturdays I’d do three.  

The company never gave you anything.  You paid for all that you had.  They were all the same – all the mines were the same.  Fridays, when I first went down, they would be a bit chaotic when the pay packet came through because if you had different mates they wanted £1 a shift out of your money for what they’d worked with you.  They wanted somewhere around about £1 a shift so if you’d had five different mates you’d got to give more money away than what you’d got.  I used to sooner work on my own,  Because I’d got certificates I could work on my own without a mate at all.  I got the certificates because I’d been at the face 2 years you see.  The company signed them.  They’d give you permission to carry and use explosives.  The company then was Richard Thomas.  I only stayed with them until 1946 and then I went to Finedon mine.  I thought I’d have a change but when I went down Finedon mine you see that was old fashioned.  Old fashioned as the hills that was.  Stewarts and Lloyds took over in 1947 there.  Of course, then that snow of 1947 melted.  It melted quick and flooded us out.  We went in as far as we could get in and do a day’s work and bring our kit out with us at night and then go the next day and then we were finished on a Friday.  They gave us all a week’s notice but they set twelve of us back on to clear the mine out. 


I didn’t stay the full length of time I got a job at Grays, in Polwell Lane.  I worked for them.  I used to drive a digger in there.  I dug all that field out that’s behind the houses set back.  I started in there before they were built, those houses.  It was about 1947/48 when they were built and I dug all that ground out right up behind West Avenue.  Took all this clay out of that - it was fireclay - ganister.  It used to go to places like Wicksteed Engineering and those sort of places and all over the world.  It was bagged up dry.  It was used for re-lining furnaces - little furnaces - and they burn scrap and after every charge they chip the lining off so this ganister plastered it back in. 

Then I did a little bit of lorry driving.  Why I came out the mine was I started courting in about 1943.  I was living in Finedon and she was living down Burton and we met and courted four and a half years.  She wouldn’t marry me while I was in the mines.  So that’s why I came out of the mines then in 1947 and we got married in 1948.  Then I stopped with Grays that little while.  I did a bit there then I went up Sidegate Lane and drove a dragline for Stewarts and Lloyds, where the Wellingborough tip is now. 


I had four years up there and then I’d had enough so one Friday night I got on my bike, went back round Irthlingborough to see if I could get a job down the mines again.  I never told Lois till I got home.  I’d had enough, I’d been in a quarry four years and I didn’t like the quarry, I liked mining the best.  I liked mining – a dirty, filthy job but I liked it.  I went back to Irthlingborough and then they started plaguing me for a deputy certificate – a foreman.  I’m in charge!  Totally in charge, management haven’t got a say at all.  You’re in charge if you’ve got a district.  I said, “No, I’ve got enough to do to look after myself, keep me safe without looking after anybody else.”  Me and my mate I keep them safe.  Anyway they plagued me and plagued me and at the finish I said, “Yes”.  The manager came to me one day and said that they were going to start a class so would I come in?  It was another feather in my cap.  A class was like a night school for being deputy.  You couldn’t just be a deputy it is a government registration.  You had to be tested by the government before you could get a licence.  I went to this class - never got paid.  It was night school but it was all out of my pocket.  I went for six months to this class at night school and I took my deputy’s certificate on the Tuesday.  The examiner came on the Tuesday, this was about 1961, and it was taken underground.  I had five exams in one day and I didn’t get paid for that day but I had to pay for the examiner to come.  I went to work on the Wednesday and the mines manager was there down the bottom of the steps.  We used to go down steps there –147 steps between Finedon and Irthlingborough down in the mine bottom.  You had to get up 147 steps at the end of a day’s work.  The manager called me and he said, “Where are you going?”  I said, “I’m going to work.”  “You’re not”, he said, “Not at the face - you’re deputy today”.  I said, “You won’t know for a fortnight because you won’t get the results for a fortnight.”  He said, “You’ve passed.”  I was the deputy from that moment.  I’d be responsible for a maximum of 30 people but it depended on where you were and whether you’d got many hand miners or whether it was all machinery or what.  I said, “Which district have I got.”  He said, “The one you were working in yesterday.”  So I’d got to take charge of my own men and I knew what they were doing wrong.  It nearly drove me mad for six months but I managed it. A deputy’s job was a lonely job you know. 


When I was made deputy I used to get there for 6 o’clock in the morning, go down the mines.  I’d leave Finedon so I’d get there at 6 o’clock.  Down the steps I’d go all on my own, nobody else in the mine at all.  Find the tractor that had got to go down district, sort that out, ride up the mains, right into Burton underground on the tractor, checking the roof and that on the main as I went.  Noticing if there were any little falls or anything like that.  You had to fill forms in a soon as you got down the bottom of the steps.  You used to go in the little office and fill a form in and book in so that they knew where you were.  Take barometer readings and put them down every day.  Then I’d get to the district, check one pump to see that it was still working, next pump I’d check, still working and then I’d come out almost to Finedon Nature Reserve.  There was a big pump just inside there and I’d check that it was working.  Then I would go back out of there and then come back up into Burton Latimer.  I used to have to sign then.  There was a board there so you put your initials on and the date and they would know that you’d been there.  I used to walk every heading I’d got.  That’s all on your own.  Your men hadn’t arrived then.  Lots of responsibility.  Every working face you put your initials and the date on the working face so the moment they took that first blast, that came off.  So the men would go up there and they would see that date and they would know I had been.  Then of course I had to say whether it was satisfactory and do a pre-shift report.  There was just the initial training to do the job.  If I wanted to go any higher I would have had to go to university.  I couldn’t get any higher underground without going to university.  I was down the mines from 6 am till 7.45 am before the men got there.  All on my own.  There were different areas.  There were four more areas there with different people but I didn’t see them.  When the men weren’t at work the mine just didn’t stand there – one deputy had to go round every day to check the pumps.  So you didn’t get a day off.  So if it was my turn to go round on a Sunday I would go down there Sunday morning, check all the pumps round – right round the whole mine for that, walking.  It would take about four hours - all on your own.  There was nobody else at all in that mine only you.  Then you would come out, ring up outside on the surface where there was a phone down the steps.  Ring them up and tell them you had just been round and was going home.  They knew you were out then.  When you got down there on a Sunday morning you used to ring up to tell them you were in.  I’d say which way I was going round so if anything happened and I didn’t get there they’d know where they were going to track you.   There were lines underground to the phone.  It wasn’t BT, it was our own phone system. If the mine had been shut up for a holiday week, I would have to check it all.  The pumps would have been looked at every day and we would share that between us.  There were about five deputies. 


This was all Burton stone that I was working in.  I used to go half way in the fields at Irthlingborough to go down underground then come back in where Black Lodge is (on the A6) opposite there, all down those fields there.  I used to come back to there underground.  So I used to go all that way and then come back underground.  It was all Burton Latimer stone that I was getting, it was a new district.  It was always known as Burton Latimer ironstone although the district was called Finedon M.   It was in Burton Latimer parish.  I’d got 13 headings there.  Headings were tunnels all being driven.  They are still there – they can’t fill them up.  There are miles of tunnels out there.  The Finedon tunnels were open for years and children got into them.  They are all blocked off now.  Those mines belonged to Neilsens years ago.  They were all shut up and they got into the mines.  Disused mines they were because they ran along the back of Finedon, top of Summerley Road.  They caved in one year at the football pitch.  The collapse of the Volta Tower was reckoned to be caused by the big diggers rocking the rock, when they were blasting the rock, loosening it.

I drove another tunnel out from underground from the A6 out to Finedon Nature Reserve.  I put one tunnel out there.  That was when I was at the face before I went deputy I did it.  My dad did one in 1938, brought one in.  That went through there right round to Irthlingborough underground from the Nature Reserve out there.  We put another one out in 1958 down the side of it out into the quarry.  They said that you’re nearly out now we’re going to put a shelter up outside so that you are under a quarry bank.  I said that you’re not putting it up for me.  I said that I’d take it out but I’m not going to bring it in.  So I took it out and drove rivets through and out into the quarry.  I wasn’t going to work underneath a bank with a shelter up.  I was putting rings in every eighteen inches as I was going when I was driving to hold the roof up.  It was bad ground down that way. The roof was a bit tender so I used to put these steel rings in every eighteen inches and put packing on top to hold it all up.   As you advanced then you put more rings in.  I think I got a shilling for each one I put in.  I still had to get a living out of it.


You always get that sort of thing but you had to put them right.  Its no good saying “I think that’s all right”.  You’ve got to know it’s all right.  If you want a prop under it you need props.  You were always in danger of roof falls but you make yourself safe all the while.  You’ve got to do your own safety and the deputy looks after you as well.  If he says that you need a prop up there or whatever then you’ve got to do it.  You see you are over the area.  The managers can’t come in and direct the men anywhere.  I’m the one that says what they do and where to go.  If you are the deputy you are in sole charge but if you had an accident, I’d be the one gone to court.  Not the boss.  It was nothing to do with him – it was me going to court.  You were on your own as a deputy, lonely job you know. 


I stayed there until it finished in September 1965.  I was the last one out of the mine.  Then I stopped there and took all the heavy machinery and heavy rails out and all the compressors.   I took out, rectifiers and all things like that and all the main rails right out all the way.  It went for scrap.   I was the last one out which obviously I would be because I was taking the rails out.  Then under all the roads they were filled up.  It’s only under the roads that have been filled.  When we filled under the roads we built a brick wall about four feet thick up from floor to ceiling and put pipes in  - 14 or 15 four inch pipes – for a water balance and then we pushed the loaded trucks in underneath and filled round them.  So that all under the road there’s trucks.  Then they built another wall to stop it coming out.  That’s all built under the roads.  There were eleven places I think built under the roads all told in Irthlingborough.  The A6, of course, both sides of Finedon they have got them and the New Road at Irthlingborough.  The Burton bypass just missed them.  They worked that off the plans I had made up because I had to make plans up.  Every week I had to draw the plans where I’d got to.  Every Friday I used to measure each edging up and enter it on the plan so that it was up to date all the while.  They missed them because they put two trial holes down off the plans I’d made.  They put a camera down one and a light down another and shone it along the trench, like underneath.   I thought,  “I used to work there.”  It looked a wet, mucky hole.  I asked Mr Pack, I asked him.  He was the surveyor, he was only an old boy when I first knew him, and then when the surveyor got old and left he took his job.  He goes out doing slide shows for Irthlingborough mines but he’s never worked in them.  The edging job had to be straight.  You had the surveyor come in when you wanted.  He used to come with his theodolite and put a spud in the ceiling like a little peg with a little cut on it.  You’d pin point it and then you’d put another one about four foot away.  Then you had to line those two strings with a bit of stone on the bottom.  You had to use string, like a plumb bob.  You had to string. You couldn’t use wire or anything like that.  The string used to rot every so often because of the wet and damp.  We used to line these two strings up with a man right down at the working face with a carbide light.  He would hold it; you’d line these two strings up and tell him to move whichever way until you’d get it in line with the two strings and that was the centre you’d be driving to.  You couldn’t wander off your line - you had to keep to that.  And when he got too far, Mr Pack used to come in and he would move the spuds a bit closer.  Everything was driven dead straight. 

Burton Latimer area was wet.  It was a wet hole.  One of my headings we never got down.  I had two men driving that in the afternoons and we were going down one in three feet.  We’d got a haulage on it and every time they loaded the wagon the water was pouring in.  The pumps were working down there pumping up to a pond.  The ponds are still there.  One of my men was 65, Stan Ireson, and deaf as a post and a young lad, Jack Judson, was a cripple.  We took all the gear out.  The generators weighed seven or eight ton each.  I took those three out.  We had a ramp and we had to lower them down on to the floor and then tow them out on to the main.  We put them on rollers and around two or three bends to get to the main.  Then we lifted them up where there was more height and put the bogey underneath.  You were limited to height.

The main air shaft I filled in with a digger.  It took me three days.  I had to work from morning to night on that, dusk to dawn, because once I knocked the top off there was a big hole where the air shaft was.  It was fifteen feet across where the fan stood on the top.  When that went off it had got to be filled up.  It took me three days to fill it in with a digger.  Once I’d knocked the top off I had to finish it.  I daren’t leave it open.  There were two air shafts and I filled both of them in.

One place in Irthlingborough years ago when I first started there you could smell oil.  It was in the air.  You couldn’t see it but sometimes you could see it glisten in the joints of the rock.  It used to smell awful when you got that.  It was a filthy job but I liked it. 


When the mines closed I was about the only one they didn’t sack.  I left the mines at Irthlingborough but they never finished me.  They sent me to Blisworth, under-manager of a quarry.  Mr Arthur Arnold, who lived in Burton, he was the manager there but he was coming due for retirement and I was going to be the manager of that quarry.  Richard Thomas owned it.  Then it closed and British Steel, or whatever they called it, came into being.  They started closing these places.  Blisworth was one they closed up.  They came and offered me jobs.  I could either go to Wales or I could go to Scunthorpe.  I said tell you what – I’m not going anywhere.  They said that they had no more work in the area and if you go and start at Stewarts and Lloyds, Corby – this was about 1968/69 – they are closing in 1980.  They knew then that it would close.  My manager told me that, so he said that if I start there I would be so much older and I’d still need to get another job.  This was Easter of that year – 1968.  He sent a car to fetch me in from Blisworth to Irthlingborough, Pine Trees office. We had a discussion and I said, “I’m not going to Wales and I’m not going to Scunthorpe” so I said, “I’m going to leave.”  He said, “When do you want to leave?”  I said, “I’m not going to come to Blisworth another winter.”  I said, “I’ll leave end of October.”  So I picked my time when I would finish.  I was driving over to Blisworth with Arthur Arnold.  They’d got a house there for me.  I was on the point of moving.  I was living in Alexandra Street and on the point of moving out there.  I’d got a farmhouse that they’d just done up.  It had about fourteen rooms I think.  It was a big one.  Anyway I was lucky because I hadn’t gone.

All the area is closed down now.  I thought about signing on when I left Blisworth quarry.  I thought I’d had no time off.  I’d worked seven days a week for years so I thought I wouldn’t look for anywhere before Christmas.  If they wanted Sunday work doing I had to go in to get my Sunday work done because you couldn’t put any men in unless you were there.  If you only had two men, I had to be there.  I didn’t get overtime – I was on the staff.  It was to keep the men happy.  They liked a bit of overtime.  If you’d got a happy gang you’d got a happy mine.  I was paid seven days a week and 52 weeks a year.  We didn’t get any holidays.  When I left Blisworth they said that I had no money to come as I was on the staff.  “If you want to leave in the middle of October you can and we’ll pay you to the end.“ So that’s what I did.  I remember one day we were sitting in the kitchen and I’d had a bit of a difficult day.  We were in an area that they call ‘robbing’.   After the stone had been cut up into little bits we used to take the whole lot of rock out as much as we could get out before it collapsed.  We were taking all of it out until the props started creaking and you stopped in there as long as you could till the deputy said, “Right, that’s enough.”  If the roof came down on the little pillars that were holding it up, it used to crush the rock then you would keep picking it up because it wasn’t costing you anything to get it.   So we used to do a little bit of risking.  I’d had a bad day when the props were popping and cracking and groaning and bits kept falling and I was sitting having my dinner and Lois dropped a knife or a fork on the floor and I jumped.  She said, “I should think you’ll soon come out those mines.”  I’d had a bad day and it was tender.  Sometimes you would pull one prop and the whole lot would come down so I’d been on edge all day.  That was life – exciting wasn’t it?  Cliff Allen worked as a team blasting the rock out and some Italians used to pick it up.  ‘Red’ Carvell worked on a loading machine, he wasn’t actually a miner as such but he worked at the face on a compressed air loading machine.  I don’t know of anybody else locally.  I started so young and at my age now they are all gone.  There is nobody who would have worked down Islip, Irthlingborough or Finedon mines left. 


That was the end of me with the mines.  I went to work for A P Lewis’s then.  I drove a digger and lorry for them until I retired.  Never liked it.  I did like the mines. Mucky, filthy job and it was hard work but I was fit then.  You had your own mates there but when you are in charge you had to be boss of all of them.   A deputy was a lonely job.  Marching about down there all on your Jack Jones.  I enjoyed it.  There were a lot of tunnels down there.  I wouldn’t mind going down there now but I wouldn’t be capable of doing the work. 

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