A Day in a Miners Life

(from Picture Post 18th Feb. 1939)

Portrait of a Miner: One of the 750,000 in this County.

Tommy Shotton is a coal miner. He lives in the small colliery village of Greenside, seven miles from Newcastle. He is working on the night-shift from midnight to 8am. His life is typical of that of many thousands of British coal miners.

Tommy Shotton

Symbol of Coal Mining: The shaft with its great wheels.

Wherever coal is mined you see them. Over the wheels passes the cable carrying the cage - in which the miners descend hundreds of feet below the surface to dig out the debris of ancient forests.

Mine Shaft Wheel

The Start of his Night's Work: The Miner calls for his safety lamp.

First task for Tommy Shotton when he reports for work at midnight is to collect a token which he strings round his neck - identification in case of accident. Then he collects his safety lamp - most valuable invention in the whole of mining history.

Safety Lamp

Waiting to go Below:

A chat and a last smoke before the buzzer which summons them below. The man crouching is doing it for comfort - the result of his cramped work. The miners' crouch eases stomach muscles.

Waiting to go Below

500ft. Below Ground he Comes Out of the Cage:

The 500ft. journey has taken them only a few seconds. Over 100 men are working on the night shift. As they leave the cage their places are taken by the stone-men who have been blasting away the stone so that the miners can get at the coal.

Coming out of the Cage

The Men Make the Journey to the Seam in Tubs:

A set - a series of ten tubs - carries the men to the seams, until the roof becomes too low for further travel. They cover the rest of the way at a crouched walk. The whole mine is a network of passages radiating out from the shaft, following the seams of coal.

Journey to the Seam

The Deputy Assigns Them Their Positions:

At the junction of two seams the men meet the deputy. he has been here two hours already. His has the responsible task of seeing that the proper air supply is being received and that there is no risk of subsidence.

Deput Assigns their Positions

The Deputy Makes Out his Report:

By the light of a safety lamp Mr. Clough, the deputy, has written up his report. Every miner is free to examine this report before he goes to his appointed place.

Deput Makes his Report

The Coal Miner at Work:

One of the chief sources of our national wealth and greatness. Surrounded by steel props which support the roof, crouched into a few feet of space, Tommy Shotton gets down his job of drilling coal from the face with the aid of his 'windy pick' (pneumatic drill). Mechanization in British mines has already increased. In 1937, 57 percent of the total output was cut by machinery compared with only 13 percent in 1920. 51 percent was dealt with by mechanical conveyors and loaders underground.

The Putter and His Pony:

The putter with his pony and tubs are the intermediary between the endless belt conveyor, which works right up at the face and the giant hauler which drags the sets of tubs to the shaft bottom.

Putter and His Pony

The Putter Loads a Tub:

Coal from the face travel 90 yards along the mechanical conveyor to be loaded into tubs by the putter. before the tubs are pulled away by his pony, he marks each tub with a token so that it will be credited to the men who hewed it.

Putter Loads a Tub

The 250hp Haulier Winds the Tubs in:

Each of the tubs holds half a tun of coal. it takes eight minutes for the coal to come from the hewer to the tubs. Four tubs at a time are pulled by the pony to the point where the giant hauler can drag them to the shaft bottom.

Hauler Winds Tubs in

Bait Time:

500 feet below the surface the coal miners eat their simple meal. Water and bread and jam was their meal. No miner eats much underground. The crouching position in which the men must work causes heartburn if the stomach is full. Nothing fried is ever eaten down below (or just before going down below).

Bait Time

The Night Shift on its Way Home:

Just after eight o'clock sees the night shift on its way home. Other men have taken their places at the face. at many mines there are not pit head baths and the men bathe and change before going home. On others they still have to take their bath at home.

Night Shift on its way home

A Rest by the Fire Before his Bath:

A bath, then food, then sleep. Waiting for his bath the miner takes up his natural position - the crouch, ether on his hells or on a low seat.

Rest by the Fire

Washed and Clean the Miner gets his Breakfast:

After the bath comes breakfast. then Tommy goes to bed for four hours. he gets up for dinner - his main meal of the day - them goes to bed again for another four hours. this arrangement leaves the evening free for social life, which the Greenside is divided between 'The Pack Horse' and the Greenside Institute.

Miner gets his Breakfast

Social Life:

Evening in the institute. The Institute is a centre sponsored by the mining company and run by a committee elected by miners. Here the men play games and read.

Social Life

Before he Starts Again:

The work side by side below ground, meet face to face over the chess board.

Before he Starts Again