A NEW DVD has pulled together rare archive footage that explores what it meant to work in the North East’s coalfield.
The DVD is a personal trip down memory lane for John Dawson, secretary of Northumberland-based local history group Six Townships, who put together the film.
Mr Dawson is an ex-miner himself and was badly injured in blasting accident, when a coal blast sent a shard of rock into his leg.
“I was clearing out for a blast but they didn’t leave enough time,” said Mr Dawson, of Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland.
“When I heard the blast go I stood still, because of all the dust you couldn’t see in front of you even with your lamp.
“Suddenly I felt my leg twitch and I thought, ‘What’s going in here?’ I put my hand to the back of my leg and it was covered in bits of flesh.
“My mate was saying, ‘You’re joking, John’, but when I showed him my hand, he passed out on me. A bit of the blast rock had gone in at my buttock and come out at the knee, it had pretty much ripped my leg open.”
Mr Dawson added: “I hobbled up to where I could lie down and the other men were taking off their shirts for bandages. It took nearly two hours to get me out of the pit. I didn’t think I’d get out alive, I was losing so much blood.”
But despite the dangers and the back-breaking work, what Mr Dawson really remembers is the camaraderie of the pit and the pride of working hard for a living.
“I followed my father down the pit, and I worked with my brother,” said Mr Dawson. “I worked with my father-in-law at one point too. You were proud of doing those things.
“It was great craick as well. There was a lot of cameraderie, people looked out for each other.
“It was really, really hard graft. You don’t see that sort of thing now. There’s no manual work now the mines and shipyards have gone.” The DVD, available to buy or free to schools, shows former collieries around Northumberland and County Durham including Seaham, Lambton, Blaydon Burn, Westoe, Ashington, Stobswood and Ellington.
The archive footage shows miners being lowered into the pit, travelling along the coal face, and crouched deep underground, hewing out the coal.
Machinery such as shearers, continuous miners and face conveyor belts are also shown, as well as footage of coal blasting.
Also making an appearance are the much-loved pit ponies, who used to haul coat out from the coal face, and footage of their final retirement.
Mr Dawson’s history group have produced a series of films documenting aspects of the North East’s history, such as transport, shipbuilding and mining disasters.
The Collieries of Northumberland and Durham DVD is available to order online at www.sixtownships.org.uk priced at £5.99.
It took nearly two hours to get me out of the pit. I didn’t think I’d get out alive