Memories of Park Pit & Its Miners
by Les Haywood
As a child I remember the miners
who worked at Park Pit came from a wide area including such
places as Guisborough from where they would walk to work and back
each day. A few characters from Skelton who worked there were
Jack Haywood, Johnnie Bulmer, Charlie Jackson, and many more who
formed a tight-knit community. There was also Jack Snaith, the
blacksmith, and Herbert Bulmer who was cartage man
delivering clogs of wood to houses in the area.
In its heyday, safety at Park Pit was non-existent safety helmets hadnt been thought of and candles and carbide lamps were the main forms of lighting. The miners thought nothing about safety when they lit their clay pipes for a smoke, or failing that, theyd bite off a piece of tobacco and chew it. I remember each miner who smoked a clay pipe stuck it in the peak of his cap so he wouldnt break it in his pocket.
One of the favourite games us children would play at the pit was shoot the miner. We would cut a hollow stem from the hedge-back and then gather a handful of hawthorn berries (cathaws). Then wed wait for the cage coming up before shooting the berries at the miners as they emerged from the cage. Their language was anything but polite and we always had to make a run for it before they came charging down the steps, swearing and laughing at the same time. Wed sometimes think we were safe and would slow down to gather more ammunition. Suddenly, a huge hand would land on your shoulder and shake the living daylights out of you! Then he would give you a sandwich left from his bait box and a handful of carbide for your cycle lamp.
The miners who lived at Skelton Green used to walk to the allotments and empty the spent carbide from their lamps onto the gardens they used to think it was as good as lime.
When walking through the pit yard we always looked in the blacksmiths shop and would ask Mr Snaith if he would make us a hoop (booler). He never refused and would pretend to measure how tall you were so he knew how big to make it!
There was one phrase common to miners and it was off tack, which was a list of stoppages taken from their pay, a not too pleasant reading.
What did the miners find for pleasure you might ask? Well, they made their own. This was the time before TV and there were very few radios, so it was common to hear the chink, chink sounds coming from the grass plot in front of Prospect Place where there were several quoit pitches. Games were in progress from just after tea until around nine oclock when all became quiet as they all disappeared up to the New Inn for the last hour.
There also seemed to be a lot of musicians in those days out would come trumpets, accordions, banjos and other instruments as the miners enjoyed a musical evening outdoors. Some were members of the brass band which was always in big demand at local events.
Nearly everyone had a garden, often with a pig sty and a hen run. The exchange of plants for the gardens was a regular feature and not a penny ever changed hands.
Accidents at the pit varied from minor to serious, but nearly all were treated at the miners hospital on Boosbeck Road. Apart from those with serious injuries, most miners would be back at work still wearing their dressings they were frightened to stay off because if they did not work they got no pay.
Life in the pit was hard, but with great comradeship, the miners helped one another to get along. Was it a sad day to see the end of the pit? A few would say yes, but the majority shouted, Hooray!
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