My Life As A Miner at North Skelton Pit

by Bill Templeman

I was born in 1917 and on leaving school I applied for a job at Loftus Co-Op as a cobbler’s assistant, but unfortunately for me, the manager’s son got the job. As there was very little work available at the time, my next objective was to try to find work at the Mine.
The manager then was Mr Bill Morley. I was frightened to death of him, as was everyone else he came into contact with! He had a voice like thunder and in those days, men like that were masters of all they surveyed. There were Tom Ransom, Jack Forbes and R Dunstan who were all ‘overmen’ – you daren’t put a foot wrong or else you got the sack.
I will never forget going into the office for my interview with Mr Morley – he bellowed at me, “There aren’t any jobs left for yer! What did yer say they called yer?”
I replied with a trembling voice, “Bill Templeman, sir!”
“TEMPLEMAN!” he shouted, “the bloody pit’s full of Templeman’s!” After a short pause he said, “Yer can start on Monday and don’t be late!”
I started at the pit as a ‘shover-round’, pushing tubs into different shunts which was really hard work for such a little lad like me – I was 14 years old, it was 1931 and for 5 shifts I received the princely sum of 5 shillings and 4 pence (27p).
I eventually progressed to ‘driving horses’. We had 109 horses down the pit and I was in charge of 4 of them – they were really good mates. We had names for them all, mine were ‘Nimbus’, ‘Sam’, ‘Dover’ and ‘Una’. They were beautiful animals and I honestly loved them all. I would take them apples and pies from home for a treat and they repaid me with all their hard work. Mind you, when they were straining to pull the tubs back onto the tracks they would often break wind so we’d run straight for cover!
My next job was at the pit bottom running full tubs into the cages. I’d like to point out that we only got a 15 minute break for our ‘bait’ (packed lunch) in those days. ‘Buck’ (Alf) Templeman was in charge at the pit bottom and he was a very conscientious worker.
When World War II was declared, being with the 4th Battalion, Green Howards Territorials I was immediately called up. I was 22 years old and ‘Ma’ (Harriet) was expecting a baby at the time. The shock of finding out that two of her sons, me and George, had to go to war started her into labour! My sister, Cynthia, was born that very same day, 3rd September 1939.
Both George and I were sent to Moreton-in-Marsh and were then transferred to France at Christmas. I returned from Dunkirk to find out I shouldn’t have been sent in the first place as my job was a ‘reserved occupation’. George was in the same position as me but, unfortunately, he was taken prisoner and remained in Germany for the rest of the war.
When I returned to work at the Mine again Mr Wells, the manager at the time, said he was pleased to have me back. When some mechanical loaders came I was told I could learn to drive one. It was hard graft and you had to fill 100 tubs per day to earn a decent wage for your team of 4 men – 1 ‘hogger man’ (air line controller), 2 drillers and myself, the loader driver. Andrew Turnbull was the under-manager at that time and one of his many sayings was, “Now come on Bill, give it some bloody hammer, it hasn’t got a mother and father yer know!” When he got frustrated, which was on many occasions, he would throw whatever he had in his hands at the time up into the old workings and then he would have to go and retrieve them – it takes a bit of working out why he did it.
Then in 1954 I was severely crushed by a roof-fall. I suffered a smashed pelvis and internal injuries which kept me in hospital for 19 weeks. When I eventually returned to work I was given ‘light duties’. I was sent into the lamp cabin repairing lamps until I recovered sufficiently to go back down the mine where I then learned to drive small haulage engines. I finished up driving the pit-bottom winding engine which had 4 big drums – 2 east and 2 west – which controlled the entire pit. I continued with this job until the very sad day in 1964 when North Skelton Mine finally closed down. I was given the princely sum of 100 for my services, hard work and suffering. They were the good old days – or so they say.
But the mine was a source for character building – I did meet many good friends and was proud to be part of it all. Our ‘mine chatter’ would spill over into our recreation time, much of which was spent at North Skelton Institute (the ‘Tute). They were happy days of which I have very fond memories.

Bill Templeman, Easington

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