Alan France Shares a Few of His Mining Memories

Posted on by Melanie Charlton

What’s your name? Alan France

What do you do at the museum? Talking Pictures, Walking team, meeting & greeting

Tell us a bit more about what that involves? Selecting photos from the museum collection for use in exhibitions. Planning heritage walks in the vicinity of the museum. 

How long have you volunteered at the Museum for? 1 year

What made you want to volunteer? Because my wife said I had to! 

Tell us about your life before volunteering at the Museum? Colliery electrician...37 years. Chiropodist, Delivery Driver, retired person 

What do you enjoy most about your role? Everything!! Bringing the mine to life for visitors by explaining how the mine worked and what exhibits were used for. 

Can you tell us an interesting fact or something surprising that you have discovered or learnt, whilst volunteering at the Museum? Developing the art of communication with visitors from different backgrounds, a new skill I have learnt.

The people who are running the museum are doing a wonderful job, more could be done for the museum to reach its full potential If only funds were available. 

Short Stories

Mining is about people and a way of life, not just a job. A cruel sense of humour existed amongst miners and an ability to laugh in the face of adversity. None other than being a fresh faces 15yr old apprentice electrician straight out of school!! 

As I remember it…if you said you weren’t going to do something you found yourself on the floor with a boot stuck in your chest and then you did it! I spent many a time with a broom handle shoved through my overall sleeves, or suspended by my belt on the end of a crane hook, or even stretched between two vices with my overall sleeves firmly clamped – just for the electrician’s amusement. 

Probably the best one was when I had to accompany the electrician who had the job of removing debris from some overhead power lines crossing a steep hillside.

The ladder was rested some 20ft up in the air against the power line. Up I went and with every step I took, the ladder moved down the line until there were only a few inches left of it on the line. Every time that I stretched out to grab the debris, the ladder moved closer to disaster. Encouraged by the electrician who was shouting how useless I was, I finally succeeded and beat a hasty retreat back down the ladder…or as fast as my jelly like legs would let me! 

Welcome to the world of mining. 

Father and Son

Generations from the same family worked in the same mine, at the same time and not always harmoniously. I remember old Sammy, a grisly old chap and his modern day son Paul. When they had fallen out at work Sammy would catch the bus home and Paul would drive straight past him at the bus stop, no matter what the weather. Paul would never have stopped Sammy would never have got in, but would always mutter something derogatory about his bone idle son, On a good day they never talked to each other anyway! 

Mad Max the under manager - the lighter side of mining 

Sometimes men would sneak out of the pit early for a crafty cig before getting showered. It was the under managers prerogative to stop them some money if he caught them. The men has an understanding with Max that he couldn’t stop their time without catching them in a game of off ground ‘tigs’. A bizarre sight watching miners chasing about calling each other childish names. 

To find out more about volunteering at the museum, please visit our opportunities page.

Posted in Volunteering

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