Voices in the Coalshed: Coal Queen
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Voices in the Coalshed: Coal Queen

Have you ever heard of a Coal Queen?

Just like other beauty contests, Coal Queen competitions judged girls on their glamourous looks in dresswear and swimwear and their hobbies and ambitions. These girls were usually the wives or daughters of employees in the mining industry. Local heats were held in the Miner’s Welfare Club, culminating with the regional finals at Miner’s Galas.

The first national competition was held in 1969 at Skegness Miners Holiday Centre.  Have any of our readers any recollections of these times and events?  According to one finalist it was, “absolutely fantastic occasion!”. The girls were met at Doncaster Station and went to Skegness by train. They were met by local dignitaries and Cresswell Brass Brand. They then rode to the Festival Hall on coal merchants’ floats watched by a crowd of 30,000! In 1969, the Coal Queen winner was crowned on the same throne as that used by Miss UK and Miss World.

Due to its popularity the competition was moved to Blackpool Tower in 1977 and it became a five-day event! The finalists were selected not only for their beauty but also for their level of knowledge of the coal industry. The winner became the ambassador for the Coal Industry over the next 12 months. She would travel across the country – opening Solid Fuel Advisory Shops, new Pithead Baths, attended Ideal Home Exhibitions and became involved in Safety Campaigns.

The rewards were high! In those times, most people had not even travelled to London, holidaying locally, with holidays abroad only for the very wealthy. Prizes for the first three winners included international holidays and spending money.  It is known that one lucky winner won her own body weight in Babycham (remember that?) for the year. The last competition was held in 1983 at Blackpool before the 1984/1985 strike.

It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who was one of our very own Coal Queen competitors with their recollections.

Written by Volunteer Lesley

Image: Rose McLauchlan, Westoe, Northumberland and National Coal Queen, 1969