Walking in my dad’s footsteps

Since my recent visit to the coalmine in Pleasley where my dad worked as an electrician for about ten years in the 1950’s, he has been constantly in my mind. As a small child, I never realised or gave much thought as to where he went to work or what his job entailed.

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I only knew that sometimes he wasn’t there when I woke up in the morning, and at other times, we had to be quiet because he’d been on ‘night shift’ and was having a few hours’ sleep in the daytime, before going to tend to the allotment which was his pride and joy. I was aware that he brought home a pay packet every Friday, which mom used to manage, to make sure that all the bills got paid, and there was usually a bit left over for the holiday fund and our ‘Saturday Sixpence’ pocket money. Children’s carefree years aren’t usually burdened with the cares and worries of their parents, and so I believe far too much is just taken for granted.

It was a fine summer’s day when Mark, my friend Marilyn’s son took me on my first ever visit to Pleasley Pit. I was very curious to see what it looked like, but totally unprepared for the feelings it would stir in my mind. Here I was, almost sixty years later walking in my dad’s footsteps underneath that towering pit head.

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Pleasley Colliery was first sunk in the 1870’s and produced coal until 1983. It was one of the last collieries to close down. It was declared an ‘Ancient Monument’ in 1996, and has since been developed as a mining heritage centre and nature reserve. The museum is staffed entirely by a dedicated group of volunteers. Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, showed us around the museum, explaining all the exhibits there.

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Here are just a few of the things we saw. (Click any picture to see the gallery)

Mark knew that one of his relatives had died in a rock fall accident in the 1930’s and we found the record of his death in a handwritten book there. It was very moving to read about some of the terrible mining accidents which had robbed families of their loved ones, and I remembered how my mom was always worried when she heard the pit siren sound whilst my dad was at work.

This is the way my dad would have come into work every day. Nowadays it’s nicely brick paved, but then it was just a dirt track.

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Looking from the colliery site we had a good view of the area where I used to live. Of course those windmills weren’t there then.

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Afterwards, we went for refreshments at the little mine cafΓ©, and I was served hot chocolate by Graham, who used to live just a few doors away from me and attended the same school as my sister and I. Of course he had aged quite a bit since I last saw him in short pants. Afterwards,we thanked Tom profusely, before leaving for a walk around the nature reserve.

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As we meandered along the path, admiring the wild flowers, birds and man-made lakes, I couldn’t help wishing my dad was there with me to see the change. He really wouldn’t recognise it as the same place that he had dreaded going to work at all those decades ago.

My visit into the past was a very moving experience indeed, and I’m so glad I was able to see where my dad worked. As I stood there, I was thinking how I’d love to have him back again even if just for a few moments, to tell him how much I appreciate everything he did for our family. “Thanks so much, Dad!”

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As I was standing there, a little bird told me that my gratitude was received with gladness.

As I stood there thinking of my dad, a little bird told me that my gratitude had been received with gladness.

Β 

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95 comments on “Walking in my dad’s footsteps

  1. Such a moving post. Thank you for sharing this with us. And – thank you for including a picture of your dad. What a handsome fellow he was.
    May your dad continue to rest in peace.
    {Hugs}

  2. Such a well written description of what life was like back then Sylvia. It brought back many memories for me. Neighbours all knew each other and supported each other when the need arose. Unlike today when often you do not know more than the people living on each side of you and sometimes not even them. I’m sure your Dad was looking over your shoulder as you went around the Colliery.

    • Thanks for reading, Pauline. Yes, that’s just how it was in those days. We seemed happy with very little then, whereas in today’s world, people want more and more ‘stuff’, and then they still aren’t happy.

      • I agree, life seemed to be so easy going back in our child hood, I feel sorry for this generation they have so many material things but many of them seem to miss out in the pure joy of child hood

  3. What a great way to get to know your father better even when he’s not there! Love that you cared enough to do that and love that you seemed to come out of it with such good feelings!

  4. a beautiful tribute to your Dad, Sylvia. πŸ™‚ such a priceless journey tracing his footsteps. what a humbling experience to be able to go back in time with wonderful memories. and for you to have refreshments with Graham is precious too. thank you very much for sharing, hugs πŸ™‚

  5. I’m sure your dad was with you on your journey back in time, Sylvia. What hard and dangerous work. Must be bittersweet to go back, see and walk on the same ground where he worked for so many years. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  6. What great memories you have! I could not help but laugh at the “swear box” idea – these days swearing is just taken for granted. Some things were so much better in yesteryear.

  7. Oh this is so lovely and moving Sylvia, and I loved how you ended it with your message for your dad and little bird turning up to reassure you πŸ™‚ It is always so bittersweet to go back, as we have both recently shared, and I’m so glad you got to take this trip back to where your dad worked all those years ago. Thinking too of your mum and how she managed the weekly pay packet with just enough left over for small treats and a holiday. Things are so very different today, I agree with you that far too much is taken for granted. A lovely story and photographs to go with it. Have a great weekend Sylvia πŸ™‚ xx

  8. Such a lovely post Sylvia! I am sure your dad was right there beside you and was so proud to have you walk where he might have walked. I am sure the little bird was there to show he was.

    Take care and regards,
    GAIL

  9. What a lovely tribute to your Dad Sylvia. He obviously worked very hard under challenging conditions. How special that you could visit this spot where he spent so much time.

  10. Thanks for bringing us along on this interesting and emotional journey. I remember the clocking in cards from my first summer job in a factory. I was in charge of checking them πŸ™‚ How life has changed. It was much harder in many ways those days.

  11. I believe birds do give us messages. When I sent one of my stories to “Guideposts” magazine, they mentioned that angels can be birds or spirits in animal bodies, according to different interpretations. I wanted to tell you I have a cardinal message story. You csn find it using the right hand column tags on my blog. On a quiet, non-busy day, you can read it sometime by pressing “cardinal.”
    I reallyliked reading about your father. He was a good, hard working man. So glad you respected his sleep by tiptoeing around. This was cool how all the photos were given explanstion. I liked the sepia brown photo of your Dad as a young man, I hope I have this right. You had a lot of valuable history in this post about the coal mines and the men who were coal miners. I love how you mention carefree days of childhood. I think it is important for parents to help preserve some of this, even today. Children deserve to keep their innocence and for me, it was penny candy, climbing trees and playing with neighbor kids πŸ™‚

  12. You’ve nearly got me in tears Sylvia, this is so moving. What a nostalgic time you spent in England this year. I’m so glad to see this mine preserved for the future, its good to know where we come from.

    • Oh dear, I’m sorry Gilly. Here’s a tissue. It’s a fresh one. πŸ™‚ Yes, I really did lay to rest a few ghosts on this visit back home. It was a marvellous trip, and one I will never forget. πŸ™‚

  13. Very moving. I find it very sad seeng old industrial landscapes, and have conflicting feelings. On the one hand, it must have been an awful job to have to do. On the other, destroying heavy industry tore the heart out of the country. If this is the Pleasley I think it is, we used to live near there (Mansfield) in the early 80s.

    • Thanks, Annabel. Yes it’s your Pleasley. When my dad left the colliery and went to work at the Metal Box, we moved up to Racecourse Road just off Southwell Road. Mansfield has changed so much for the better since i lived there. I was amazed.

  14. A really moving recollection and one close to my heart since my two grandfathers spent their lives down the pit and after starting in the pit himself my father emigrated to avoid it. How wonderful that you were able to return and that the pit itself had been preserved – you convey how that made you feel so perfectly. The photos help a lot too. I bet your father knew how much you would appreciate his hard life one day.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your story too. It was a hard life for those men. I’m so glad that thanks to my mom’s thriftiness, my parents could eventually afford to buy their own house, and my dad got away from mine work. :)finally got out

  15. What a marvelous stroll through memory lane you must have had. It was great to get to go along with you! Thank you for sharing this bit of background with us.

  16. This was a most loving and moving story Sylvia – your father would have been very proud to know that his daughter cared so much to walk back in time to understand the working steps he took. Really wonderful ~

  17. What a wonderful and moving story.
    The factory, in Holland, where my Dad worked no longer exists, but I had been inside it before we emigrated. I can still picture it.

  18. What a lovely nostalgic post Sylvia. So nice that you were able to do this and remember those days with your dad. As children we just took it all for granted didn’t we, but then it should be like that. No cares, no responsibility. I think kids today grow up far too soon and start worrying about things far too early. I’m with you and Adrian. Thank you for sharing this, I enjoyed reading it. My own father came from a mining family, but he escaped having to go down the pit, so I didn’t have to live with those fears.

    • Thanks so much, Jude. How fortunate that your dad didn’t have to go down the pit. I think my dad hated it. I know that he was brought up in a very ‘refined’ sort of family in Indonesia, so it was quite a culture shock for him to find himself amongst the ‘rough and ready’ miners.

  19. They needed those cartoons and a bit of a laugh to take their mind off work, Ad. It must have been a horrible life underground. My stepdad came from the collieries and joined the Merchant Navy to avoid going down the pit. Glad it made you feel close to your Dad. How long has he been dead? I love your little blackbird ending πŸ™‚ Hugs, darlin’.

  20. i have chills!!!! your pictures conjure up my own childhood ? since i lived surrounded my steel mills . i really enjoyed your pics, and your journey, i can well imagine the feelings that went through you. its one thing to think and remember ..but to actually visit after so many years…. yes i have chills, my arm hair is standing on end.

  21. These photos truly take me back in time, So very priceless especially the memories that they must bring back for everyone who has seen these in operation in the past πŸ™‚

  22. What an incredible day that must have been for you Sylvia. Things were so different then. Your sixpence pocket money took me back. I remeber having thrupence which used to buy me a bag of crisps and a few other sweets.. We managed with less but I think on balance we were probably happier. Computers and mobile phones and countless gadgets are robbing the young of their childhoods in many ways I think. Can you imagine kids today being packed off in the summer holidays with a sandwhich and a drink and being told to be back in time for tea.. we were frequently late of course having spent the day exploring the woods, following streams. No need to be texting Mum every five minutes to let her know we were safe.. she knew we were although looking back, we did get up to some fairly risky stuff.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks for reading, Adrian. I believe that we probably started off with thrupence, which over time escalated to sixpence. πŸ™‚ Nostalgic memories of our childhood days. I don’t think that kids these days know what it’s like to have a real childhood, with all the electronic gadgets they rely on for entertainment. Going ‘out to play’ was the order of the day, and as you say, the only stipulation was that we be back in time for tea. πŸ™‚

  23. How interesting to go back into the past and visit the place where your dad spent so much of his time. It certainly looks like an interesting place to visit.

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