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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Afterwards, we went for refreshments at the little mine café, 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.
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!”