More rape – of men, and coal

Court-martialled in World War II. For throwing an officer over the side (of a ship).

The father-in-law who I never knew, because he had died before I had even met my husband.

William was on the way to Dunkirk, and the said officer decided he wanted to have sex with him. Now, while there may be lots of rumours about sheep and sex in Wales (a bit like New Zealand) it seems my partner’s father was only interested in sex with women.

So he chucked the officer over the side. And the ship didn’t go back for him.

He fought at Dunkirk, survived, came back and was court-martialled and given two years imprisonment. He was of course, allowed out to fight, because he was also the regimental boxing champion.

This just illustrates the stupidity of some non-commissioned officers. Who in their right mind would attempt to shag a regimental boxing champion?

Not that William was in his right mind either. He was a coal miner, originally a coal hewer, and later a belt mender and fire officer. That was a good move because when everyone went on strike he didn’t have to, because of the safety aspects of his job.

But for some reason, despite being in an essential service that would have got him excluded from the second world war, he signed up.

On the other hand, my partner’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) was a conscientious objector. Jailed. Receive a white feather. Finally let out to go and be a stretcher bearer in the First World War. Whereupon he was gassed and had problems with his lungs ever since. (Anyone who wants to read about gassing in the FWW can nip over to roughseas where I added Wilfred Owen’s superb Dulce et Decorum Est to the poetry page).

He fell down in the snow and died of pneumonia because no-one found him. Aged not very old.

But back to the father-in-law who died before we met, he moved from South Wales to Aylesham, in Kent, UK.

Discussing this with my partner, he said it was a purpose-built village, created for the newly-made pit (colliery/mine) for all the people who had moved there. I looked it up on Wiki. It said… well, you can work it out. Exactly what my partner had said, which I thought was slightly impressive given that he was only there for a few years as a babe in arms.

He worked at Snowdown Colliery, maybe Betteshanger too. Kent coalfields are interesting. Betteshanger hosted the first biodynamic conference in the
UK back in 1939. It was the only pit to strike during WW2 and the last one to return to work after the 80s miners strike. It was hellish radical.

Pits are – or were – an integral part of life for people from South Wales, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Durham, Nottingham and Kent. Yes, there are others before any smarty-pants jumps on my back, but those were the main ones.

Now, as an interesting side point, when I were a lass, ie a trade union member, there were three radical left-wing unions. The NUJ (journalists and mine), the NUT (teachers), and the NUM (miners).

Anyone, who knows anything about t’ pit, will know of Arthur Scargill. An extremely obnoxious loud-mouthed git who comes from Yorkshire.

A few facts about Arthur and t’pit.

1) He rose to fame on the back of the Lofthouse Pit disaster where seven miners were trapped after a water inrush. Only one body was recovered.

I might have been 14 years old at the time, but I do remember this. It was all anyone could talk about at the time. It was a few miles away from where I lived. And people worked down the pits.

What griped me about Arthur was that he just used this horrific incident to sweep to power.

In fact, the Lofthouse disaster occurred because of problems in a different, abandoned, mine working in my town.

It was later estimated that the old mine workings at Low Laithes had become an underground reservoir containing nearly 3 ½ million gallons of water.

The water from the working in our town leaked into Lofthouse.

That’s probably why it was the talk of the town ~ not for days, or weeks, but for months. I lived in a pit village. Mines back in the fourteenth century, and 26 pits recorded by the NCB (National Coal Board).

2) My family were not in pits. My partner’s family were. His brother, his father, his uncles, his step-grandfather, well, they did come from South Wales. It was Trethomas after all.

None of them liked Arthur Scargill. Everyone preferred Joe Gormley.

3) Next, ie after Lofthouse, there was some brief talk about safety. While Scargill criticised Lofthouse he basically campaigned for more money for miners because they were doing a dangerous job. How about campaigning for safety?

He went to talk to Kent miners. Given that they were largely imports, he was speaking to Scottish, Yorkshire, North-East and Welsh miners.

Scargill wanted the weight of a pit prop to be reduced from 56lbs. My never-met father-in-law told him if you couldn’t carry a pit prop you shouldn’t be down the mine.

Even I could carry a 55/56 lb cheese, so I can’t really argue with NMFiL.

Wiki on accidents down t’ pit

During the period 1850 to 1930 the South Wales coalfield had the worst disaster record. This was due to the increasing number of mines being sunk to greater depths into gas-containing strata, combined with poor safety and management practices. As a result there were nearly forty underground explosions in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire areas of the coalfield during this time. Each accident resulted in the deaths of twenty or more workers – either directly in the explosion or by suffocation by the poisonous gases formed. The total death toll from these disasters was 3,119 people. The four worst accidents in Wales were:

439 deaths at the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster at Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion in 1913.
290 deaths at the Albion Colliery in Cilfynydd, Glamorgan, in a gas explosion on 25 June 1894.
272 deaths at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn, Monmouthshire, in an explosion of 11 September 1878.[21]
266 deaths in the Gresford Disaster near Wrexham in North Wales on 22 September 1934.
Some collieries, e.g. Morfa Colliery,near Port Talbot, Glamorgan, and Black Vein Colliery, Risca, Monmouthshire, suffered three disasters before they were closed for being unsafe.

4) More Wiki:

There has been conflict between the mine owners and the miners for over 200 years. A strike by miners in 1792 for higher wages at the Duke of Norfolk’s collieries near Sheffield is an early example.

During the 19th century a variety of unions or associations such as the Mining Association of Great Britain & Ireland, The Miners National Union and the Miners Federation were formed to campaign for improved wages and better working conditions. They were largely unsuccessful. Two large scale strikes took place during the century including actions in 1842 and 1893. The strike in 1893 was the result of a 25% wage cut by the mine owners which was eventually restored but not before two miners were killed by soldiers at Featherstone.

The 20th century brought further strikes in 1912, 1921 and the General Strike in 1926. These all generally failed to bring about any improvement in pay and conditions.

5) I went down a mock-up of a pit once, as apart of a Science Group. BAYS – British Association of Young Scientists. Yes, this arty farty journalist actually has O levels in physics and chemistry. Mostly we all joined BAYS because there were BOYS in it too. So we all snuggled down the fake pit together. It was hellish claustrophobic and I certainly couldn’t do it now. Even with the incentive of the boys.

Which brings me back to Arthur. Currently arguing that the NUM should continue to pay for his flat in the Barbican. CENTRAL LONDON, and worth approx £1.4/5 mill. And his fuel allowance in Yorkshire. And his accountancy fees.

Now while I think all that is OTT, if that was the deal he engineered at the time, I also don’t see why it should suddenly change. But it seems the NUM no longer wants to fund the £34,000 a year rent for his flat.

I could live out of 34K a year. Arthur could live in his other home in Yorkshire, with his free fuel. Thereby saving everyone money. What is it with socialists that we all need more than one home? At least I have paid for all mine.

Great communist Arthur. I appreciate you read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Noonan Tressell and it hugely influenced your life. But you weren’t really in the same league were you? He died aged 40 in the workhouse in Liverpool from TB.

You are fighting the NUM because they won’t fund your rented home in London. Surely that money could be put to better use?

Meanwhile, it turns out his predecessor Joe Gormley was a grass to Special Branch, telling them about the activities of union members who he considered to be militant. Nice to have confidence in the president of your union. Maybe that’s why he received a life peerage and became Baron Gormley, entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

We all disliked Arthur, and his so-called communist beliefs, and what was Joe? An informer. A leech.

Who is or was the worst?

I am proud of my trade union principles and I still stick by them. The first thing I did on joining a newspaper was to sign up for the union. Well, it could have been the second, maybe I claimed ten pence for my note book on my expenses first.

Regardless of Arthur and Joe, I’ll leave the last word with the NUM.

The NUM has always regarded education and knowledge as a powerful tool for the working class and as this site develops it is hoped that this will be of assistance in providing the visitor with an understanding of how the world is seen from the eyes of the National Union of Mineworkers.

The National Union of Mineworkers is alive and kicking, and is still representing miners, their families and their communities. The NUM is still very active industrially and politically. It is over twenty five years since the start of the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984/85. We warned then that if our arguments for a role for coal in our energy requirements were not heeded then the country would pay a heavy price. Over twenty five years on we have been proved absolutely correct.

Most of the nation’s collieries have been closed, we are now at the mercy of foreign importers and gas and oil prices are rocketing. Our own gas reserves have been depleted at an alarming rate as we have squandered them in massive quantities in gas-fired power stations when we could have used coal. At the same time we have been squandering our indigenous coal reserves, with which this nation was blessed, by sterilising them in closed coal mines. At the same time we have been squandering the talents of our skilled workforce by making them redundant.

In the next few years we will have to import gas and oil from politically unstable or war torn regions of the world such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Equatorial, New Guinea in some cases through pipelines wide open to terrorist attack.

We will present the compelling case for Britain’s coal industry more fully as the site develops and place the blame for a looming energy famine where it belongs, with those who have and are putting our energy needs in peril for purely political and vindictive reasons.

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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22 Responses to More rape – of men, and coal

  1. Enjoyed digging through the post. Purpose-built village was a town built just for the mines? Were these like the “company towns” here where every single thing was owned by the company? Houses to rent from the company, company stores (where employees bought on credit which was deducted from pay before they got it?) It was easy to owe more to the company than miner made.
    Being in mines is scary – not much of a tunnel rat.
    Coal is a big thing again here. There are some huge ugly open pit mines between Houston and Dallas…you can see them from the main highway if you know where they are. Rural areas are happy as it brings jobs, but people fight like crazy to stop them. Some places the landscape never recovers from the mining.
    It bothers me people always go “YEA, electric cars, get rid of Big Oil” – but the electricity comes from coal. (no gasoline bills, but electric prices in TX are very high…so what does that do to the budget?) Trade Big Oil for Big Electric? (not much faith in the kindness and fairness of any big company – especially multi-national ones)
    New processes do burn coal cleaner. Hope NUM convinces the government to retain coal for the own country’s use – don’t export it all and let others use up the supply.
    Great post. (my first union was Artists Equity)


    • Same principle but different in practice, certainly by the late 50s anyway. My partner’s father had actually bought the house – don’t know the detail, so maybe it was bought from the coal board? or maybe there was a cheap mortgage deal? And of course there was the coal allowance they all received which basically heated the home, and the coal-fired range for cooking. From the depths of his memories, my partner remembers it being a nice home, backing onto open fields. And of course by then in the UK, the national health service had been introduced. Sounds like he was pretty comfortably off, although none of his money found its way to my partner as he married again and left everything to his widow and two step-daughters.

      Yes, energy has to come from somewhere. I’m not so much in favour or against any of them, but I am in favour of using less. America is different to the UK, Spain and Gib. But, walk your kids to school when it is five minutes away. Walk to the shops. Get on the bus. Don’t switch on aircon or heating until it is roasting hot (you get it pretty warm where you are :D) or freezing cold. But I don’t like globalisation either. What is the added value of closing an industry in your own country, putting people out of work – at an added cost to the state – and importing from elsewhere at an apparently cheaper price, which surprise, surprise, then gets increased?

      My solution would be to re-open the pits, ensure safety was a priority, and pay a good wage for an unpleasant job. Easily said eh?

      Thank you. Equity must have been difficult to get into. In the UK, it was one of the unions where you couldn’t join the union without a job, and you couldn’t get a job if you weren’t in the union. Catch 22.


      • The price of gas has forced some to change – it varies a great deal by region and state. TX only helps school districts with bus transportation costs for kids living over 2 miles from school. In the 80’s it seems like all the districts started this door to door delivery and people got used to it. Now that costs too much and the districts have gone back to the 2 mile bus rule- and parents are mad. (Some have had to admit they can drop of kids on the way to work – but kids don’t like that) Spoiled. Your kid: you get them to school safely. People are concerned with unsafe/no sidewalks and it’s still dark during the walk to school – and there are too many child snatchings, but parents used to organize among themselves to make sure the neighborhood kids were safe.
        Many places people do walk everywhere. Some places you don’t need a car. One of the things we looked for was a walkable environment with stores, and interesting places all within easy walking reach – not only reduces costs, but as you get older you may not want to drive – but don’t want to just sit in the house. The most recent community developments are aware of that and building around an old fashion town center concept. Much better environments to live and work in. IT will be interesting to see how things develop – the crime problem is an issue that must be addressed. Crime is why many drive – it’s safer.
        Unfortunately crime is a reason many use air conditioning rather than opening windows…but I’m always surprised how many places and homes do not have air conditioning at all (Not in our area – living without AC with the summer humidity and heat is deadly – we grew up without it, but lifestyle was very different)


      • I have tried to reply twice to this and it keeps disappearing – getting cranky.
        I was lucky about equity in that I lived in a state where you cannot be forced to be in a union – and it can’t be a job requirement – so I was able to get a job and then join. Not all states are like that.
        One nice change is that people here are using less energy – especially for transportation. If you’re in a major city (east or west coast) there’s always been mass transportation – and you can live easily without a car. Dallas and Houston are building (Dallas ahead on this). Traffic is a major problem I can live without. The older subdivisions in the suburbs require cars for just about everything, but many newer subdivisions are master planned communities for places to work and live – with a “town center” concept with bike and hike trails connecting things. We definitely bought in a place where you could walk everywhere – not only economical, eventually you get too ole to drive and who wants to sit home? The pedestrian oriented subdivisions are much friendlier and you can meet for coffee of meals and sit outside – dog can come, too. In TX, the school district provides buses to schools if kids live over 2 miles away – but it’s a short walk down the sidewalks here. A real concern is crime and the fact that it’s dark when the little kids have to head for school. Crime is unfortunately why many use air conditioning so much: not safe to open the windows. Well, let’s see if this time WP will eat this…(nice post, by the way)


  2. pinkagendist says:

    So we both married Welsh… Mine is from Neath, but his mother was French/Flemish. They lived in a big house, of complicated spelling, which (funnily) phonetically would be Wanker-k 😀


    • Mine actually grew up in Pontypool (rugby) and lived in Newport and Tintern too. Ironically his father’s side has Yorkshire links (ie like me) and his mother’s is part Cornish. He still has a silly Welsh accent which has probably got worse (ie more pronounced) on coming to Gib as we know a few other Welsh, or Gib Welsh. When he speaks Spanish, ie campo spanish with a Welsh accent via Australia, people invariably say, ‘there’s nothing wrong with your spanish, it’s just that the accent is a bit strange’ 😀


  3. Good stories – I enjoyed reading them!


  4. EllaDee says:

    What an interesting anecdote re William the regimental boxing champion being propositioned at sea, and court-martialled. I don’t think it will ever be surpassed in the most unusual beginning to a blog post 😉 My days of union membership are long gone but upon accepting my first job, as a local goverment clerk, I was quietly advised to join the union as if anyone had to lose their job in the future it wouldn’t be a union member. It came in handy twice. The first time: a colleague who, employed at the same time, was dismissed for taking a sickie for ‘mad Monday’ after the footy grand final. In a football town ‘mad Monday’ was quite an accepted practice but he wasn’t in the union so higher up must have been looking for an excuse to get rid of someone. The second: I was being harrassed by an incompetent accountant trying to make a name for himself, so within earshot of the office busybody I made a fake phone call to the union. Harrassment ceased!

    I come from nearby a coal mining area (as you would be aware the Hunter Valley is (especially near Singleton) and many family and friends benefit/ed from the industry jobs but the practices must be managed, and I agree it’s far better to use less power and burn less coal. Of course, a good deal of Australia’s coal is exported to China.

    One of the most lucrative jobs I’ve ever had involved the sale of the NSW government owned coal mines into private ownership, and led to my current role. I learned more about coal mining than I’ll need to beyond that job, and one of the most fascinating aspects was viewing the overlay maps of the mines underneath the residential areas, and where subsidence is a huge issue. My sister also worked on the project and we had many dinner conversations understandable by and interesting to only us!

    I must say, I hate what mining does to the land and the environment. Currently we are fighting CSG extraction, and renewed interest from overseas into mineral extraction from old deposits such as antimony in many areas of NSW includng the mid north coast near Taylors Arm. They offer jobs and plausible assurance re environmental practices but we are saying no, “lock the gates”. If they insist, it is rape isn’t it?


    • I’ve always thought it was a good tale, and never got round to writing it up. I did ask Partner if he minded me writing it up. It’s an interesting one, because although I just recited the events, it does bring into question so many issues.

      In fact, William wasn’t the first one this guy had attempted to have sex with, the others only spoke up later. But that may have helped his relatively lenient sentence of two years for basically inadvertantly killing an officer. Or maybe it was because there was less toleration of homosexuality back then? Either way, if someone wants to have sex with you, and they are in a position of power, and you don’t want sex with them – what do you do?

      When I joined the NUJ I was told it wasn’t compulsory, and that there was no closed shop rule. I was also told that everyone else was in the union and I was expected to join too 😀 I had no problem with that anyway, and like you, I think unions can come in useful. Not that they have for me personally that I can remember, but I do think there is a sound basis for having a body to negotiate on behalf of all workers. I might add some more union tales later.

      Actually what I remember of the Hunter Valley was the vineyards and beautiful scenery. Singleton was a bit of a scruffy hole tbh, but who cares where you end up on honeymoon? 😀 I’m pleased to see that someone, somewhere, is exporting to China and restoring the trade imbalance.

      Have you seen the (British) film Brassed Off? One of my favourites. It’s about closing the pits. A woman is sent to the pit to do a feasibility study when the decision has already been taken. Meanwhile, the social impact on the community of the impending pit closure shows how hard it really does hit people relying on one single industry for income. Oh and there is some nice brass band music too 🙂

      That does sound an interesting job, the sort of thing that I would have got stuck into and bored the socks off people about. Subsidence is quite weird. It is surreal to think that you are living above a huge hole. Everywhere my parents lived was in a mining area, although as far as I know, no subsidence issues. But when you think of the extent of the huge coalfields and that the earth has been undermined (ha!) – well actually, it just doesn’t bear thinking about.

      Hasn’t Aus always had environmental mining issues though? Partly because it is so rich in deposits. Open cast is obviously the biggest eyesore.

      A good closing point. I’d been thinking about male rape, the rape of the British coal industry – and your third aspect of environmental and community rape is equally valid. Sadly.


  5. Vicky says:

    Regarding William, your reply to ED, says it all…….it all falls down to the attitude ‘I am (rich/in power etc.) so I can’.
    The mines, although coal mining was prolific in parts of Yorkshire, there wasn’t much in the area I was brought up in, so in a way I felt a bit distanced from it. Though I remember the feeling of sadness, when travelling up the M1 to visit my parents, to see all the old mine workings had gone and the area landscaped. I loved the smell of that area, I knew I was back in Yorkshire.
    As soon as I’d started to read your post, Brassed Off came to mind……..yes, a brilliant film 🙂


    • Yes, you can translate the NCO on board a ship to Dunkirk wanting to shag a private soldier to any office situation. Indeed, as EllaDee said about harassment (of whatever type). The – lack of – ethics, and the ethos are all the same.

      Mining wasn’t part of my family, but the pits were all around us. With bickers. Bickers was my name for the winding gear. No idea where that came from, but I used to like to see them. And you are right about the smell. I loved it too.

      Wasn’t Brassed Off superb? Another one I keep trying to find on the shelves at Morrisons but have failed so far. I think the bit where Tara Fitzgerald plays the flugel horn at the first band meeting is amazing. It’s a funny mix of sentimental and grit. I do think the political and social points are spot on. Typical of a British film that makes a serious point but covers it with comedy and romance. Interestingly the box office takings only just covered the budget (£3m and £2.8m).

      Compare that with the Full Monty, released a year later that took £160m. I thought that was also good and for the same reasons, good social commentary. It wasn’t any better. But it did have the implication of nude men.


      • Vicky says:

        The difference in box office takings is amazing, as both films are in a similar vein.
        I expect, like you have mentioned, it was the chance to see naked men and not the storyline that drew many viewers.


        • Absolutely, and I did enjoy them both. I liked the difference in the music too. I also liked Robert Hamish Macbeth.

          Meanwhile I am scanning pix for another silhouette post and, cooking brunch, and replying to your mails!! Oh, and writing board papers. Just as well I don’t work eh?


  6. bluonthemove says:

    My maternal grandfather (who I never met) was a coal miner, somewhere between Birmingham and the Welsh border.
    From an environmental point of view, I’m a little concerned that it is portrayed as Mitt Romney’s policy that he will go all out for coal, shale gas etc to revive the US economy, and hang the consequences.


    • I didn’t meet either of my grandfathers – well not that I remember, although rumour had it that I did ‘meet’ my maternal one, but as I was a year old or similar I just do not remember it at all. I don’t know of any mining history in my family which is odd given where I grew up, but I suppose there was a diversity of industry and it was also a big shoddy area. By which I mean woollen mills.

      I’m more than a little concerned by Romney, and his views on just about everything. And yes, he wouldn’t win environmental campaigner of the year award 😦 I won’t get into his religious views and women and abortion.


      • bluonthemove says:

        Yes, why is it if you want to have a cup of coffee and a bacon sandwich for breakfast on a Friday morning you manage to offend so many religious people.


        • Or so many vegetarians?
          Joking apart, the Jewish stallholders next to our market stall seriously craved our bacon sarnies (we cooked them for breakfast in an electric frying pan).
          And – some of them bought some boiled ham from us for their lunchtime sandwich. Hypocrisy or what?


  7. I loved Brassed Off. As you say, gritty but with a touch of romance and humour. It’s such a pity that those close mining communities died out; it must have been dreadful for the mine workers and their families. Very interesting post, RS and I learnt something. Thank you. 😊


  8. It must be mainly a British thing because to look at the box office receipts it doesn’t look as though it was even shown in North America. Or Europe or Asia.

    As in the discussion with Vicky above, I find it astounding that it wasn’t more popular. It’s basically the same formula as the Full Monty (came out a year earlier so actually more ‘original’) – decline of an industry, Brassed Off coal, Full Monty was steel, both in West Riding/south Yorkshire, analysis of the social impact, and criticism of the political decisions at the time. Both had music. Both had a light-hearted populist theme on top. Both pointed out the realities – if you chose to look.

    People who know far more than me could probably write for years about the impact of the miners’ strike (84/85) and its aftermath. I may or not do a follow-up post, depends if I remember.

    Thanks for the visit and the comment J. Appreciated.


  9. angryricky says:

    Interesting juxtaposition of title and subject, since rape was a real problem in the mines in the mid-19th century. Young teenage women were sent down with water for the workers, and it was awfully dark down there. I read part of the big governmental report on labor from the time when I was in grad school.


    • I was using rape in all aspects of the word, although I wasn’t aware of women being raped down the pit, or men. 😦 I’ll ask my partner when he comes in.

      To me, rape of men, women, animals, the environment, is all unacceptable from a so-called civilised society.


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