Monday, August 06, 2007

Haydn Beynon - "down the pit"

"I went down the pit
You’ve got to remember the times. It was 1942. I was fourteen when I went in the colliery. When you look back it’s stupid because after two years in sanatoriums… (Craig-y-nos and Highland Moors).

I left school on the Friday and started work in the colliery with my father on the Monday. I can remember my father was a collier for forty-five years , and I can remember him saying that the manager said, ‘He can start but he’ll have to work with you because he’s not very big.’ But, of course, in those days, money was so scarce that mother was glad of me working.

Did they say anything to you about not working down the pit if you’d had TB?

No, they probably wouldn’t know.
I was working underground from fourteen till I was eighteen, and I ended up … where I was working it was wet.
Well, like as if it was raining, you were working underground but the water was coming off the roof and it was raining. And I can remember one Friday, I came home from work – seven till three I think the hours were – I came home soaking wet and I’d had enough of it, and I said to my mother, ‘I’m not working in the colliery any more.’

And her exact words to me were, ‘My handsome boy. Lovely,’ she said, ‘Take them off (working clothes).’

In those days, colliers didn’t have much money but they had a ton of coal every … about six weeks, I think it was, something like that, with the result … I can remember even when I came home from the sanatorium, that I couldn’t stick it (the heat). We had a small living room and the fire would be half way up the chimney.

It was red hot and I’d been used to the fresh air then. So, I came home this Friday, I can remember it distinctly, and I said to my mother, ‘I’ve had enough.’

She said, ‘Strip off,
and I put my working clothes straight on the fire. She helped me. The whole lot, all my clothes, underwear, shoes, the lot went on the fire.

And my father came in. He was comical, a lovely man but blunt.

‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ I had to go down to see the colliery manager. I went down to see him and, ‘Right,’ he said, ‘You know that you’ll be called up for the forces (this would be about 1942).’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ He said, ‘Fill this form up with the reasons for leaving.’

I said, ‘Right,’ so I filled it up and said, ‘All the water leaking and bad air.’ Parts of it were stuffy, you know. And when I took it back, he was out with the pen and whoosh, whoosh, whoosh (deleted all the comments). He said, ‘There’s no bad air in our colliery.’

Within about about a fortnight I was called up.

I went in the Navy. Marvellous, I enjoyed it. I stayed on after (the war ended), only for an extra six or nine months. I stayed on. I was lucky. We travelled to many places, all over the world.

After the navy Haydn worked in the local steel works for more than thirty years.

Haydn Beynon was in conversation wtih Dr Carole Reeves, Outreach Historian,the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London'.

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