The Death of a Community: My Personal View on the Pit Closures by Alan Bean

March 2, 2016 | Comments Off

Mining Equipment

Coal mining is in my blood, though I’ve never been down a coal mine. Going back through my family tree there were once proud coal miners on both my father’s and mother’s side. They were the men who did their part for industry and made this country Great. Or that’s the way I see it. They were straightforward men, who got up early in a morning. They went to work and worked very hard in a tough environment. Then they came home to a hot home cooked meal and socialised with each other at the local club. This was a time when everyone knew everyone and no one locked their front doors.

The mines were the real heart of the community; they provided the work, the housing and the money for the many people living under the shadow of the imposing winding towers. When the shift klaxon went off, it could be heard all over the village, not just at the pit. Wives and children knew their husbands and fathers would be coming home.

But most of those mighty  winding towers are now gone, people lock their doors and no one knows their neighbours any more. These communities have lost their spirit, with new housing developments being built on the sites of the pits themselves as well as some local pubs and miner’s welfare clubs closing down and also replaced with new housing estates for families with 2.4 children and two cars commuting separately to out of town business parks.

I have seen this first hand, having been brought up in Armthorpe under the shadow of Markham Main colliery and its two blue cladded winding towers. These could be seen for miles away and whenever I saw those two towers from anywhere around Doncaster I thought of home. I’ve seen one working men’s club demolished and turned into trendy new flats and as I write this the old miners welfare club is now rubble, ready for something new and shiny to be built upon its ashes.

I remember hearing the klaxons and sounds from the pit being heard all over the village. I can remember the parades during the 1984 miners strike, the red banners being  held high and proud. For a 5 year old it was very strange seeing these men and not understanding what the shouting was about.

And later I can remember the miners wives camped outside the pit gates in 1992, protesting at the closure and loss of jobs for their husbands, sons and friends. I also remember the day the two winding towers came down, the huge bang which rattled the windows and then the deathly quiet that followed, which in itself was as loud as the explosion.

Yes, Armthorpe is doing well with the big distribution centres and industrial units next to the M18 motorway. But how many of the workers here live in the village? Of the new houses which were built on the site of the former pit, how many of their residents work in the village? How many know their neighbours and how many of them shop in the village?

For the pit wasn’t just a sight to behold, the pit was the heart of the community, it’s centre, its hub and a reminder that all was well in the world for a young Yorkshire lad making his way home from school.

Alan Bean works for Jordans Solicitors in the Miners VWF Professional Negligence department.