Saturday, 29 August 2009

Miners and Mining (1)

There's quite a lot about miners and mining in True North, and I have found the following books very illuminating. The Bus to Barnsley Market, edited by Brian Lewis, Mel Dyke and Ian Clayton, Yorkshire Arts Circus 1989 (anything by Yorkshire Arts Circus is excellent, except for the serious flaw in most of their collections of memories of not attributing them to the speaker/writer. The firsthand accounts are otherwise gold dust, and in thenfine tradition of Marie Hartley, Joan Ingilby and Ella Pontefract. All books by that trio are lastingly excellent. Shafted. The media, the miners' strike and the aftermath, edited by Granville Williams (a hero of Huddersfield University and the wider North), Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom 1989, is illuminating, both on injustice and self-pity. If you like contrasts, read this jointly with West Yorkshire Within Living Memory, Countryside Books and the West Yorks Federation of WIs 1996; like the Arts Circus, very good on firsthand accounts. Another Arts Circus book helped too: Why Waste it on a girl? Growing up in Methley and Castleford by Jean Pearson 1989. I also benefited from Barnsley - Seams of Gold, various editors, the Coalfield Regeneration Trust 2001 and The Kinsley Evictions 1905 by Pat and Rennie Pickles, Wakefield Museums, undated by I think 1991 when there was an exhibition in the city. The Politics of the Yorkshire Miners by Andrew Taylor, Croom Helm 1984, is an extremely detailed analysis of the tooing and froing within this once-mighty body between 1945 and 1974. A lot has happened since then...
And a lot happened before the pits. I've much enjoyed a many local histories, revelling in their painstaking detail and, in the case of the north's mining areas, the way that they describe life before the shafts were sunk. One such is The History of Brierly and Grimethorpe by W.Bretton, who died in 1959. His manuscript was finally published in 1999 by Grimethorpe's regenerational Community Partnership and the WEA. A History of South Kirkby is equally painstaking, by Aaron Wilkinson, published by South Kirkby and Moorthorpe's enterprising town (parish) council in 1979. Two Lives by Winifred Hodgkiss (Yorkshire Arts Circus 1983) is a charming account of how a BBC producer and a miner from Wigan ended up living happily ever after in Littondale.

A classic of mining literature which I much recommend is Out of the Old Earth by Harold Heslop. My edition was published by Bloodaxe in 1994. It describes growing up in the Durham coalfield and much else, including Heslop's extraordinary literary success in the young Soviet Union where his first novel sold half a million copies. Another fascinating memoir is Them and Us Souvenir Press 1972, by Jim Bullock, a lad from a pit village who became an extremely feisty colliery manager. Five more, on different sorts of mines. Swaledale by David Leather, Smith Settle 1992, is a good introduction with walks to an area with a remarkable lead-mining history. A portent for today's former coalfields, in the way its once wrecked landscape is now a national park. I've also gained much from A History of Richmond and Swaledale by R.Fieldhouse and B.Jennings, Phillimore 1978 rpt 2005. Ian Tyler tells a very specific and absorbing mining story in Seathwaite Wad, about the famous graphite industry in the Lake District, Blue Rock Publications 1995. And Inside the North Moors David and Charles 1978, is a marvellous compendium of information by the renowned local journalist Harry Mead, including lots on the old ironstone and alum workings. Oh, and add in anything by Arthur Raistrick.

A visit to Kilhope lead mine at the head of Weardale, to test it with a family for the Guardian's family-friendly museum award (which it won, yo!) great;y interested me. This is the landscape of Auden, which is discussed in True North. Good books/booklets which I picked up at Kilhope included three by the mine's enthusiastic manager Ian Forbes: Lead Mining Landscapes, Durham County Council 2003, Lead and Life at Kilhope, essentially the extended guide to the Museum, Durham County Council, undated, and Whar a candel will not burn..., the story of Park Level mine, also at Kilhope. Durham county council again, 1996.

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