The Pit is Closing, a diary extracts from James Findlay. The following photographs document the miners who worked at Blenkinsopp Colliery, a drift mine located between Carlisle and Newcastle, the images are now held within the National Mining Museum in Wakefield.
The pit is now closing with one last face to be won out and is due to finish in May with the capping of the drift and ventilation shafts in August.
Friday 1 February 2002
The heading that was going for the coal reserves in the west conveyer road have been stopped. The pumps have now stopped although they are continuing with the ventilation for the time being. The only things that have been salvaged have been the electrical cables the rest of the machines are going to end up in a watery grave which is sad when you consider the time they have had underground. The machine left is an AB Arcwaller and I believe was in use before the 2nd world war. I have some photos of the three left at surface and I will try to get a shot of the last working one which will also be left. This is a strange point to the pit closing, a fitter, Angus Evans who has been at the pit the longest told me the finishing point of the last face is more or less were the pit started when the Blenkinsopp side was being opened up again !!
Tuesday 12 February 2002
It is hectic at work at the minute. 24s shearer face stopped coaling. The west conveyors have pulled out and is now flooding. The heading I was in has now also stopped. We were heading towards an old face line (21s) with a Dosco Dintheader while an Arcwaller was heading up towards us, to make an alternative route, to get any equipment out when the new face sets away in about four to five weeks time. When we hit the faceline there was more water in it than we expected and we got flooded out. The machine stopped most of the water from coming in at full flow so we managed to get out in time although the machine went under and is now stuck and is waiting for the faithful Arcwaller to come to the rescue. I cannot see it being salvaged however and I think it will just be left.
Saturday 24 February 2002
I have not wrote for a while as I've been injured by a falling roof support. I am currently walking around like a crow with a broken wing. Nothing too serious however and I can still type although with just one finger (what other way is there !)
Wednesday 13 March 2002
Sorry it has been some time getting in contact with you but it has been very busy these last few weeks. Just to let you know that the final face has started coal production. Every shear that the machine takes is shortening the life of the pit.
Friday 10 May 2002
Well we finally have notice of redundancy and I have absolutely no idea of what to do. To be honest it has not fully sunk in, what is happing, or I do not want to know. Should I stop till the bitter end or should I start looking now. What type of job do I look for? I have been at Blenkinsopp for so long and enjoy it as well it is going to be hard to adjust to another job. It seems funny to say 'enjoy' working underground in dark, dusty and dangerous conditions but I do. I have mostly been working at Bank lately, as I am one of the few that can work the surface hauler, plant and fork lifts. I have been kept busy sorting gear for sale and scrap and generally tidying the place up. Of course it is nice to see and feel the sun and breath the fresh air it does not compare with working at the coal face. On bank holiday Monday I might have spent my last day on the face. I was sent in as one of the men could not make it. I had not done his job before, covering the stage loader end of the face but I got the hang of it quick. Cleaning the coal the machine had left, knocking the wood props out and forwarding the dowtys ready for the machine coming back down the face ready for the next cut. The goaf banging on and the props creaking make you uneasy but everybody else ignores it so you do. You just got everything set up and the disc would be down at the maingate end and you would have to start all over again. No bait time, the more coal we get out, the more money we make and we might need it for the future. Everybody knows in 12 weeks time or so that will be it. My grandad, who worked most of his life in the mines, always said it takes a special type of man to work underground. I don't know what he would call a man that enjoys it !
27 June 2002
Coal production has been very good with an average 12 shears a day. As far as I know they have 5 weeks left and on August 2nd production will cease even if the face is not won out. Something about costing too much to renew the lease. I will try to keep you up to date with what is going on till the end. 2 August 2002 Coal production at Blenkinsopp has stopped. On Saturday work will commence on removing the tunnel belt. A firm will come and take most of the machinery and didcot tube down. The other work such as removing the shaft pumps and the filling in of the drifts will be done by the men that are left who have their redundancys but have been taken back on, on a week to week basis. All pumps have been switched off
24 August 2002
Seeing the place full of gravel brings it all home to you, knowing the fact all them places you worked at will never be seen again. Sad. It is a feeling you cannot really describe. People keep saying you are better out of the place, but if someone said it was going to open back up I would be one of the first back, with a chisel and hammer knocking the wall down.
7 September 2002
The yard looks a bit bare now and is very quiet which is what you notice most. There used to always be something going on. Now, nothing. no sets wizzzing up and down. No forklift running. No wagons being loaded. Nobody shouting "what's the matter with the belts" or " what is the weather like". Funnily enough the under manager always said it was raining !! Here is a notice that was hung up in the deputys cabin. I, the willing, Led by the ignorant, Am doing the impossible, For the ungrateful, I have done so much, For so long, With so little, That I am now highly qualified, To do anything, With nothing. It applied a lot to Blenkinsopp !