TITLE HEIGHT SPACING - SET HEIGHT in English & Methil Dialect

Doon the Pit (Audio Version)
     starring Mesklin


Oh, hoo ah hated t'git up fur the dayshift. Half past three in the mornin! Ah niver got t'like it! In the winter, it wiz dark when ye got up, an cauld. Goad, wiz it no cauld!
Ye'd mak yir piece, braid n jam or a bit o spam if ye had it. Some folk wid dae bananiz. Some wid pit crisps on it. If ye wir real lucky, yir mum wid mak it fur ye!
Oh, how I hated to get up for the dayshift. Half past three in the morning! I never got to like it! In the winter, it was dark when you got up, and cold. God, was it cold!
You'd make your packed lunch; with bread and jam, or spam, if you had any. Some people would have bananas. Some would put crisps on it. With luck, your mum would make it!

Then awa t'catch the miner's bus. Five o'clock it come. Smok a fag while ye waited. Smok a few mair on the wey, till the bus wiz fu o blue reek, an nevir a windae open.
Even if ye didnae smok, ye did!
Then away to catch the miner's bus. Five o'clock, it came. Smoke a cigarette while you wait. Smoke a few more on the way, until the bus, windows closed, was full of blue smoke.
Even if you did not smoke - you did!

Ye w'd git thair by quarter t'six. Inte the clean lockers, tak yer claes an shin aff, then walk past the baths wi yir tool wrapped roond ye. Yir piece in yir haund, an yir last fag in yir mooth. Mind no t'tak onny fags or matches wi ye. No allowed!
In the dirty lockers, ye'd pit oan yir biler suit. The dirty lockers wir heated, sos yir biler suit wis dry. Yir bits, tho, they wiz curled upit the taes. Th'd straighten oot when they got wet. Mak shair ye didnae hae ony bauccy or matches oan ye. Likes as no, they'd search ye and if yis hid ony contraband on ye - that'd be it!
Secked on the spot and reported t'the polis.
You'd arrive by a quarter to six. Into the clean lockers, take your clothes and shoes off, then walk past the baths with a towel wrapped around you. Your packed lunch in your hand, and your final cigarette in your mouth. Remember not to take any cigarettes or matches with you. Not allowed!
In the dirty lockers, you'd put on your boiler suit. The dirty lockers were heated, and your boiler suit would be dry. Your boots, though, they were curled up at the toes. They would straighten out when they became wet. Make sure that you had no tobacco or matches on you. Likely as not, they'd search you, and if you had any contraband on you - that would be it!
Sacked on the spot, and reported to the police.

Ah hiv t'say that ah wiz an apprentice sparky, an we thocht we wiz the 'Elite' - A bit better than yer common miner.
Mind you, the miners kent they wiz the real workers. As fur officials - huh! - an oncost workers, they didnae come inte it!
I have to say that I was an apprentice electrician, and we believed that we were the 'Elite' - superior to the common miner.
Mind you, the miners knew that they were the real workers. As for officials - huh! - and non-underground workers, they mattered not at all!

Ye'd git inte the cage. The oversman wid pu the bar shut, signal the winder, nd doon ye go. Thae express lifts that hae in thae big skyscrapers ... they're nuthin! They've got a lot o men wantin doon the pit, n naebody's hingin aroond. Yir feet kin come aff the bottom o the cage at times n yiv got a mile t go. Doon the wey! An tha's 'man-windin speed'.
Bein a sparky, ye c'n yase the coal windin skip at times, n the engine-man disnae ayewis remember no t yase coal windin speed. Wheeee!
The first time y go doon the pit, there's ayewis somebody t tell ye aw aboot the boy that fell doon the shaft. Aw the wey, an no touchin the sides. Scripped them up in a saun-bag, an their bits wir ayewis aff their feet. Still laced, but aff their feet. The fricht diz it, so they say. If yiv got a vivid imagination, yir days aff t'a bad start, n its gonna get worse.
You'd step into the cage. The oversman would pull the bar shut, signal the winder, and down you'd go. Those express lifts that they have in skyscrapers ... they're nothing! They've got a lot of men, wanting to go down the pit, and nobody is hanging about. Your feet rise up off the bottom of the cage at times, on the mile-long descent, and that is at 'man-winding speed'.
Being an electrician, you can use the coal-winding skip at times, but the engine-man doesn't always remember, not to use coal-winding speed. Wheeee!
Th first time you go down the pit, there is always someone, to tell you all about the man who fell down the shaft. All the way, never touching the sides. When they were scraped up into a sand-bag, their boots were always off their feet. Still laced, but off their feet. The fright does it, so they say. With a vivid imagination, your day is off to a bad start, and it's going to get worse.

Yer at the pit-bottom noo, so's yer better see aboot getting tae the 'face'. This is whaur ye fund that the face is a long wey awa. Could be miles. An it aw depends on whit pit yer at.
If yis is doon the Seafield, at Kirkcaldy, yer in luck. It's a braw new pit. The roadweys must be near twenty feet high, an they're aw lit wi fancy floorescent lamps. Broad and straicht, an here's the best bit. They've got thae wee trains - man ridin bogies. Jist grab a seat, an travel in comfort. Braw.
You're at the pit-bottom now. Time to start heading towards the 'coal-face'. This is where you discover how far away, it is. Could be miles. It all depends on which pit you are at.
If you're down the Seafield, at Kirkcaldy, you're in luck. It's a grand, new pit. The roadweys must be nearly twenty feet high, and they're all lit with fluorescent lamps. Broad and straight; and here's the best bit. They' have those small trains - man riding bogies. Just take a seat, and travel in comfort. Lovely!

If yis is doon an auld pit, like the Wellesley in Methil, better start walkin noo! The face is a fair wey, an there's jist you an yer lamp. If you are down an old pit, like the Wellesley in Methil, you had better start walkin! The face is a long way, and there's just you and your lamp.

A word in yer lugs aboot the lamp. There's only wan wey tae wear it. Only Hollywood miners an cavers dae it different.
(Dae understaund cavers. Whaud go doon the pit if there wisnae onny coal?)
Ye clip the lamp tae the front o yer helmet. Ye pass the cable roond the helmet on the richt-haund side, an tie it tae the helmet at the back. The cable then goes under yer left oxter an doon tae the battry that's looped on yer belt at the back. Mak shair it's a guid, strong leather belt an no wan o thae jessie wans wi the elastic an the snakes heid fasner. Yer gaun be doon the pit aw day, an ye dae want the battry hingin doon alow yer knees.
An here's summin that awboddy tries wance. When yer awa fae the pit-bottom, switch aff yer lamp. Bet ye thocht ye kent whit darkness wis. Ye do noo! That's darkness, so forget aw thae films whaur the hero runs along the undergroond passage. Less ye want a flet nose an skint knees!
A brief talk about the lamp. There's only one way to wear it. Only Hollywood miners, and cavers do it differently.
(I don't understand cavers. Who would go down the pit if there wasn't any coal?)
You clip the lamp to the front of your helmet. You pass the cable around the helmet on the right-haund side, then tie it to the helmet at the back. The cable goes under your left armpit, and down to the battery that's looped on your belt at the back. Make sure that it's a good, strong leather belt - not one of those sissy ones with the elastic, and the snake-head fastner. You'll be down the pit all day, and you don't want that battery hanging down below your knees.
Now, here's something that everybody tries once. When you're away from the pit-bottom, switch off your lamp. I bet that you believed you knew what darkness was like. You do now! That is darkness, so forget all those films where the hero runs along the underground passage. Unless you want a flat nose, and scarred knees!

In an auld pit, as they dig the coal oot, the face gets further an further awa fae the pit-bottom as time gets on. As yer walkin, ye notice that the roof is supported by half-moon steel girders. An as the pressure comes on, ye notice that they're slowly bendin like sugarelly. No jist the roof is comin doon. The pressure's on aw sides, so's the wa's an the flair are comin in tae. Stane isnae solid when yer a mile alow the surface. It bends, it swells an sometimes ye can hear it moanin quietly tae itsel. Ye'll no see it move as yer lookin at it, but chances are, the road yer walkin doon'll be the road yer crawlin up at the end o yer shift. Ther's ayeweys teams o 'brushers', workin aw the time, diggin hard jist tae keep the roadweys open. That's why, if ye close a pit fur onny length o time, ye'll never be able tae open it again. In an old pit, as they dig the coal out, the face gets further and further away from the pit-bottom, as time goes by. As you walk, yo'll notice that the roof is supported by half-moon steel girders. As the pressure comes on, you'll notice that they're slowly bending, like tofee. Not only is the roof coming down. The pressure is on all sides; the walls and the floor are coming in, also. Stone isn't solid when you're a mile below the surface. It bends, it swells, and sometimes you can hear it moaning quietly to itsel. You won't see it move as you look at it, but chances are, the road that you're walking down will be the road that you're crawling up at the end of your shift. There are teams of 'brushers', working hard all the time, digging; just to keep the roadways open. That is why, if you close a pit for any length of time, you'll never be able to open it again.

Ther's ayeweys twa roads tae a face. The 'ingoin' an the 'outgoin'.
The ingoing's usually cauld cause that's the wey the fresh air comes in. The outgoins warm an stale, heated by the stane yer diggin through, cause the nearer tae Hell ye get, the warmer it gets.
There are always two roads to a face. The 'ingoing' and the 'outgoing'.
The ingoing is usually cold, because that's the way the fresh air comes in. The outgoing is warm and stale, heated by the stone that you're digging through, because the nearer you get to Hell, the warmer it gets.

Best place tae be is the face. It's the best supported. Great big walkin props move wi the coalcutter as it runs up an doon the face, chewn oot the coal then movin forrit fur anither run. The place no tae be is the waste. Wance ye tak the coal oot, ye leave a big empty space ahint ye, an wi nae support, the roof starts tae bend doon till it touches the flair. Sometimes it comes doon slow, an ye c'n see fur yards an yards intae the nairryin gap. An sometimes it jist draps. Wan minit yer lookin way intae the waste an the next, yer touchin a solid wa in front o yer face. Funny thing is, ah cannae recollect ever hearin it drap. It must mak a noise, shairly, but tae me it ayeweys seemed tae fa in silence. Ye never, ever went intae the waste. If ye drapped a spanner an it bounced intae the waste, there it wiz an there it wis gaun tae stey!
Mebbe someboddy'll dig it up in a couple o hundred million years, when the seabed rises up intae a mountain, an the rain weathers the rock awa. So's if yis funds a 3/4" Whitworth spanner, some time in the future, ye can keep it. It's aw metric wans ah yaise these days onnywey.
The best place to be, is the face; it's the best supported. Huge walking props move with the coalcutter as it runs up and down the face, chewing out the coal, then moving forward for another run. The place not to be is the 'waste'. Once you have removed the coal, you leave a vast, empty space behind you, and, with no support, the roof begins to bend down until it touches the floo. Sometimes, it comes down slowly, and you can see for yards and yards, into the narrowing gap. Sometimes, it simply drops. One minute, you're looking, way into the waste, then the next, you're touching a solid wall in front of your face. Strange thing is, I can't recollect ever hearing it drop. It must make a noise, surely, but to me, it always seemed to fall in silence. You never, ever went into the waste. If you dropped a spanner, and it bounced into the waste, there it was, and there it would stay!
Perhaps, someone will dig it up in a couple of hundred million years, when the seabed rises up into a mountain, then the rain weathers the rock away. So, if you find a 3/4" Whitworth spanner, some time in the future, you can keep it. The spanners, that I use these days, are all metric.

Noo! Let's talk aboot ha'in yer piece ... an 'shotfirin'. Mah dad wiz a 'shotfirer', or as they yaist tae caw it, a 'fireman'. Now! Let's talk about having your lunch ... and 'shotfiring'. My dad was a 'shotfirer', or, as they used to call it, a 'fireman'.

It's hard gaun when yer workin doon the pit. So, of coorse, yer gled when it's time fur yer piece.
As a sparky, ye can be onnywhere doon the pit, but like as no, ye'll be workin on the face. This is whaur the Seafield wiz special.
In an auld pit like the Wellesley, the face started workin near the pit-bottom, an as the years went by, it moved further an further awa. This meant that the grund ye were workin through settled doon intae the waste ye left, an the roads through tae the face were runnin in unstable stane. If ye mind, ah telt ye afore about brushin, tae keep the roads clear. Obviously, someboddy somewhere had a smart idea.
"Why no tak the roads oot as far as ye can, an then work back. That wey we'll be workin fresh grund. Clever, eh!"
Of coorse, that meant spendin a lot o money afore ye produced wan lump o coal. But then, we're talkin 'National Coal Board' here, so whit's money?
It's hard going, working down the pit. So, of course, you're glad when it's break time.
As an electrician, you might be anywhere down the pit, but like as not, you'll be working on the face. This is where the Seafield was special.
In an old pit like the Wellesley, the face started working near the pit-bottom, then, as the years went by, it moved further and further away. This meant that the ground that you were working through, settled down into the waste, and the roads through to the face, were running in unstable stone. If you remember, I told you before, about brushing to keep the roads clear. Obviously, somebody, somewhere, had a smart idea.
"Why not take the roads out as far as you can, then work back. That way, we'll be working fresh ground. Clever, eh!"
Of course, that meant spending a lot of money before producing one lump of coal. But then, we're talking 'National Coal Board' here, so what's money?

Noo, whaur wiz I? At the Seafield. Richt enough.
The Seafield wis a braw modern pit, so they drove the roads oot fur miles aloe the Forth afore they dug onny coal. Whit they did fund wiz saund. Lots an lots o saund. Somehow, saund at the bottom o the sea disnae surprise me, but then again, whit dae ah ken?
So they pit the saund intae saundbags - whit else? - an they took it up tae the surface. An piled them aw up.
This is jist like the pit! Ah'm still waitin tae get mah piece! Still, we're nearly there.
Aw it ta'en wiz fur anither clever sod. Micht hae been the same wan.
"Why no yase the saundbags tae support the roof! Save on props! Clever, eh!"
So aw the saund came back doon the pit. Thoosands o bags o the stuff. They had a monorail tae bring them in. An they practicly chok'd the road wi them. It looked like the trenches in th Great War! Saundbags awhere.
Which meant that ye could hae summat cumfy tae sit when yer ha'en yer piece.
Now, where was I? At the Seafield. Right enough.
The Seafield was a grand modern pit, so they drove the roads out for miles, below the Forth Estuary, before they dug any coal. What they did find, was saund. Lots and lots of sand. Somehow, sand at the bottom of the sea, does not surprise me, but then again, what do I know?
So, they put the sand into sandbags - what else? - and they took it up to the surface. And piled them all up.
This is just like the pit! I'm still waiting to get my lunch! Still, we're nearly there.
All it took was another clever-dick; might have been the same one.
"Why not use the sandbags to support the roof! Save on props! Clever, eh!"
So all the sand came back down the pit. Thousands of bags of the stuff. They built a monorail to bring them in. And they almost choked the road with them. It looked like the trenches in the Great War! Sandbags everywhere.
Which meant that you could have somewhere comfortable to sit, when taking your break.

Ah'll tell ye. Ah'm gled tae be sittin doon after aw that. I will tell you. I'm glad to be sitting down after all that.

Ye kept yer piece in a 'piecebox'. It wiz made o tin, in twa halfs. The box wiz the shape o a Norman arch (bit o culture, there!) an the twa halfs fitted snug th'gither. This kept the stoor oot. The shape wiz jist richt fur fower slices o 'plain' bread. The workin-man's loaf. Nane o that 'pan' bread. That wiz fur wimmen, an fancy sannies fur guests - the posh wans. That's whey a fancy accent is cawed 'pan-loaf'.
Ye'd hae cheese or spam or corned beef on yer piece. Onnybody that had better had obviously no been married long. We ta'en an awfy len o newly-weds. Well! Whaur else could ye get biled-ham or an egg?
Ye had yer tea in a flask. Ye aye drank it black. When ah started, Ah had a nacky wee bottle that screwed intae the bottom o the flask, that ye put milk in. Ah aye yased tae drink mah tea wi milk in it. Efter a while, ah drank it black, like awboddy else. Here's why.
You kept your lunch in a 'piecebox'. It was made of tinplate, in two halfs. The box was in the shape of a Norman arch (bit of culture, there!) and the two halfs fitted snugly together. This kept the dust out. The shape was just right for four slices of 'plain' bread. The working-man's loaf. None of that pan bread. That was for women, and fancy sandwiches for guests - the posh ones. That's why a fancy accent is called 'pan-loaf'.
You'd have cheese, spam, or corned beef on your bread. Anybody that had better, had obviously not been married long. We made of newly-weds. Well! Where else could you get boiled-ham or an egg?
You had tea in a vacuum-flask. You always drank it black. When I started, I had a neat little bottle, that screwed into the bottom of the flask. You put milk in it; I used to drink my tea with milk in it. After a while, I drank it black, like everybody else. Here's why.

The shotfirers yased tae dae their job durin piecetime. They'd be drillin awa durin the shift tae develop the road sos it could keep ahead o the face. An they fired the shots at piecetime, when awboddy wiz eatin.
There ye'd be, sittin cumfy on yer saundbag airmchair, cheese piece in wan haund an a cuppie in th'ither. Then ye'd see the shotfirers walk past ye tae the wee hauf they'd made. They liked tae be further awa fae the shot than you were.
A quick peep on the whistle, an then ...
No a bang, mair a chesty cough. An the coal an stoor wis awplace. An the smell. They yased tae say it wid cure onnything. Certainly did sumthin fur yer lungs.
When the air cleared, ah'd look doon at mah milky tea. In the licht o mah lamp, it wiz a lilac colour. Nice colour fur a frock but no much cop fur a cup o tea! So ah started drinkin it black.
Th shotfirers did their work durin the break. They'd be drilling away during the shift, to develop the road so that it could keep ahead of the face. Then they would fire the explosives while everybody was at their break.
There you would be, sitting comfotably, on your sandbag airmchair, cheese sandwich in one hand, and a cup of tea in the other. You'd see the shotfirers walk past you to the little shelter that they'd made. They liked to be further away from the explosion than you were.
A quick peep on the whistle, and then ...
Not so much a bang, more a chesty cough. Then the coal and dust would be everywhere. As for the smell!. They used to say that it would cure anything. It certainly helped to clear your lungs.
When the air cleared, I'd look down at my milky tea. In the light of my lamp, the tea was a lilac colour. A nice colour for a frock, but not quite right for a cup of tea! And so, I started drinking it black.

Time tae go back tae the face. So back t'work! This bit's important, so's ah want yis aw tae pey attention. Time to return to the face. Everybody back to work! This bit's important, so I want you all to pay attention.

Doon the pit, there's rules an regulations.
Ah telt yis afore aboot the 'nae smokin' rule. Ye dinnae smok doon the pit cause there's gas doon the pit. Firedamp. Methane is its Sunday name. So nae fags, nae matches.
As it says on the notice-board afore ye get in the cage. 'No chemical, mechanical or electrical apparatus for the ignition or combustion of tobacco.'
Like ah said. Nae fags! (If yer an American fae San Fransisco, check the meanin o th'word 'fag', afore ye start a protest march!)
Down the pit, there are rules and regulations.
I told you before. about the 'No Smoking' rule. You don't smoke down the pit, because there's gas down the pit. Firedamp. Methane is its Sunday name. So no cigarettes, no matches.
As it says on the notice-board before you get in the cage. 'No chemical, mechanical or electrical apparatus for the ignition or combustion of tobacco.'
Like I said. No cigarettes! (If you are an American from San Fransisco, check the meaning of the word 'fag', before you start a protest march!)

There's an awfy lot o ither rules an regulations doon the pit.
Ye cannae fa asleep doon the pit - it's aginst the Law. Ah remember a coort-case whaur the defence wiz ...
"Ah wiz overcome wi the heat an the fumes fae the conveyer motors an ah fell doon, unconscious, on a pile o blankets that jist happened tae be left there by a 'first-aider'. Ah micht hae been snorin but it jist goes tae prove that the air wiz bad!"
Ah think he got aff wi a fine, cause the air wis ayeways bad.
There's are plenty of other rules and regulations down the pit.
You must not fall asleep down the pit - it's against the Law. I remember a court-case where the defence was ...
"I was overcome by the heat and the fumes from the conveyer motors, and I fell down, unconscious, on a pile of blankets that just happened to be left there by a 'first-aider'. I might have been snoring, but it just goes to prove that the air was bad!"
I think that he got off with a fine, because the air was always bad.

There's a law says nae wimmen an nae bairns doon the pit.
Afore the wimmen oot there join in wi the protest-march fae America, jist hae a wee look at the history o pits
There's a law that says 'No women, and no children down the pit.
Now, before the women out there, join in with the protest-march from America, just take a quick look at the history of pits

Minin folk were ayeways at the front when it come tae fechtin aginst the terrible things that industry wanted tae dae tae them. There's mony a street in Scotland named efter a reformer or socialist politician. In thae days, it wiz the place tae be.
Efter the Great War, the fields o Flanders were fu o crosses tae mark them that had faun fur their country.
Doon the pit, near evry rule an regulation marks the place whaur a man, wummin or bairn had deid keepin yer coal fire burnin.
Mining people were always at the front, when it came to fighting against the terrible things that industry wanted to do to them. There's many a street in Scotland, named after a reformer or socialist politician. In those days, it was the place to be.
After the Great War, the fields of Flanders were full of crosses, to mark those that had fallen for their country.
Down the pit, almost every rule and regulation, marks the place where a man, a woman or a child, had died to keep your coal fire burning.

Dinnae get me wrang! We werenae a bunch o soor-faced sticklers when it come tae the rules.
Like aw apprentices, we cairryed on like eedjits. Richt cocky, we were! At the end o oor shift at the Wellesley, we couldnae be bothered walkin aw the wey back tae the pit-bottom. So we yaised tae jump on tae the coal conveyer. This wiz the conveyer-belt that taen the coal fae the face, aw the wey tae the skip at the pit-bottom.
Cause it wiz a long wey, there wiz mair than wan belt, an each belt would rise up tae drap its coal on tae the next. Aboot six fit wiz the drap.
Th secret wiz tae jump aff afore the end got too high, then walk tae the next belt. If ye wiz too slow, ye couldnae get aff, then it wiz a big drap an half a ton o coal wid land on yer heid!
Anither problem wiz the roof. Wood wiz yaised tae pack oot the supports an girders, an as the weight come on, the wood'd break an splinter. Big splints o timber wid stick doon fae the roof. If wan o them caught the cable fae yer lamp, or stuck in yer claes, the result wiz either a fifty-ton-o- coal-enema or yer claes ripped aff ye!
If ye turned up at the surface wi nae claes an yer erse red raw, ye couldnae admit it cause it's against the Law.
Awboddy kent, though! Efter runnin the gauntlet o smilin faces, fetchinly clad in pit-bits an lamp, ye'd be shair tae walk the next time!
Don't get me wrong! We were not a bunch of sour-faced sticklers, when it came to the rules.
Like all apprentices, we carried on like idiots. Right cocky, we were! At the end of our shift at the Wellesley, we could not be bothered to walk all the way back to the pit-bottom. So, we used to jump on to the coal conveyer. This was the conveyer-belt that took the coal from the face, and moved it to the skip at the pit-bottom.
Because it was a long way, there was more than one belt, and each belt would rise up to drop its coal on to the next. The drop was about six feet.
Th secret was 'jump off before the end got too high, then walk to the next belt'. If you were too slow, you could not get off. There was a big drop, and half a ton of coal would land on your head!
Another problem was the roof. Wood was used to pack out the supports and girders, and, as the weight came on, the wood began to break and splinter. Big splints of timber would stick down from the roof. If one of them caught the cable from your lamp, or stuck in your clothing, the result was either a fifty-ton-of-coal-enema, or your clothes were ripped off!
If you turned up at the surface with no clothes, and a red, raw, backside, you could hardly admit anything, because it was against the Law.
Everybody knew, though! After running the gauntlet of smiling faces, while fetchingly clad in pit-boots and lamp, you would be certain to walk, the next time!

There wis wan rule doon the pit that awboddy kent.
Ah've never seen it written-doon on paper but it was shairly written in the heart o evry miner, an it wiz the only reason that a man wid gaun doon the pit day efter day.
If the roof come doon, or there was a fire or explosion, evry man wid dae his best, risk his life tae try an get ye oot.
At the Michael fire, we couldnae dae that. The fire wiz jist too bad.
There's no a miner staundin that disnae feel that.
There was one rule, down the pit, that everbody knew.
I have never seen it written-down on paper, but it was surely written in the heart of every miner, and it was the only reason that a man would go down the pit, day after day.
If the roof came down, or there was a fire, or explosion, every man would do his utmost, risk his life, to try and get you out.
At the Michael fire, we couldn't do that. The fire was just too bad.
There's not a miner standing, that doesn't feel that.

If yis still wants tae be a miner efter aw that, then ah'll tell yis aboot 'Undergroond Trainin' at Muircockhall, officials and the 'blue tattoo'.
If y're still readin this, then the glamour o bein a miner has got tae yis!
Ye didnae want tae be an 'engine-driver' cause it's no the same withoot the steam-trains, an it disnae look like yer application tae become a checkoot-assistant at Sainsbury, is gaun tae get a reply.
Then the answer is ...
If you still wants to be a miner after all that, then I will tell you about the 'Undergroond Trainin' at Muircockhall, officials and the 'blue tattoo'.
If you're still reading this, then the glamour of being a miner, has got to you!
You didn't want to be an 'engine-driver', cause it's not the same without the steam-trains, and it doesn't look like your application to become a checkout-assistant at Sainsburys, is going to receive a reply.
Then, the answer is ...

Jine the 'Coal Board'!
It's a guid life, an yer maw willnae mind swappin ye fur six ton o coal a year. Jist dinnae expect her tae mak yer piece on the dayshift!
Join the 'Coal Board'!
It's a good life, and your mother will not object to exchanging you for six tons of coal per year. Just don't expect her to make your packed-lunch on the dayshift!

Furst of aw, ye've got tae dae the 'Aptitude Test'. This helps the Coal Board tae fund the richt place fur ye.
They ask ye tae answer aw these tricky questions, like "Whit's yer name?" (No awboddy gets this richt, but dae worry aboot it. Jist answer wi confidence. Ah'll explain aboot the 'Trainin Officer' in a minit).
If ye pass this stage, ye're in as a 'Minin Apprentice'.
First of all, you have to take the 'Aptitude Test'. This helps the Coal Board to find the right place for you.
They ask you to answer all these tricky questions, like "What is your name?" (Not everybody gets this right, but don't worry about it. Just answer with confidence. I'll explain about the 'Training Officer' in a minute).
If you pass this stage, you are taken on, as a 'Mining Apprentice'.

If ye fancy chancin yer mitt in summin technical, ye can try bein a Sparky or a Fitter.
It disnae mitter which wan as the trainin's th esame fur the first year. Aw ye've got tae dae is figure oot which wey roond the wee cogwheel turns when ye turn the big wan. (Guess! The odds are better than the bookies!)
If you fancy trying your hand at something technical, you can apply to be an 'Electrician' or a 'Mechanic'.
It disn't matter, which one you choose, as the training is the same for the first year. All you have to do, is figure out which way round the little cogwheel turns when you turn the big one. (Guess! The odds are better than at the bookmakers!)

Ye get a wee talk fae the 'Trainin Officer' an the 'Safety Officer'.
An this is where ye learn the 'first truth aboot minin'. It's dangerous. But wi a wee bit o common sense, ye can get by. So, in an industry that's protectit by a big Union, ye cannae fire folk jist cause they're a wee bit on the daft side.
Coorse, haen an eedjit doon the pit is no a guid idea, sos ye mak them summin safe. Like 'Safety Officer' or 'Trainin Officer'! That wey, they'll never get doon the pit!
You'll be given a short talk from the 'Training Officer', and from the 'Safety Officer'.
This is where you learn the 'first truth about mining'. It's dangerous. But with a little bit of common sense, you can get by. In an industry that's protected by a big Union, you just can't fire people, simply because they're a bit addled in the brain.
Of course, having an idiot down the pit, is not a good idea, so you appoint them to a 'safer' position. Like 'Safety Officer' or 'Training Officer'! That way, they'll never be allowed down the pit!

Aw "C'maun", ye're sayin. That's no fair!
Well, let me tell ye aboot mah 'Trainin Officer'. He got the job cause the real candidate didnae turn up fur the interview. He wiz haundy, an tae fill in the time, he gied a talk on the subject o 'The Matchbox'. Fur ten minits! Ah couldnae mak this up if ah tried. He wis so prood o th efact, he yaist tae tell aw the apprentices aboot it.
As fur the Safety Officer, the day he got the job, the pit wiz a lot safer. Providin he wiz never let onnywhere near it!
Oh "'Come on!", I hear you say. That is unfair!
Well, let me tell you about my 'Training Officer'. He was appointed to the position, because the real candidate failed to turn up for the interview. He was handy, and to fill in the time, he gave a talk on the subject of 'The Matchbox'. For ten minutes! I couldn't make this up, if I tried. He was so proud of this fact; he insisted on telling all the apprentices about it.
As for the 'Safety Officer'... the day that he got the job, the pit was a lot safer. Providing he was never let anywhere near it!

If ye wiz a Minin Apprentice, ye worked on the surface fur aboot six months, an then ye went tae Muircockhall, near Dunfermline, fur yer undergroond trainin.
Sparkies an fitters didnae go there fur at least eighteen months. Mebbe they reckoned it wiz safer tae keep us awa fur as long as possible. Efter aw, a sparky wi a live wire is like a coo wi a gun. Best stey awa! As fur a fitter, they were usually built tae haud the roof up - no tae wear themselves oot wi thinkin.
Onnywey, they had tae let us go sometime.
If you were a Mining Apprentice, you would work on the surface for aboot six months, and then you would go to Muircockhall, near Dunfermline, for your underground training.
Electricians and Mechanics didn't go there for at least eighteen months. Perhaps the believed that it was safer to keep us away for as long as possible. After all, an Electrician with a live wire is like a cow with a gun. Best stay away! As for a Mechanic, they were usually built to hold the roof up - not to wear themselves out with thinking.
However, they had to let us go, sometime.

Th minin apprentices had tae stey there residential. The engineers got tae travel fae hame, in wan o Willmax's buses. They wiz hauf the size o wan o Alexander's, aw pastel shades o pink an green, an had big chrome bumpers an tail-fins.
If Elvis had been an apprentice, he'd a loved it!
The Mining Apprentices had to stay there, in residential accomodation. The engineers got to travel from home, in one of Willmax's buses. They were half the size of one of Alexander's buses; all pastel shades of pink and green, with huge chrome bumpers and tail-fins.
If Elvis had been an apprentice, he would have loved it!

Muircockhall wiz the trainin pit fur the Fife region. It wiz a pit, and a mine.
Better explain. In a pit, ye go doon in a cage, hingin fae a steel rope. In Scotland, a mine wis someplace ye could walk doon. Bit like the gold mines in thae cowboy films.
As the shaft at Muircockhall wiz only 150 fit deep, they had a mine whaur ye could walk up an doon.
Rule wis ... walk doon - get the cage up, get thh cage doon - walk up!
The cage taen fower o yis, an when ye rang the bell tae go doon, ye looked doon through the mesh on the flair o the cage. Ye'd see this wee heid lookin up the shaft tae see if ye wiz ready. Whitever ye dae, dinnae gob doon the shaft! It's a long shift, stuck halfwey doon the shaft, an ye could spend the next fower weeks shovellin. Dinnae dae it! Richt?
Muircockhall was the trainin pit for the Fife region. It was a pit, and a mine.
I had better explain. In a pit, you go down in a cage, which hangs from a steel rope. In Scotland, a mine was someplace that you could walk down. Somewhat like the gold mines in those cowboy films.
As the shaft at Muircockhall was only 150 feet deep, they had a mine where you could walk up and down.
The rule was ... walk down - get the cage up, get the cage down - walk up!
The cage took four people, and when you rang the bell to go down, you looked down through the mesh on the cage floor. You would see this tiny head, looking up the shaft to see if you were ready. Whatever you do, do not spit down the shaft! It's a long shift, stuck halfway down the shaft, and you could spend the next four weeks, shovelling. Do NOT do it! Right?

It wiz a braw wee pit. It even had a gallery that had nae props or supports, jist like a cave. There wiz a bit in the regulations that allowed it, seein as the pit wisnae very deep an the weight comin doon wiznae a problem.
That bit wiz gey auld. An ye could see aw thir bonnie fossils on the wa's. There wiz a fish that wiz nearly twa fit long. Ah hope someboddy taen them oot fur a museum afore they shut the pit.
It was a lovely little pit. It even had a gallery, where there were no props or supports, just like a cave. There is a section in the regulations that allows it, because the pit wasn't very deep, and the weight coming down, wasn't a problem.
That section was very old. You could see all these beautiful fossils on the walls. There was a fish that was nearly two feet long. I do hope that someone took them out, and put them in a museum, before they shut that pit.

Awboddy got the same trainin.
Ye had tae learn tae pit up props, widden wans an dowty hydraulic wans. If ye have a choice, ayeweys pick a widden wan. If the weight comes on sudden, ye can hear wid creak. A hydraulic wan jist slowly sinks till it's jammed in fast. Nae warnin. Jist a lot o diggin tae get it free, an hope it's jist the prop yer diggin oot.
Awboddy got th same trainin.
You had to learn to put up props; wooden ones and 'Dowty' hydraulic ones. If you have a choice, always pick a wooden one. If the weight comes on suddenly, you can hear wood creak. A hydraulic prop just slowly sinks until it is jammed in fast. No warning. Just a lot of digging to get it free, and hope that it's just the prop that you are digging out.

Ye got fire-fechtin practice. They gie yis fower lengths o hose, each fifty fit long. An a nozzle.
Ye'd aw start fae the same place, at the hydrant. Ye had tae unreel yer hose as ye ran an then couple it tae the next hose.
Ye're probably ahead o me on this.
Of coorse, the man wi the first hose had it easy, what wi it bein next tae the hydrant, but awboddy else had tae guess whaur the last hose wid run tae, afore startin tae unreel their hose.
See whit's comin? Can you guess how long a hunnert an fifty fit iz?
When the last bit was unreeled, the man wi the nozzle had tae stick it on an shout "RIGHT!"
Then they'd turn on the watter. Jist as awboddy wiz tryin tae mak a fifty-fit hose stretch tae sixty. Aw it wiz bliddy cauld. That watter wis freezin!
Of coorse, they couldnae hear ye fur the soond o high-pressure watter scooshin aw o'er the place.
Verry educaishonull! Ah couldnae possibly repeat whit else we sayed!
You did fire-fighting practice. They gave you four, fifty-foot lengths of hose. And a nozzle.
You all started from the same place, at the hydrant. You unreeled your hose as you ran, then coupled it to the next hose.
You're probably ahead of me on this.
Of course, the man with the first hose, had it easy, being next to the hydrant, but everybody else had to guess where the previous hose would end, before starting to unreel their hose.
Can you see what's coming? Can you guess how long, a hundred and fifty feet is?
When the last bit was unreeled, the man with the nozzle had to stick it on, then shout "RIGHT!"
Then they'd turn on the water. Just as somebody was trying to make a fifty-foot hose stretch to sixty. Oh, it was bloody cold. That water was freezing!
Of course, they couldn't hear you over the sound of high-pressure water spouting all over the place.
It was very educational! I couldn't possibly repeat what else we said!

An of coorse ...
The wan we wiz aw waitin fur. Shotfirin!
Now, of course ...
The one that we are all waiting for. Shotfiring!

We got tae drill the hole. Prepare the shot. Tamp it in tae the hole. Pit in the clay tae stop it, mak the charge burst the coal better.
An we got tae fire it as weel!
Brilliant! Ayewis wantit tae dae that. No a bang - mair a 'thump!' an a facefu' o coal.
We got to drill the hole. Prepare the shot. Tamp it in to the hole, then put in the clay, to stop it; make the charge do a better job of bursting the coal.
We got to fire it, as well!
Brilliant! I always wanted to do that. Not a bang - more a 'thump!', and a face-full of coal.

So here's whaur the blue tattoo comes in tae it.
If ye hae an accident doon the pit - a bad cut or a compound fracture - the coal stoor gets in. It's sterile, so that's no a problem, but they cannae usually get the coal stoor oot. It leaves a mark - a blue mark - under the skin.
It's hoo ye can ayewis tell an auld miner. He'll hae a few blue tattoos.
The auld boy that taucht us shotfirin took aff his shirt tae show us. A shot had backfired wan day an he wiz hit wi the coal an the flame.
He'd been wearin a string-vest at the time. They'd jist started tae become fashionable. He had a blue chest at the front, wi a perfect white string-vest printed on it.
Tattoos! Ah dae mind. But a set o underwear like that, ah can live withoot.
So, this is where the blue tattoo comes in to it.
If you have an accident down the pit- a bad cut, or a compound fracture - the coal dust gets in. It's sterile, so that's not a problem, but they can't usually remove the coal dust afterwards. It leaves a mark - a blue mark - under the skin.
It's the way that you can identify an old miner. He'll have a few blue tattoos.
The man that taught us shotfiring, took off his shirt to show us. A shot had backfired one day, and he was hit with the coal and the flame.
He'd been wearing a string-vest at the time; they'd just started to become fashionable. He had a blue chest at the front, with a perfect white string-vest printed on it.
Tattoos don't bother me. But a set of underwear like that, I can live without.

There's only wan mair thing t'tell yis, afore ah catch the tow up the pit. Ah'll tell yis hoo tae close a pit!
Ye'll jist hae tae bear in mind that whit ah say is whit ah felt at the time. History'll be the judge o wha wiz richt an wha wiz wrang.
There's only one more thing to tell you, before I catch the cage up the pit. I will tell you how to close a pit!
You'll have to bear in mind, that what I am saying, is what I felt at the time. History will be the judge of who was right and who was wrong.

Furst of aw, jist let me say mah piece.
Did ah like workin doon the pit? Aye, the folk wis great tae work wi.
Wiz ah sad tae see aw the pits close. No! Nae man should hae tae crawl aroond in the dark, diggin fur coal. If ye want tae pit mair coal on the fire, awa dig it yersel!
Th efolk that worked doon the pit wiz jist ordnary folk.
Some o them wiz great artists, some wiz poets that wiz the equal o any lakeland scribe.
An some were as 'daft as brushes'!
First of all, just let me say my piece.
Did I like working down the pit? Yes! The miners were great people to work with.
Was I sad to see all the pits close. No! No man should have to crawl around in the dark, digging for coal. If you wish to put more coal on the fire, away and dig it yourself!
The people who worked down the pit were just ordinary folk.
Some of them were great artists, some were poets that were the equal of any lakeland scribe.
And some were as 'daft as brushes'!

The word we're lookin fur is 'Compensation'.
Aw ye've got tae dae is say "We're a caring industry. If you are injured in an accident, we will help out and pay compensation.".
It's hard tae believe, but wi the thocht o three hundred quid fur a broken airm, there wiz enough eedjits that thocht it wiz a bargain.
Twa tubs an a quick shove, an it wiz a month aff wi sick-pey an a nice wee bundle in the back-pooch.
Ah ken the names, sos if ye're oot there readin this - jist think. Wiz it really worth it?
The word that we are lookin for, is 'Compensation'.
All you have to do, is say "We're a caring industry. If you are injured in an accident, we will help out, and pay compensation.".
It's hard to believe, but with the thought of three hundred pounds for a broken arm, there were enough idiots who believed that was a bargain.
Two coal wagons, and a quick shove, then it was a month off with sick-pay, and a nice little bundle in the back-pocket.
I know the names, so, if you are out there, reading this - jist think. Was it really worth it?

Of coorse, bein a nationalised industry, bein daft wiz the thickest seam in aw the pits.
Some o the machinery doon there - coal cutters an the like - wiz that expensive that the Coal Board rented it. So whit dae ye tak oot first when ye close a section? Ye tak oot the props an let the roof fa doon. Leavin the machinery in there. As far as ah ken, we could still be peyin the rent yet on machinery that's noo sae flat that ye could make bean tins oot o it! If ye cared tae dig doon a mile or so for it.
Of course, being a nationalised industry, being stupid was the thickest seam in all the pits.
Some of the machinery down there - coal cutters and the like - was so expensive, that the Coal Board rented it. So what do you take out first, when you close a section? You take out the props, and let the roof fall doon. Leaving the machinery in there. As far as I can tell, we could still be paying the rent, even now, on machinery that's now so flat that you could make bean tins out of it! If you care to dig down, a mile or so, for it.

Ah'm telt that thae 'conspiracy theories' are awfy popular these days.
Amateurs. That's what they are.
Compared wi the Coal Board, jist amateurs. Jist dig up the historical figures (ye'll shairly no be able tae dig up onny coal!) and ye'll see.
Ye'll fund pits that mak a profit in a year where they didnae bring up onny coal, an new pits that were fitted out wi rubbish (expensive rubbish!) when they knew that they wid never open.
I'm told that those 'conspiracy theories' are very popular, these days.
Amateurs. That's what they are.
Compared with the Coal Board, simply amateurs. Just dig up the historical figures (you probably will not be able to dig up any coal!), and you will see.
You'll find pits that made a profit, in a year where they never brought up any coal, and new pits that were fitted out with (very expensive) rubbish!, when they knew that they would never open.

An this is it! The Big Secret. Hoo tae close a pit. This is it! The Big Secret. How to close a pit.

First, look fur a pit that's makin money. Say it's makin a million pounds profit a year.
Buy ten million pounds o equipment fur it.
Check the accounts. Loss at end of financial year: nine million!
Obviously an uneconomic pit!
Close it doon tae save money (but no afore shippin oot the equipment tae anither pit - assumin it wiz delivered in the furst place).
First, search for a pit that's making money. One that's making a million pounds profit in a year.
Buy ten million pounds of equipment for it.
Check the accounts. Loss at the end of financial year: nine million!
Obviously an uneconomic pit!
Close it down to save money (but not before quietly shipping out the equipment to another pit - assuming that it was delivered, in the first place).

If that disnae work, efter 'nationalise', try 'rationalise', 'downsize', 'pasteurise' or onny ither '-ize'. Failing that, after 'nationalise', try 'rationalise', 'downsize', 'pasteurise' or any other '-ize'.

Soond crazy?
Ah've worked fur two o the biggest employers in Britain, an they're bith gaun noo! Bith yaised the same methods tae close places.
If we could jist nationalise crime, poverty and sickness, an pit the same bampots in charge. Whit a wonderful world it w'd be!
Sound crazy?
I've worked for two of the biggest employers in Britain, and now, they're both gone! Both used the same methods to close places.
If we could just nationalise crime, poverty and sickness, and put the same morons in charge. What a wonderful world it would be!

That wiz the pits.(The pun wiz unintentional, bit ah liked it so it steys!). That was the pits.(The pun was unintentional, but I liked, it so it stays!).

If ye liked it, ah'm gled.
If ye learnt onnythin, that's tae the guid.
If ye didnae - well ye've probably got a job in management, workin fur the Cooncil.
If you liked my story, I'm glad.
If you learned anything, that's to the good.
If you didn't - then you've probably got a position in management, working for the Council.

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Original story © Dave Sloan 2005
Layout, editing and additional material © Dave Sloan 2016
'tachras' and 'Winding Yarn' © Dave Sloan 2005, 2012, 2016

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