A working man I am … and I’ve been down underground … with many thanks to Rita MacNeil and a tribute to South Wales and Cape Breton coal miners …

word and silence

As an addition to my last post, here is George Orwell’s complete description of going down into the coal mines of northern England, taken from the second chapter of his 1937 book, The Road to Wigan Pier.  The entire text of the book can be found here.

***

When you go down a coal-mine it is important to try and get to the coal face when the ‘fillers’ are at work. This is not easy, because when the mine is working visitors are a nuisance and are not encouraged, but if you go at any other time, it is possible to come away with a totally wrong impression. On a Sunday, for instance, a mine seems almost peaceful. The time to go there is when the machines are roaring and the air is black with coal dust, and when you can actually see what the miners have…

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7 thoughts on “George Orwell in the Coal Mines

  1. There are mines in Eastern Kentucky, but around here it is mostly strip mining. Dirty, ugly and another effort on man’s part to kill off the earth. At least now they are beginning to plant trees when the coal plays out. Guess it doesn’t matter whether the coal is stripped or dug out of the ground, it kills indiscriminantely and dirties everything it touches.

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    • “And every time I cough I get a mining souvenir” … Max Boyce. I remember from my childhood in South Wales the old men wheezing, coughing, and spitting with their various forms of lung disease. I saw the same thing in Ponferrada, Spain, another mining town, when I was walking the Pilgrim Road to Santiago de Compostela. This was all ‘deep’ mining: the strip mining certainly destroys the land.

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      • We could pick up surface coal on our farm, and at one time I was sure I would succumb to Black Lung Disease when we used the old coal furnace, but other than that I have only seen the mines from a distance. They are prettier in Kentucky than the mines I’ve seen in Pennsylvania, but it takes so many years to reclaim the land after the company moves out and the mountain tops have been desecrated and left to nature again. An acorn takes a long time to become a tree, and it takes a lot of acorns to reforest an abandoned strip mine.

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