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Mining has always been a hazardous occupation over the years but, for a 14-year-old boy fresh from school to go straight down the pit, must have been a daunting experience

In the 1920s, however, this was quite a normal occurrence, with young lads having to work. Alongside grown men deep beneath the earths surface.

Injury and death were commonplace but, at the same time, the miners still found the opportunity to laugh and built up strong bonds of comradeship within their own teams.

Mr William Smith of Curlew Close, Oswaldtwistle was one such youngster, who started work at the Rishton Colliery at the age of 14 in 1925 and stayed there until the mine closed In 1941.

He was prompted to tell of his experiences after seeing an old photograph of the Rishton Colliery In David Boderke’s Beat In the Citizen.

A few of us walked, to the pit from Oswaldtwistle every day, as travelling by train was out of the question even though the fare was only 3d,"

"Those who walked alongside me were Walter Whewell senior, Walter Whewell junior who was known as 'Snowball', Joe Rothwell, Walter Yates and John Whittle.

‘Sadly, my mate John was put on the afternoon shift and the last time I saw him was when he was going Into the pit and he said he was looking forward to having a sheep’s ‘napper or head for his supper. The following morning I arrived at the pit and was told that John had been killed along with another man in a roof fall.

"John never saw his sheep’s napper’. He was just turned 18. These things you can’t forget."

He said the photograph in the Citizen showed the horse and carts standing in the yard, in which the coal was taken to the local factories.

When the tubs came out of the pit, one would be selected each day and tipped over for the stone to be picked out. If the stones came to over 18 pounds then the collier responsible for filling it would be laid off for one or two days.

Mr Smith said the manager at the time was Mr Bill Keyhoe, who also taught mining classes at a school opposite the Palladium in Oswaldtwistle. "He was never without a cigar In his mouth."

He said there was a notice board on the bottom of the Rishton shaft on which was painted ‘179 yards deep, 33ff below sea level.’

Rishton pit was well known for being wet and some colliers took In extra clothes to change into halfway through their shift. "On one occasion one collier was hewing coal by hand when a large amount of water burst through the coal face and he was carried away.

"The pump was going for 18 hours before we found him floating In the water."

"These were things you could do without, but while it was rough going you still had plenty of laughs and good workmates."

Mr. Smith said: "The height of the coal face varied from 22 to 28 Inches and the haulage roads and travelling roads were around 36 inches In height" He said the Information given In the Beat about the mine workings stretching from Rishton to Blackburn was correct.

He said the first shaft sunk for the Rishton Colliery was not where the photograph was taken, but was near the side of the canal where the boats were loaded and the horses stabled.

References

Hyndburn Citizen