15 NOVEMBER 1935, Page 18


[To the Editor of TIIE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I take my hat off to Mr. W. Oldaker for the manner in which he champions the cause of the miners. I have worked in the coal mines in Durham for 10 years and it was only in July of this year that I gave coal-mining up as a bad job and came south to try my luck in a new atmosphere.

Mr. Oldaker is certainly right when he said there seems to be extreme bitterness. The miners have fought hard mans a time to try and imprOve their wages and working con- ditions, but have always been beaten. They would fight again if they had money to support them. But the Miners' Union, strong as it is supposed to be, is really very weak when it comes to fighting a battle like the 1926 strike turned out to be.

Mr. Oldaker also mentions safety conditions in relation to inspectors visiting the mine. We used to get an inspector in ours, following every accident, which was fairly regular. I have known a district in the mine to have been prepared in expectation of a visit from the inspector. In preparing a district in a coal nnine, all loose stones, water and sluiry are removed from the travelling roads and stone-dust is laid (Iwo. Al! girders, side4imber and other roof supports are eXamined, and sometimes renewed, any loose stone being Palled doWn. I have never known an inspector come any further than the landing ; that is, where the haulage system extends' to. And miners are often working half a Mile beyond this 'point. Of course, I cannot give any proof of these 'statements, but have given the facts as I saw them.

I do not know how bad the conditions were where Mr. Olciaker and his friends visited, but I venture to say that the c.onditions in some of the Durham County mines are worse, In some mines men are walking three miles from the shaft bottom to the coal face. In some places the travelling is terrible, loose boulders lie strewn about, sometimes there is six, inches of water or slurry, and the height may be about

4 in some places. It is impossible to straighten your back and on top of this you may be carrying a 7-lb. powder tin, drilling or hewing gear, besides a lamp and other personal needs. When this man reaches the coal face he has to lie on his side for nearly all his shift as the coal is about 17 inches in height. I have done this for years so I know what it is like, that is why I gaVe it up as a " bad job."—Yours sincerely,'