I WONDER if I am the only person who knows or remembers the very beginnings of Kellingley Pit when the history of ‘Big K’ is referred to in the Press? I have decided to put pen to paper and impart my memories of the very beginning.
My dad was chief cashier at The Prince of Wales Pit and also from 1947 simultaneously landlord of The Central Hotel (Liquorice Bush) in Pontefract.
In the school holidays, he would pick me up and take me with him to pay the wages of the workers doing the test work to establish the viability of the coal reserves.
I remember in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s – I do not know the actual year – going to sort test bore sites and clearly the site where Big K was eventually built.
Would you be surprised to know that the wages were paid to Italians, who did not speak good English? My Dad told me to stay in the car as he handed out the wages, and the verbals and gesticulations beggared belief, as he fled back to the car and off we sped. The reader will be excused for wondering why Italian workers were doing the test boring. My understanding is that labour was so short that they came to England to work down the coal mines after the war.
Given the language difficulties, the miners did not fancy working with them so they were assigned to the test bore holes.
Later my Dad was appointed as site accountant in charge of all the capital expenditure of the building costs, I myself did some work at Big K. Before shaft sinking proper even started I was sent to replace a part on the plant, this long before any coal came out of the ground.
When the construction commenced Sir Alfred McAlpine were the main contractors and at a dinner to celebrate its completion we all received a small gift, in my case a stainless steel bottle opener (I still have it on my key ring).
I did go down Kellingley once around 1971 with George Hayes, the then manager, I was standing for Parliament as a Conservative and this was an arranged visit.
From: Andrew Mercer, Guiseley.
CREDIT where credit is due, the BBC documentary on the last shift at Kellingley was compelling viewing and showed, graphically, the heavy work that miners undertook to keep the lights burning.
It’s just a shame such a programme could not have been produced before London politicians condemned the last of the deep coal mines to closure. If it had been, I wonder if Kellingley could have been reprieved.