Copyright © 2006-2007 Mick Coyle
Alan sensed something in the spirit’s memories, something more than a yearning to tell its tale, it was more like a need, a need to the point of fear, fear if it did not convey these memories they would be lost forever.
Initially he would get a short glimpse and hear distant voices, but over a period of time these would clarify. At first Alan thought he was going quite mad, but the snippets started to fall into place, and form a bigger picture, a picture of someone’s life, a life from a bygone era.
These flashes were only one or two seconds in real time but seemed like hours of memories from the past, and it was always on his daily journey to work, at the same time 2.30 PM and in the same place about 1 mile from the city centre of Sheffield on the A630.
Over the weeks he collated these memories to form the bigger picture….
“Hang on Dad” shouted Tom as he run to catch up with his father.
“Afternoon Tom, over laid again, has tha?”
“Arr, why didn’t tha give me a shout?”
“Tha’rt 21 now lad, so tha’s got t’start lookin after thee’sen, come on or will be late for shift”
And off they trudged together John Turner and son Thomas, through the heavy December snow, to put an afternoon shift in.
As they reach the top of Maltraver road they bumped into Charlie White.
“Afternoon Charlie, are we still on for t’morra neet?” said John
“Arr, av saved one an a tanner, so a can have a few pints an a game o dominos”
“Good man, a’ll see thee in’t Cricket Inn, about nine then, an bring your lass with thee, ar’v got t’take our lass”
Upon reaching the pit head they descended the main shaft then climbed onboard the tub train, three to four men per tub, in John’s tub there was his mate Charley and also young David Wall, his son had climbed in one further back. The train started its slow incline to the Silkstone seam.
Nearing the top of the incline there was a sudden jolt as the six hundred foot steel haulage rope snapped; the forty four tubs ran away down the steep incline and soon picked up a sixty miles per hour speed.
Both John and Charlie instantly grabbed young David and forced him to the floor of the tub.
“Keep your head down lad, an tha’ll be all reight”
They could hear the grinding and squealing as one of the middle tubs crossed the points, leaving the tracks and started to buffet along the seam wall, dislodging pit props and bringing down large chunks of roof on the already terrified miners.
The train came to an abrupt halt as the tubs concertinaed into one-an-other; John was ripped from his seat and was thrown through the air, he felt a glancing blow to his head as a mist clouded his mind and reality faded.
He slowly came to his senses and in the dim light he could see the maimed and lifeless bodies of his fellow workers, hear, the shouts and screams of anguish as miners clawed and scraped their way through the carnage of twisted metal.
His thoughts instantly went to his son.
“Tom” he shouted and kept on shouting.
He crawled his way further down the shaft until he came to a wall of rubble.
“Tom, Tom” he called as he franticly started to clear the wreckage.
He was pushed to one side by his old mate Charlie whose arm was hanging twisted and limp by his side and with little consideration for his own well being called out.
“Don’t worry Tom; we’ll soon have thee art lad”
Together they clawed at the rubble with their bare hands, then they heard a rumbling which seemed to emanate from the bowels of the earth and resonate along the shaft walls, the pit props replied to the calling with creaks and groans until under the immense pressure they finally shattered bringing down tons more rubble.
Their Tomb was sealed and their fate final.
It is rumoured that the presence of John Henry Turner, who never returned after the 1923 mining disaster, can be felt as his spirit continues its infinite quest in search of his son Thomas, who also perished on that dreadful 3rd of December.
The pit in question closed August 1953. A few years later the pit was to become a major play area for the kids of the Wybourn, but after one or two child mortalities the main shaft was capped and surrounding buildings levelled, a sad loss to us kids.
Then around the mid 1970s, the area was raised to the ground, becoming the home to thousands of commuters, who make their daily drive to and from their place of work with not a single thought for the miners who lost their lives in the various tragedies some thousand feet below.
The sweat and toil endured by the miners helped keep Britain on her feet throughout two world wars.
One could say these men did not stand in the trenches of Flanders fields nor later the forests of the Arden, but nevertheless they fought with an enemy on two fronts, the German Air Force bombing from above and below their battle with mother earth who was reluctant to give up her prized possessions.
And as a final insult the area was renamed ‘The A630’ or ‘Sheffield Parkway’.
There now stands neither a memorial nor even a simple commemorative plaque for the collective memory of these selfless colliers and indeed that fine institute ‘The Nunnery Pit’
I do tend to speak with passion and commitment on this subject, as the pit did play an integral part of my life for many of my formative years, and now that it is raised from existence it should not be buried in the archives of our mind, to one day be lost forever.