Monday, 9 January 2012

365 Reasons To Be Proud To Be British: Humphrey Davy


9th January 1816: Humphrey Davy trials his safety lamp at Hebburn Colliery.

When I left school, we still had pits in Nottinghamshire. Five minutes from my house was Moorgreen Colliery, as seen in the picture. When we visited grandparents every other Saturday we drove through the site, over the open railway crossing and underneath pipes and vents and conveyors.

My walk to school took me close to the spoil heap, a lumpen hill formed from the dirt dug beneath our feet by Moorgreen, Underwood and others. Past Eastwood Hall, the National Coal Board offices, where we may or may not have seen Arthur Scargill being helicoptered in for talks during the miner's strike.

So it came a no surprise to find that, as well as reading far too much D H Lawrence, school were keen on sending us off to mining museums. As a treat. Because we didn't seen enough of the industry out of our bedroom windows.

Trips to Chatterley Whitfield and Big Pit taught me three things:

- wearing a hard hat and travelling in a cage is fun. Up to the moment when you're told to turn your lamps off. Dark becomes redefined.

- Welsh ex-miners can have a wicked sense of humour. Let's face it, if you work in a pit that's big and is called Big Pit, you need a few pithy lines to counter sarcastic teenagers.

- the Davy Lamp actually lead to an increase in deaths. And Davy was only one part of the equation. And that's four things. And there's more.

Photo c/o the Shane Phillips collection at Fionn Taylor's website

By Simon Johnson with No comments

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