Poem, 1925: The Man Who Gets the Coal

The poem below was written by F Gledhill in about 1925, a time of great economic hardship and civil unrest, culminating in the great mining strike of 1926 (which I assume is why strike action is mentioned in the final verse). It was written not that long before George Orwell wrote about coal mining in The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937. It's not Shakespeare but it does give an insight into coal mining in the first half of the 20th century. There are a few references using miner's slang. For example, snap; which is food (often held in a metal snap tin).

I sat at my ease by the cosy fire, one wild and wintry night,
The wind was whistling round the house, for the storm was at its height;
'Twas the kind of night that made me pity sailors out at sea,
And say a prayer for those who had no home, sweet home, like me.
But I smoked away at my old French briar, at peace with all the world,
And there in the glowing embers I seemed to see unfurled :
A picture of the miner, toiling down in the depths below,
That I may enjoy the pleasures ot the firelight's ruddy glow.

I could see him rise from his bed at five, while the rest of the world's asleep;
Kisses his wife a fond good-bye; for they never again may meet,
Then off with his " dudley " upon his back, his " snap " inside his shirt
He whistles the latest popular song, as he cheerfully goes to work,
He call for his lamp and motteys, and then steps into the chair,
Cracks a joke with other men, for he sees no danger there :

Though there is only just a slender rope, between him and the grave
He puts His trust in Him above, who has all power to save.
When the cage reaches the bottom, seven hundred yards below,
His deputy will test his lamp, and direct him when; to go;
He stops and gets a blade or two, puts a shader on his lamp.
So that those who follow on behind, may see their way to tramp.
He may have half a mile to go before he gets into his place,
And by the time that he arrives, the sweat pours from his face;
So he strips off all his clothing, dons cotton pants instead,
He is ready then to do his bit, and earn his daily bread..

He slips a blade upon his shaft, knocks it hard to make it tight,
Takes a drink out of his " dudley," then hangs up his light;
He tests the roof, sees that all the props are good and strong,
Then wonders where the driver is, and hopes he won't be long.
Soon he's toiling with his pick, or straining with the bar,
For these are not like Wembley coals, just painted on with tar;
They require both brawn and muscle, if the coal he means to win :
For when nothing goes into hin tubs, nothing goes into his tin.

But hark! What's that; a fall of roof; no longer shines his light;
His mate who works not far away, cries out " are you alright ?
But gets no answer to his call, so goes to see the reason why,
He finds him laid unconscious, with a stone across his thigh.
Off he runs to get assistance, the Red Cross man to render aid,
Who comes with splints and bandages, and stretcher, ready made,
He treats him with skill and kindness, brings back life into his face,
He will be laid up for a month or two, as a compensation case.

Now accidents are happening, almost daily down the mine,
Men go there well and hearty, but they never know the time
When there may be an explosion, bringing death to score of lives,
Making orphans of their children, and widows of their wives.
But now the picture changes, as I gaze in the firelight glow,
1 can see him with his family, his day's work done below;
1 see him chatting to his wife, his bjaby on his knee,
The baby rubs his blackened face, and shouts aloud with glee.

I can see him playing a game of cards in his club
Or with his dog between his knees, he sits in his favourite pub;
Always ready to back his fancy, at any game on the board,
Non can doubt that he's a sport, when his pockets can afford.
But he sees that his wife and children, are all well dressed and fed,
And when a visitor comes to his home, he will find a good spare bed;
Takes a great pride in his garden, and the annual village show,
For he is human just like other folks, though he does work down below.

So when sat in front of a cosy fire, enjoying its warmth and light,
Just think about the miner, who toils with all his might :
To bring to you these comforts ; and when he comes out on strike,
Don't slander and abuse him, but help him to win his fight.
For he only wants the right to live, to which every man is due,
To enjoy the pleasures of this world, the same as me and you;
So try and treat him with respect, not like a human mole,
Remember he's a British workman, the man who gets the coal.