Last pit ponies are made redundant

THE LAST two working pit ponies in Britain are due to retire later this year. Until such time, the Welsh Cobs must carry on their daily underground duties, hauling cast iron and steel drams of coal weighing two tons over an uneven railway in the pitch black.

The small, private drift mine of Pantygassed in South Wales, where the ponies are still used, is hard to find. It is hidden in a remote valley, in a once beautiful deep gorge.

The Independent went there last week and watched as Amos, a 13-hands- 2in bay Welsh Cob emerged from the hillside. struggling to keep the heavy load behind him moving. He waited patiently while the coal was unloaded before returning back into the darkness.

In 1913 there were 70,000 pit ponies at work in Britain, according to the Government Digest of Statistics. When the National Coal Board was formed in 1947 it inherited 21,000 pit ponies. By 1952 the total number of working ponies was down to 15,500 and, by 1973, to 490. These figures do not, however, include the thousands of ponies that have been employed over the years in small private mines such as Pantygassed.

Stan Fancy, who bought Pantygassed with its four ponies about a year ago, is planning to mechanise the mine. The ponies, two of which are already no longer needed, will join five other former pit ponies at the RSPCA's Wyndham Cottle Home of Rest for Animals, near Milton Keynes.

Roy Peckham, a trustee of the Fforest Uchaf Horse and Pony Rehabilitation Centre in Pontyridd, has campaigned tirelessly to end the use of ponies in mines.

"There has been no co- ordinated monitoring of the welfare of pit ponies," he said. "The last regulations were laid down in 1956, when the Morris Minor was the new car at the Motor Show and people were worried about Suez."

One miner, who retired two years ago after 24 years in the industry, said he prayed that the pit ponies at Pantygassed really were the last.

"At the end of the day, I was always a collier and the horse had a task to do," he said: "It had to pull 20 drams a day and, if it didn't, I didn't get paid. The horse had to do it. It was not a matter of choice."

Mr Fancy said his pit ponies are well looked after. "If we abused any of these horses we'd have the RSPCA and Health and Safety Executive on to us ... The vet comes when we want him and does a full inspection and inoculation every 12 months. That's the law."

At his home, Mr Peckham fed a Polo mint to a 17-year-old pit pony called Steel, which he rescued last year. Steel wheezed and coughed because of the coal dust on his lungs and refused to move. "He says, `I'm retired and I don't have to do anything I don't want to and you can't make me'," explained Mr Peckham, who entirely understood.

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on