Letter: Bevin Boys remember life down the pits

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a member of the Bevin Boys fraternity, I was interested by David Day's article ('Reluctant boys from the black stuff,' 31 December). In my experience there was little, if any, prickly relationship between men and boys at Handsworth Nunnery. We saw each other as different, but so long as one accepted that such differences were submerged temporarily, all was well. On occasion these differences were of benefit both ways.

I did make friendships which existed outside the pit; home visits, if rare, did happen; and holidays were taken jointly on at least one occasion. I have to say that none of these friendships endured beyond our joint incarceration.

There was little absenteeism. My recollection, perhaps faulty, is that a poor attendance record resulted in an extension to our period of service. We did enjoy extra rations - double meat, for instance, and there was a one-off distribution of food parcels from the US. I respected my real collier colleagues, despite some odd habits. Many chewed and spat tobacco in a manner causing Clint Eastwood to look like a namby-pamby. It was supposed to be medicinal.

Mr Day was stung to declare his politics; mine were leftish, but I never did. I was a post-Hiroshima volunteer; Mr Day was pressed. I lived at home, not in a hostel. I have never regretted my time in the pits, although grateful that it wasn't for ever. I was fitter than before or since, and my experiences left me unable to avoid anger and sadness at what is happening to the remnants of the industry today.

Yours faithfully,


Ravenfield, South Yorkshire

1 January

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