Monday, 19 June 2017

Ten Minutes

In the long history of mining there are many large scale disasters that made the news - scores of lives taken in a single, horrible incident. But there are also thousands of individual accidents where men were taken. On 21st February 1935 my great-uncle Jim Hooper went to work at Parkhouse No 7 colliery in Clay Cross (known as the Catty Pit) and never came back. I did some family history research and uncovered the full story in a newspaper article of the time. This poem is a simple retelling of that article - the thing that was so striking for me was that he was so close to the end of his shift.

"Just one more tub
Give it a shove
Ten minutes we'll be done
Get out of here
at ten o'clock
And we'll be going home"

But fate had plans
For a mining man
No journey home for Jim
His pals were scarcely
yards away
when the roof caved in on him

Thirty tons of
rock and coal
A groan was all they heard
His comrades dug
and cleared in vain
their desperation shared

The doctor came
down in the mine
Four hours it took in all
But life had gone
when he was found
The doctor made the call

Around the quiet
grave they stood
His grieving widowed mother
Teddy, George and
My grandad Bill
His three surviving brothers

His sister, girlfriend,
working pals
they came to say goodbye
Just a lad
a score in years
They must have wondered why..

In a Clay Cross pit 
he was lost
One more brave mining lad
Swallowed whole
in the quest for coal
What life may he have had?

Ten minutes more
that was all
Jim would have walked away
From the face
back to his mum
To live another day

When he'd return
to that dark place
To hew the black coal seam
Day on day
his life to pass
Ten minutes killed the dream

(c) Tim Fellows 2017

In memory of James Ernest Hooper 1915-1935