Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Spectrum of Welfare

The following poems have been composed from phrases contributed by visitors to the National Coal Mining Museum of England. All were collected on one day, 19th February 2020, and drawn from information boards displayed around “The Hub”. The contributors were invited to write their chosen lines by selecting a coloured pen. The subsequent poems have been made from words written in the same colour. All the words used are those supplied by the visitors. My role has been to form them into reflective verse. I have retained mis-spellings and non-sequiturs as they contribute to the sense of the poems.
(Dave Alton – Coalshed Poet)

I can’t tell a lie,
We were working on a seam:
Canary – Gas – Cage.

We are awkward, hard to use,
Dust made people hard to breath.

To pass a message
On eye-catching equipment:
Banners at a cost.

Explosion of welfare schemes,
Family in rescue teams.


Kept two canaries,
Two steel doors. Amazing days
Working on a seam.

It’s time to celebrate-
Wrestling, boxing, colliery bands.

Banners promote pride
And children-s entertainment
For use underground.

Danger still in existence,
Fun activities also.


What does remind you?
A mine? The helmet? Banners?
Colours and mottoes,

Gala days, celebrating
Once the most dangerous job.

Time improved greatly,
Family and friends rescue pride:
If bird feints – gas leak!

Coal mining was explosive,
Smoke disaster over years.


Encourage miners
Struggle for gala of change;
Everythink proto.

Equipment, holiday silent,
Built family, love and friendship.


Join colliery bands,
Once the most dangerous job
Still chirping away.

Games in London used to ruffle,
Creating cuts and bruises.


Friends, smoke and helmets,
Draped in black to mark a death
Behind pit banner.

A very dangerous job,
Disasters still in existence.

Deadly days happened,
A colliery incident,
Gala team performed.

Celebrating time rescue,
Trained bands in the museum.


All of a sudden
Everything deadly silent,
Danger with the lads.

Colliery bands were waiting
With family and friends by hell.

A sudden something,
Working a seam a yard high:
One hour in you knew.

Men in black killed or injured,
Thousands, I’ve cried, carried out.

We would rush for help,
All named still in existence
Until formal death.

Coal mining is dangerous,
But safety rules made us think.

Unusual happened.
Volunteers seriously
Went about today

To really mark areas
That mine inspectors once saw.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Telling Stories

Telling Stories
(Poem composed from conversations with visitors to the National Coal Mining Museum on 5th February, National Story Telling Day)

Granddad was from Fife,
Miner all his working days,
Mainly in Stoke, though.

Dad escaped in a spitfire
And I live now in Salisbury.

“Children, whose bag’s this,
And where is your group leader?
That’s it, two by two.”

Crocodile slouching its way
To the coach in neat order.

Thirteen’s old enough
For the joinery shop:
Time served and ready.

When the kids came, where’s the brass?
From rip saw then to ripper.

Saturday scrum-halves,
From pit props to prop forwards,
All in the same league.

Come Monday, under the sports’ field,
Players back at their tackle.

My brothers went down,
Dad, of course, and my uncles.
I went to college.

Gran gave me ten bob each week,
“Just ‘til you’re working.” she’d say.

Dave Alton
(Coalshed Poet)