Friday, 26 February 2021

A Bouquet of Valentine Roses



(For the National Coal Mining Museum)


With the museum closed for the moment

It might seem there’s no light in the mine,

When, into the gloom, steps Saint Valentine

With a bouquet of roses to be sent.

For whom? For where? The miners’ lamp maybe,

For its glimmer of hope. But then there is

The crystal-bright singing of the canaries;

Or, perhaps, coalmining community

Could be marked in Parkinson’s Yard. Come rain,

Shine or Covid, horse-keepers understood

The needs of Fynn, Eric, Ernie and Bud.

A bouquet for colleagues ‘til we meet again?

And the penny counters deserve a spray

Of roses on Caphouse Valentine’s Day.


                                                                                                            D. A.


This sonnet is composed from lines supplied by staff and volunteers of the National Coal Mining Museum.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

A Bouquet of Valentine Roses


A Bouquet of Valentine Roses


In January, Voices in the Coalshed celebrated hope by composing a poem by drawing on over 20 contributions.

For February, LOVE is the theme, but it’s love for something, rather than someone.

It could be love for an object, a role, an experience, a coming event, or whatever YOU would present A Bouquet of Valentine Roses to at the National Coal Mining Museum.

Appropriately, considering the theme, my aim is to compose a sonnet from suggestions received.

Please complete the following sentence:

I would give A Bouquet of Valentine Roses to…………………………….., because………………………………………..

Please send to:

I look forward to reading what you send and using your words for this month’s video poem.


Dave Alton

Writer in Residence

National Coal Mining Museum

Friday, 29 January 2021

New Hope - New Year


 Tomorrow is ten months ago and more,

When the pit wheel turns again. Searching for

A rich seam of new days from which to hew

The future from, new things to see and do.

Just to have visitors back, volunteers

And guides; learning and laughter is this year’s

Kibble of hope, with life bringing life

To the mine, the miner, the miner’s wife.

Looking forwards, of course, to Gala Day,

When the banners parade and brass bands play

As lockdown’s unlocked, it’s time to engage

Traditional values, mining heritage.

Museum open with smiling faces,

Finding New Hope in amazing places,

Full team back behind the scenes, then

Start and share experiences again.

Back to normality, the old and new;

People are why we do what we do.

Create exciting digital projects,

Virtual engagement, special effects,

Artefacts and local artists’ display,

Sight and sound of a very welcome day.

Re-connect, inform, surprise, even shock,

Open by Easter? Let visitors flock!

Able to build, when that moment arrives,

Everything in all areas of our lives.

There’s roles to play, the museum’s not gone;

This our New Hope for twenty twenty one.

                                                  Dave Alton

Hear this poem and see the images at: 



Friday, 8 January 2021

A Token for Kellingley



Janus at the turn of the year,

Looking forwards, glancing back,

Unblinking hindsight clearly sees

Into nostalgia’s mystique.


For a moment, haze of time passed clears,

Then memories are proposed,

“I remember, come December,

The day when Kellingley closed…”


‘End of a life I’d grown up with,

A sad day, how is this right?

Down to people like me to pass

Memories so nothing’s lost.


The coal industry couldn’t survive,

End of an era!  Living

Industrial vandalism,

Without NCM, nothing.’


The last shaft has been five years sealed,

And though the winding gear’s gone,

Janus looks to the future as

The big wheel of time turns on.


Dave Alton


(Stanzas 3 and 4 are composed entirely from memories and reflections contributed by: Sharon Healy, Steven Mears, Elizabeth Orchard and John Tyson)


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Looking for the Light




Voices from the Coalshed invited contributions on the theme of “Bright spots In A Dark Year”. As ever the variety that arrived proved the worth of the endeavour. I suspect the contributors were not expecting a presentation like this.

I have taken one phrase from each contribution and presented them as a single unit. In times (very) past, when writing was first emerging, there was no punctuation, upper and lower case letters or spacing. This just seemed a way of unifying this piece.

 It is also a challenge to the viewer. I say viewer rather than reader. I challenge you to look and make your own connections, perhaps illuminating a moment for you.

The contributors are:

Ian Schofield              Sharon Healy             Martin Burhouse                   Anne Bradley

            Rebecca Walton                                 Julie Eliot                    Sally-ann Burley

Mike Keeton               Amy Boothroyd                     Kate Fraser


Dave Alton

Writer in Residence

National Coal Mining Museum

Friday, 27 November 2020

When Coal Was King


There was a colliery in Pelton Fell,

Next to the homes that the miners did dwell.


The trucks rolled down to Stella Gill,

Those wagons were filled by the miners' skill.


In 12 hour shifts they hewed at the seams,

They expected nothing, but still held their dreams.


Their children scampered between those rail lines,

Playing their games of sixes and nines.


The caged canaries blinked in the sunlight,

When they closed the pit at the Pelton site.


The Tallyman was the one who was counted last,

For The Mining Industry is now framed in the past.


They hold a Gala in Durham each year,

The flags and banners they proudly do bare.


They march behind their Colliery Band,

Their heads held high as they pass The Grand.


There now are museums that regale their story,

There have been plenty of disasters, but not much glory.


There was no glamour in mining for coal,

It broke their backs and it crushed their soul.


Those miners were exploited and deprived of trust,

Their gain from labour was lungs full of dust.


The cost of coal was more than it was worth,

For the Durham miners, it was Hell on Earth.


                                                                 Jimmy Scope

After The Storm


pale blue shimmers

through puffed-up bruises

wailing winds

and charcoaled souls, burnt a little too long

is a new day breaking

while the thunder’s rumble grumbles distant?


will we navigate still-muddy puddles

pattering around

searching for words

I love you, come to me, you’re my mother, my sister

but settling on a dirty joke instead

while we trip and rise


is it a new day

where crickets and birds sing, finding their place

or just a prelude to new formed tongues of thunder

and lightning striking us jagged



I think I see another patch of blue


                                                                   Yash Seyedbagheri