Monday, 2 May 2011

Magpie Tales #64 Black gold

Thanks go to Willow who organises and hosts this meme J To read more Magpies please click here.
Smoldering FiresClarence Holbrook Carter, 1904-2000
Columbus Museum of Art

Image courtesy of Tess Kincaid
Black gold
They had been born in the village, the daughters and granddaughters of miners, the wives and mothers of more. They had learned forbearance and endurance. The distant boom of explosives was the background to life. When the slag heaps smouldered on the mountains, the pungent smoke choking and stinging, they turned their backs and continued their chores.

Their men would return at night, blackened and weary, seeking food and oblivion. Each morning they watched as their fathers and brothers, sons and grandsons trudged back to their labours. Unspoken fears gnawed at them all. The mines were nearly worked out, the men having to burrow deeper where the air was stale. They mined naked in narrow tunnels, chipping at the coal face and breathing in the dust, laying explosives and retreating to safety until the blast released more seams.

The siren at the end of the shift was a signal to the women to hasten - hot water to fill the baths, a hot meal to grace the table – and to give thanks that another day had passed without incident. Sounded at any other time it signified disaster.

The women flocked to the mine entrance, dread twisting their hearts and robbing them of coherent speech. They prayed, automatically, desperately. They beseeched deliverance for their men – ‘Let him live, let him live’, ‘Let him die quickly, let him not suffer.’ They begged strength for themselves and forgiveness for all sins large and small. They promised impossible purity and faith if only their men could be spared.

Their entreaties were futile and seventy-five families were changed forever.

Trapped underground, generations lost, all in the pursuit of black gold. 

22 comments:

  1. Powerful words - so many have died for it.

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  2. I could see and feel it all, brilliantly written, so well done!

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  3. Ah, the brawn and perseverance of our roots. Beautiful write.

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  4. Stunning piece of writing. And sadly so true for many.

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  5. Well-penned! I would like to invite you to a May Poetic Challenge I am hosting! Please follow the links below for more information:

    My blog: http://verseinanutshell.wordpress.com

    My e-mail(in case you have questions): goldenhairbear10@aol.com

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  6. What a moving story. So hard to be a miner or one of their family. I love the painting you chose to illustrate your story too.

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  7. Black gold or yellow, the grip it had on lives was equally stranglehold...

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  8. powerful words-excellent post.

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  9. So well done, Janice, such an integral part of Britain's history, I know.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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  10. You painted a glorious word picture with this piece. It's visual and visceral and I like it a lot - even though it is dark and disturbing. Well done!

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  11. A lovely post. I too chose the mining them. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    Lisa
    InspiredbyLisa

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  12. A very powerful, moving piece. I have read many accounts of the lives of coal miners and I cannot think of a harder way to earn a living.

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  13. so many lost for what? strong words for a strong subject

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  14. Beautiful writing. An easy subject to sentimentalize and you avoided that! xj

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  15. You are a powerful teller of stories. They hook me as the reader and I feel the emotion.

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  16. Wonderful writing. Our posts for this week's Magpie have the same title; somewhat different take but focus on coal mining. Fascinating to read so many creative pieces.

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  17. A poignant expression of events that have happened too often in our world.

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  18. Strong piece. The local mine lost a miner in a cave-in last week. And still, they dig and hope.

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  19. Excellent, sensory-rich work.

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