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continuing from 5
Steve planked each one down firmly on the sand, flat end to the sow, nose to Jack and a new 'scrappy'. Half a dozen or so pattens laid and Jack and the lad shovelling sand onto the newly laid bed. Well filled in, rammed down tight, loose sand raked off, a channel made in which to lay the sow, then over she comes and repeated twenty two times and there ready for running iron, are twenty three beds of twenty five pigs each, and a channel runner to conduct the Iron from the furnace. An eight hour shift at that time entailed an average of the making of two sides of moulding and the running of two casts of Iron.
After a bit of a break, Steve said "Like to see what slagging means David", "of course" I said. The iron tapping hole is plumb front centre of the brick work, breast of the furnace. The slag (waste) hole is a quarter way round the base either left or right, through a blue glass telescope arrangement in the brickwork, one can see the bubbling hell like inferno encased inside that brick and iron plating. Steve explained his job was to extract as much slag as possible from each charging, before running iron. He released and withdrew a rod from what is called the peepy (pee pee) hole and the slag came pouring out down a metal trough into a slag ladle in a tunnel below. He said that about nine o'clock the iron would be clean and ready for casting.
Jack said "come on we'll do a bit more gardening before casting". We put eight beds on another side and left six to do later. "You could have a look round David but don't be longer than half an hour". "OK" I went along the pig bed wall which encloses the whole of the pig beds and the five furnaces. Two men from Brotton whom I knew well, Frank Stubbs and Charlie Smith were piling the iron into bundles for the over head crane to lift off on to the bogies standing on rail lines the other side of the wall. They used long handled tongs and starting in the middle of the bed of iron pulled about half a dozen pigs up on to the broken sow, and then with unerring aim the pig after pig on to those raised on the sow, a bed thrown up and then they tied the load with a chain.
A long light hook was pushed under the iron head, the sow, the smaller link of a chain was pulled through and threaded through the larger one and drawn up tight. Two ton ten average, ready for market.
The over head crane had a very wide span reaching from just in front of the whole five furnaces over the moulding beds, on a track running past the pig bed wall and beyond the rails on which the bogies to convey the newly laid metal to wherever it was needed.
The most usual procedure was for a loco to take them to have the metal weighed and bogie number noted, for each one, then taken on to some open ground a little way away from the plant.
I fairly often worked with the men who took the metal off the bogies and stacked them in tiers as much as eight or ten feet high. The only equipment needed for this work was a strong four feet six inch plank on which to stand when pushed on to the bogie, under a sling on iron, also hand leathers, a leather apron and plenty of strength. No lift at any time being less than a hundredweight and often more…
Now I’ve gone rather ahead than I should have done so will drop back to my early days as a furnaceman and all being well will later more clearly define the un-loading, reloading (by hand) and the shipping from the Jetty.
Returning to making of Iron. Coming away from clocking in on my second day (Saturday) Charlie Longstaff, whistled me and pointed up the steps to the front side, always spoken of that way on all furnaces. The backside, so spoken of is the gantry, over the calcining kilns, nowadays spoken of as sinter. Here also are the coke ovens and the flagged area for the running of the barrows with their load of ore (burnt), limestone or coke.
On going to hang my clothes up and deposit my can of tea on the stove, food box up on a shelf in the number two cabin, Jack Robinson said “You’re to go over to number one to-day Dave, Bill Smith’s just shouted across “send that new scrappy over here when he comes, better take your things with you”. On going over an elderly man (a Welshman, whom I came to like very much) said “I’m Will Smith, keeper of number one, what’s your name,” I told him, he laughed, shook my hand and said “fraid with me, it’ll be ‘Dai’, do you mind and hope we’ll be friends”
He proved a fine man to work with and from him I learnt a great deal. A big young fellow came up the steps and round number one and called “your helper off Bill” “yes” said Bill, “who sent you up here and what did he tell you to do” “Sid Brough an’ he told me to go scrapping number one and two” “well there you are then, so get scrapping” said Bill, “but isn’t Frank Keen off” said Les (his name), “I said get scrapping” said Bill. Turning to me he said "Frank Keen, my helper sent word with your Charlie (my brother, a pig metal carrier) that he isn’t coming to-day and I thought by the way you shaped yesterday, you might like to try” “I’ll do my best” said I.
Oh what a weekend, a boiling August Sun, six – till ten pm Sunday (long turn) a total of six sides of moulding and six times tapping and stopping that furnace. The running of six sides of iron, sore as a boil with the sweat, but every time I looked at Bill Smith, no hurry, no fuss, never stopping till the job was done. I thought I’m half his age, get on with it. After the long turn on the Sunday ending at ten, come next Monday we start the afternoon shift, two til ten, through the week, then ending Saturday afternoon ending at ten pm followed by six shifts ten pm to six am.
Monday we start all over again with the (long turn) sixteen hour Sunday. On this occasion, I didn’t follow thro’, for Frank returned to work on the Wednesday and I was sent across to the coke ovens. I never had a fixed job all the time I was there about six years. I approached the manager more than once and asked for any one job regularly, when I asked him I thought he would never stop laughing “why David” he said “there’s no-one on the plant who had a more regular job than you, we haven’t enough of your type, Jack’s of all trades, ‘floaters’ we call them in Wales”
After my initiation to pig iron production, Friday scrappy, Saturday six til two, scrapping Sunday, six am til 10 pm, helper to Bill Smith and number one, Monday, Tuesday ditto. I couldn’t possibly attempt to put my numerous jobs in their right order, but I do remember that two til ten week was completed by, Wed til sat, two til ten, daubing on the coke ovens and then my first of many times of helping to load the coastling steamer S.S. Northgate.
Loading the Ships
See link below for photograph from the Key Magazine
The firm in nineteen twenty seven period owned only two boats, the other at that time S.S. Hummersea. The one sunk by a mine in nineteen seventeen was the S.S.Cattersty.
Hummersea a bay lying between the works and Boulby Cliff.
Cattersty a wooded valley, almost filled in now with slag tips and lying on the western and opposite side to Hummersea and going towards Huntcliff.
The maximum load for each boat was five hundred tons and had to be loaded in five to six hours, owing to the tides. I soon learnt that the usual method of both skippers was to come into the small jetty harbour, stern first and just keeping up with the incoming tide without grounding, the load of pig on the bogies was shunted about by a funny little loco, nick named “the coffee pot”. You only had to look at it once to realize that a more appropriate name could not have been found. A ten feet upright boiler on a four wheeled base, coal fired and astonishingly quick in movement and in answering to gears, One small steam crane. Two brothers (Saunby) had worked these two dated pieces for many years. My job that morning was to throw a chain over each sling of pigs on the bogies, thrown over small link first with a light metal hook, draw the small link thro’ underneath the iron, pull the small link thro’ the large one in the chain, then throw the remaining yard of chain on to the top of each sling, large link up ready for two men walking about on the top pulling the chain up tight round the sling of pigs and hanging it on crane jib hook and over she goes into the hold, where two men called stowers are swinging them at first to fill in under the combing of the boat.
The crane man can’t see these men working close in under the side of the jetty, as the iron is steadily lowered into the hold. They call out ‘Hold’, the crane man stops lowering, Jimmy Limon and Gotch Beadle get a real swing on their two ton ten package, and swinging well away on front of them both call out together ‘Drop it’. The craneman throws off his brake, pig iron, chain, crane hook and wire all go down in a rush. The two men whom I have mentioned above had worked together in the holds of the Skinningrove boats, and their timing for the dropping of a sling of iron had to be seen to be believed.
All those I saw drop struck the side and bottom of the hold at the same time and stayed put, no rolling. After loading round the sides, their job became much easier, not being under the combing of the boat the crane driver could see where each one was, very little swinging and no shouting. Some time after leaving, I heard that Gotch (William Beadle) had been killed at work, when the pigs in a chain had somehow slipped out and fallen on him, had killed him instantly.
I have wandered away from my subject as is my habit, so I’d better return to my daubing at the coke ovens.
I will try to give a brief description of a range of coke ovens. A square block of fire bricks and steel plate, about forty feet square and from seven to eight feet in height, twenty four brick archways, side by side, two feet wide, six feet from floor to top of arch, an enclosing door at both ends or ach arch, lifted by small travelling hand operated crane. When archways are all charged from the top all doors are lowered into position close fitting two daubers with barrows of a soft white clay (monkey muck, furnace expression), no tools, hand thrown, pressed close and smoothed down. Then a gas ignition with a terrible roar from the gas cellars below, cooking has commenced.
Some four hours later the gas is turned off and the front doors are raised. In front of the ovens, a twelve feet sloping bench of sheet iron plates is waiting for the coke being pushed from each separate arch by the ram. This machine is very heavy, eight wheeled bogie on double rails, against the weight of the push, the ram itself with a sheet plate steel, the same size as an arch, the moving forward of this machine rushes each arch completely empty, then draws back, moves a little to one side in line with the next arch, repeat again and again until all are empty. As the ready, red hot coke, pushed from the ovens slides down the bench, begins the work of the two quencher men who with powerful water hose pressure, cool off the coke. On the few odd times I filled in on that job, I found the steam the nastier part. Enclosed in a light asbestos protection, goggles and mouth and nose covered, it was a most uncomfortable job.
Another of the many and varied jobs that I fairly often did in my few years at Skinningrove was as a gantryman, it was a hazardous, dirty, dangerous job.
The gantry itself, a bridge like or viaduct standing almost as high as the furnaces themselves and about fifty yards away from them. At my time there, the row consisted of eight plate and fire brick kilns, for roasting ironstone (calcining then) (sintering now) following the eight hot kilns were four for limestone, from Weardale quarries (the workers were in the local union “The Cleveland Miners and Quarrymen’s Association). As a little boy I remember the yearly miners demonstration, that year being held at Stanhope-in-Weardale. I remember Dad taking Charlie and I, bands playing, banners flying, what a day. We got away from the ordinary rut in those olden times so seldom, that the few there were are still fresh in memory…
Again I have wandered.
Four Kilns for Limestone and two big wooden coke bunkers. The coke from the oven benches being run in high barrows (rickshaw style) tipped into a large skip, mechanically hoisted and into the massive bunkers, only to be taken out again and barrowed to the blast.
Now the work of the gantry man.
A team of five workers per shift, comprising (chargehand) whose job it was to order in rotation, what was needed for production balance. He usually saw to the placing of the wagons over certain kilns. We other four had to empty trucks, two of us sat on the edge of the wagons, the other two dropped the underneath doors, then we with our long hooks, poked all through into the kiln. The two shovelled all loose stone off the plates into the kiln, then we two inside slid down into the wagon and with our hooks pulled up the heavy metal doors, the outside men fastening them securely. Then with the aid of our hooks, up and out of the truck and stride over on to the next one, dangerous work, especially night shift.
This was the type of work I had always appreciated, being paid for the amount of work done, yardage or tonnage rather than by the hour or day. Six am clock in, labouring until eight, mostly emptying sand from wagons over the pig bed wall for renewing the moulding. Eight am, a short break, a snack and a drink, about half past, plank, apron and leathers and away to the stock pile. We are told how many bogies of metal are required, for a boat expected at whatever time. This was never the same. After loading sufficient metal, that was our day.
As early as eleven or maybe one. We went home with the order “come back for loading”, maybe at four, five or midnight or early hours of morning, according to the tide. The boat was loaded and away, decider for next work. If it was near time fort starting six am or eight am shift, we were allowed various jobs, some would probably have to stack more iron and then go home. According to the time we came up from the jetty, two pm or four pm, was home time for the remainder.
I have known more than one case where I managed to get away at twelve noon on a Saturday, to go to some important game at the ‘Boro’. Got home for my tea to find a note from the works waiting for me “Dave, please oblige by turning out for night shift on the Gantry, it would be advisable to bring extra food”. That advise often meant being there till noon, Sunday.
I was certainly earning fair good wages, but it was about this period, that the spare time trade was increasing. A few nice boys about the age of leaving school (fourteen) or having left and not having work to go to, asked for a basket of kippers etc. to do door to door pedling. Some made good, others got tired of “no thank you” or “not today” and packed in. Two youths, near twenty, not quite as they should have been, with careful tutoring by the wife and I, took a lot of work off her hands in the garden and greenhouse and fed the pigs and poultry for her. We had an ample water supply as I had dug two wells down to the gravel bed and erected pumps. When I got a decent break away from work, I used to use the train to Boosbeck Station and worked the district to Lingdale, Margrove Park and Charltons increasing the turnover. A shop became empty on the Jackson Street – Abbey Street corner and on the advise of two Nixon brothers, we moved and started a small way with the fish and sweets, fruit and minerals, obtained a tobacco and cigarettes licence and increased steadily into quite a tidy little general business.
Fruit and Veg
Our second little girl, born in the January of twenty nine, was running about and Jessie the elder was on leaving school age and getting quite useful. After one of my occasional requests from my manager – about a change on to one definite shift- we both got heated and in the end he got shouting at me, until he said he was tired of my continual taking up of his time. I’d got pretty heated too, and told him I was tired of asking and if he wouldn’t alter things I would leave, “O.K” he said, “but if you ever need a job, there’ll be one here for you as long as I’m manager”
– result –
I struck out as self employed until the second war broke things up. I bought a nice three years old pony and flat and gave my full time to the round, the gardens and greenhouse. It meant I could start in at North Skelton, work New Skelton, Old Skelton, Skelton, Boosbeck and Lingdale, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Saturdays I went into Redcar with fruit and vegetables a lot of it our own and other local gardeners.
After some time the Redcar “Chamber of Trade” got a bye law passed forbidding street hawkers, but by then I’d had a few years good run.
It is Xmas morning of December nineteen seventy eight and I haven’t added to my journal for a month or six weeks, and as usual on reading I find I have wandered ahead of my work by some ten years or so. From where I erred was the period of my life at Skinningrove Ironworks. I had not however intended making a long and detailed story, of the many different jobs I had in those years.
I feel quite confident that I became satisfactorily proficient at them all.
Now I am going to spend a little more time there.
I have spoken already of the blast furnace dept, the moulding of the pig beds, the running of the hot metal, the crane slinging, loading and stacking them, retaking from the stock piles, down to the jetty and the loading of the coasters, whose journey was mostly to Grangemouth in Scotland, in reality put in pawn, for cash return, until the metal was sold, so I don’t see any need to dwell longer on the blast.
The high gantry over the calcining kilns, the emptying of the trucks of Ironstone, limestone in all weathers, steam, heat and smoke.
What I had in mind when I went ahead of my story was to speak of those glorious summer mornings and evenings down on the jetty boat loading.
Two, three or four am, seeing the sun rise out of the sea to the east, to the west in the evening the same old sun disappearing in the same sea to the west and from our position on the jetty apparently beyond Hartlepool and Sunderland. In the winter time what a contrast, rain or snow brushing the snow off the slings of iron to permit of the chains being threaded round them, over they go. Gloved hands and balaclava helmets or heavy mufflers, was our mode of protection.
I have mentioned the coke ovens where I was occasionally employed as a dauber at the back side, securing the doors, for otherwise there would have been continual gas escapes. When I worked on the front of the plant it was usually as the job of quencher man. As the big ram at the back, pushed out each archway of burning coke, I fireman style with a heavy three inch hose with a pressure of water capable of reaching the sixty feet of sloping tiled bench, down which the blazing coke was sliding, no skill was needed only strength to control the hose, souwester hats, oil skins were provided as the steam turned to warm water.
The coke ovens had by a product plant which produced tar, lime, naphthalene, benzoline and sulphate of ammonia, spoken of on the works as salt. When enclosed box wagons had to be loaded to go to M’bro docks, the work on a contract of pay was handed over to the heavy gang. We men who handled the pig iron were usually given this work. Each bag of salt was sixteen stones (2cwts). It was shipped to Bilbao in Spain and Florence in Italy for onion growing. From these two ports, our steel plant (on which I never worked) received shipments of foreign ore to assist in the steel production, The large tanks like gasometers stood at the seaward end of the coke ovens, storing the Benzline and naphthaline and luckily for everyone in the vicinity when the Germans bombed this area in forty, a large bomb which dropped between two of these tanks did not explode.
I ought to have mentioned when speaking of coke quenching that in a previous account of the same, that I spoke of asbestos clothing protection, that more or less was an alternative to oil skins. i.e. (Summer or Winter wear, falling back a few years once again).
Col W.H.A. Wharton
In the early thirties I had had losses, one personal the other financial. I lost my father whom I had always turned for advice. For a man of near eighty, no schooling and could neither read nor write the hard full life he had lead, enabled him with confidence to advise on almost anything. He loved our pony (Bobby), keeping both him and the harness spotlessly clean and had geared and yoked to the cart on the mornings he knew I would be needing it.
I should speak here of the splendid set of black leather and the bright metal work and how I came about it. When first using him, his gears were all bits and pieces and short bits of chain. One morning in Skelton in the back of High Street, shouting my fish wares, Col W.H.A. Wharton, Squire, rode up and asked me how I was, (he was Col. of our Batt., Fourth York’s) and if I was making a living. He admired the pony, spoke of it as a 'Dales Cob', got down off his mount and examined Bobby well, he said “but he’s only a baby, use him gently, but Taylor, shabby harness” “yes it is". Some mornings later I got a letter from him, cheque enclosed, and address to which to go for a fitted set of new gear and a request to call at the Castle for him to see it.
I did with pride on my first call he was very pleased, I had newly painted the flat and with my clean warehouse coat we must have looked quite smart. He called Miss Wharton, and she asked me to call regularly Weds and Fridays. I did and it made me an extra good customer till war came.
That was a further step up in fish, as I had not handled Soles, Plaice or Hake before. The last few pages have come about, from starting with the loss of my father, his love for the pony and the acquiring of the new harness. The other loss moneytarily was by fire, of a large greenhouse, in only its second year of completion. Forty five feet in length and sixteen wide, heated by a tubular loco boiler and three runs of double four inch pipes and return to the water cistern over the boiler, tomato plants established, from three weeks planting out in all three bays. Several hundred young ones potted up and almost ready for sale for cold house growing, many boxes of seedlings of numerous flowers and vegetable, a few cucumber and marrow plants in pots.
The last day of the month of March, following my fathers passing the previous December and about ten at night, we were called by a neighbour to tell us our greenhouse was on fire, by the time we got there (not far) it was ablaze from one end to the other. Many willing friends and helpers used the pump from the far well, and buckets from the near one, to keep the fire away from the pig stys (we had seven at the time) and the henhouses. The fire brigade arrived, there was nothing for them to do. Just a shell, with boiler and pipes intact. Arson was suspected as the police told me several locals had heard a terrific explosion and flames had shot high into the air immediately, Sgt Kaye, a good friend asked all sorts of questions about different people, until I asked him firmly to let it drop. I sold the remnants to a local young man whose father was a friend and they together in time reconstructed it and got it going again.
Fish & Chips
Seven years spare time, hard work, gone up in a puff of smoke, that’s life!
I had built a fish frying shop on a piece of waste land near the gasworks and in a well populated vicinity, I sent away for the building, in wood and lined with asbestos. Rob Guthrie, my fish merchant’s son, bought for us and brought through from M’bro, a three pan gas frying range from some people who were having an infra-red electric one installed. When completed it made a very nice job.
I was renting two gardens behind the fish shop and parted with the ones where the fire occurred. Those days, the asking request over the counter was (a fish and a pennyworth for so many) a fish, two old pence with chips making a three penny parcel, four packages for a shilling, five new pence. We went along steadily for quite a time, increasing both at the general shop, frying and my outside round, until rumours of a second world war began. We had done so well, that we had started to buy a semi-detached house, on the Coach Road, the lower road to Saltburn, facing Tees-mouth, with a beautiful outlook over Saltburn, Hartlepool and the Durham Coast.
March 16th 1979
The above live does not mean the end of my journal, but denotes a long period of non writing.
It was January when last I made any advance to my story. At that time I was making my home with my younger daughter in Windsor Road, Saltburn. Then unforeseen came a turmoil and upheaval which has terminated in my being settled again in a lovely bunglalow on my own in the middle of Loftus.
Cause & Change
The cause of the change was that a smaller and nice council house was offered, but did not have sufficient bedrooms for me to move with them. For four weeks I lived at Liverton Mines with my elder daughter and her husband and during that time this bungalow was offered me. After much hard work, my daughter and two grand daughters have made it a home to be proud of. Everything handy and convenient.
Before continuing my book, I must speak of my birthday, 86, on Sat of last week the tenth of March. Joint house warming and birthday celebrations. Cards in galore and company, seventeen of my family arrived, grand children, from Stephen, nearly thirteen to Janet’s baby girl at three months. A happy day, marred only by the news from Saltburn that Connie (the younger girl) was ill and couldn’t come. I thought of that old Paul Robeson’s song.
I gathered my loved ones around me
I gazed at each face I adore
And I heard a voice inside me whisper
This was worth waiting for.
The continuance of my life story
I broke my story in Jan, speaking of the house we had set out to buy. We moved in, in December nineteen thirty eight. Hitler had over-run a part of Eastern Europe and in preparation for events to come the admiralty had taken many of the trawlers and had them fitted out for mine sweeping.
The house we were buying, a semi-detached along the lower road from Brotton to Saltburn, price £468, makes you think when you see present day prices.
High up above sea level with a front room, a living kitchen and scullery downstairs, three bedrooms and bathroom above, large gardens back and front and a wonderful out look, a view over Saltburn and Redcar, Tees Bay, Hartlepool and Sunderland on the Durham Coast and on a clear day with the glasses Wynyard Park, Alnwick and Berwick.
At night the lighthouses, nine of them, could be recognized by the various lighting, explained to me once by an aged coast guard.
At the rear supplying the local pits and Skinningrove works were the passenger trains to Whitby and Scarbro’ ….. now all gone.
September 1939 War
Artists impresson, Copyright of Stuart MacMillan
We have parted with our businesses, I have bought more land behind the new house on the Coach Road, built a greenhouse and gone back to the pit to work again, (Longacre mine), where Mr. Harry Garbutt is manager. When hearing of my intentions to part with the shops, he came to see me and he had a contract job open if I was interested (timbering an airway). We had worked together in our teens at Loftus mine, I accepted and was content. I kind of felt a freedom from the hazards of business, not only for my wife and family who had worked so with me.
I think if I may offer advice to my family, that a steady job, knowing your weekly income and contentment, is preferable to business. Not that I have any reason to complain about the outcome of my sidelines financially but the long hours required leaves too little time for relaxation, leisure and pleasure for the whole family.
I worked steadily away at Longacres. Monday to Friday, six til two, Saturday, six til twelve. A long weekend break until six on Monday morning, leaving time for football and cricket matches or a swim.
Air-raid Warden, Home Guard, Gas Mask instructor, here we go again, back to that full life.
August the fourth 1979
August the fourth 1914
A span of sixty five years, yet how well I remember that day.
In a camp at Degany in North Wales with the rest of our battalion, the Fourth York’s and all the hundred and fiftieth brigade of the fiftieth division T.A. all mustered on the hillside opposite Conway Castle and how well I remember the General’s short speech –
"Officers 'n C.O’s and men of the so and so. England is at War with Germany, I have no more to say to you than those spoken by the Admiral of the Fleet many many years ago, that England expects that every man this day will do his duty” –
and the cheering you’d have thought we were going on a picnic, some picnic, lasting over four years, with all its horror of death and injuries almost sufficient now after all those years, sixty five of them, to make the blood run cold. I am not going to write about it any more than I have talked about it. Nuff said.
I now return to where I broke off owing to noticing to-days date.
1939 - 1945
The next span of life till 1945 was one continuous hazard, eight hours daily work, each week, one or two nights on lookout(aircraft) and standing sentry duty at one of the pits. Giving a phone call to the siren centre when an aircraft came in over the coast. Then the mad rush round my home district, to see the homes of the residents were well blacked out, no lights showing.
One night two enemy aircraft came in over Huntcliff and it was assumed later that Skinningrove's Works could have been their target and had followed the wrong railway line down towards Brotton Railway Station, instead of that to Carlin How. In dropping their bombs, we had two in front of our homes, shattering windows, tiles etc. No one how-ever was injured, their other bombs were dropped up towards Lingdale and Moorsholm in open country. Once however on a dull day we workers at Longacre were just leaving work, when two jerry planes came zooming in up the Saltburn Valley. Experience made me dive under the hedge into the ditch and my work mate Archie Wilks, laughing and saying “What’s up mate, they’ve gone” “Yes” I said, but before we parted, hell was let loose over Skinningrove. “Now Archie” I said “what if we’d got some of that lot”. And it could have been, for turning out towards the sea, again two planes had machine gunned and injured some men working in their gardens, then dropped bombs on the works causing fatalities and injuries, also doing a great deal of damage to the works itself.
A lot of workers were temporily out of a job and my son in law became a miner, working with me until resuming his own employment.
This made a change for me also, leaving my work at Longacres to go mining at North Skelton mine.
I was told that when George – my son in law- went back to his own work, I would be able to resume my timber job at Longacre.
However on approaching the manager and making my request to continue for a while to work with and instruct newcomers to the mines, for a fairly long period during which for, as a mate, I had Geordies, Irish men and even spiv-type Bevin boys from London. Eventually with my work, my warden duties, home guard look out and insufficient meat foods, I lost a lot of weight and got seriously run down. On my wife’s advice I went to see the manager again without satisfaction, in the end I told him I would carry on for only one more week, he offered me more money to stay, which I refused telling him, that wouldn’t bring my strength and stamina back. On coming out the following Saturday, I went to the office again. He was still the same, so in the end I said “I shan’t be here on Monday, Mr. Slater” “Oh won’t you David, we’ll see about that, do you realize there’s a war on” I had a real good laugh and he shouted, “What’s so funny about that” “Funny” I laughed, "think it over man, so long".
On the Monday I walked down to Saltburn to see Dr. Burnett who was M.O. for industry at that time, as soon as he saw me, I believe he said “Heavens what on earth have you been doing” I told him briefly, he examined me well, gave me some medicine, a form of extra meat ration and a release paper from mining, and advising, get a job in the fresh air, come and see me again in a month, I may be able to renew your extra meat ration. He didn’t, for in a month I had improved a lot, doing a canny job tar-mac works, while there I still continued my war duties, and was earning about the same wage as in the pit.
My work was a maintenance job and after a while was classed as a semi skilled fitter. We had quite a few bombings locally with occasional fatality.
The minor injuries were numerous and we got a lot of practice in first aid work, getting the attended to ready for the ambulances to take them to hospitals, sometimes when my work was night shift boiler man and watchman, I did my lookout sentry turns and was covering the three jobs at the same time.
After nearly two years I saw in the paper an advert for a steady man, at slag roads lim. Warrenby, for a semi skilled fitter and capable of superintending the tonnage work slaggfillers.
I went to Warrenby the following day, met the manager, a Fred Davis, whom I had known in the army both home and overseas. He had a crippled hand, which I never saw, kept it in his pocket. One of the fillers told me his left arm was withering but he wouldn't have it off. He had a 50 pc army pension, same as mine for the loss of an eye, funny?
I believe I would work somewhere nearly a year when one morning, Fred said to me, "You'll get no farther ahead here Dave, if you care to go over to the works (Warrenby) ask for Mr. Herbert Larke, tell him I sent you over with a recommend. A little bird told me there's some sub-contracts coming off over there".
I went and for a time worked in the general labourer’s gang, till up came some contract work which was to the cause of my end of doing heavy work.
The work on which eight of us were employed in four pairs, as mates and a crane driver. The crane had been used for other purposes to that in which it was now employed. It stood on a double track of rails and was very fast in movement. A very long JIB for reaching out for the skips, each pair of us were filling (all shovel work) of broken basic slag, which had been tipped from the steelworks ladles, over a wall and allowed to flow over a bed of steel plates and as it ran, cracked into small pieces which could be shoveled into the nibbles or skips (the two terms use), when a full skip and slag averaged two tons, picked up by the crane, jibbed round and lowered over, then tipped into metal wagons on another pair of rails behind the crane. When the half-cold slag was tipped over the wall the slag ladle was given a bump or two, usually depositing solid metal from the bottom of the ladle, ‘arses’ as we a called them. We were paid a shilling and eighteen pence for the scrap steel loaded into different wagons and sent back to be re-smelted.
It was in the September 1946, it must have been armistice week-end as I had my poppy in my coat. Drizzly rainy morning, all eight of us working away, I was shoveling slag into our kibble, when all voices shouted at once, a skip of slag came down on my back striking me on the shoulders to my waistline, punched my chest down to my knees, doubling me up with my buttocks on to my calves. I felt the weight taken off for a moment, the skip on my legs and then lifted away. I didn’t remember much for some length of time until I realised I was in an ambulance on my way to N. Ormesby Hospital.
The works doctor (Doctor Boddie) had given me morphine and as soon as a hospital doctor saw me, put me to sleep again. I was on boards on the bed and a sleeping, waking condition lasted several days. It seems I had had two crushed lumber vertebrae and a misshapen rib cage.
The crane driver Jim Baxter (a M’bro man) told at the inquiry that the rain had seeped under the brake straps on the drum and failed to keep the weight of the skip. George Evans the ambulance man, when visiting me, said that Jim was terribly upset and had called at the hospital on his way home from work on the Sunday and Monday, but I was still unconscious on each occasion, but he would come again. He did several times during my long stay there, brought his wife and little boy on one occasion, which cheered me a lot. I was laid on my back on the board bed, flat out, wearing a strait jacket which was tightened now and again to try to pull the misshapen ribs in.
Later at the Manor House at Golders Green, London, Lord Luvedale (previously Sir Ambrose Woodall) likened my shape to a grape barrel that had been jumped on.
Well into the next year, (47) after long sessions of infra-red carbon-arc, radiant heat, diothermy and rehabilitation, also manipulative surgery carried out by a coloured doctor, a specialist, a Singhalese, starting at the nape of my neck, he worked the full length of my spine then massaged the muscles of my back and repeat, repeat, he and an orderly, they laid me in a shallow bath, telling me not to go to sleep.
Electrified the water and left me for half an hour (approx) then the exercise room. Coming home after a great part of a year with instructions not to handle anything, but really a wonderfully improved man.
I hadn’t been home very long before I was instructed to attend out patients at N. Ormesby Hospital, three times weekly for exercise and rehabilitation.
Bad weather, I contacted Pneumonia and had another fortnight to three weeks in bed. Spring coming in, I started doing bits in the garden and greenhouse and soon began to realise it was greatly helping my condition and so did a little more daily. The jacket (spinal support) fitted at Manor House made me sore but I stuck to it.
Somehow I felt secure with it on, tho’ some years later, when complaining to doctor Stevenson of the soreness, he told me to try doing without it for a while, tho‘ be careful, I did, I laid it aside and have never worn it since. I think that doing without it must have given me confidence, for I found myself digging almost normally and using steps or a short ladder steadily, was further improving my bodily condition, tho’ even now nearly forty years later bend up and down, tho I have no lateral movement. I can’t turn on my waistline sideways.
For almost five years I was without paid employment, tho’ with my army pension, works compensation and return from our labours in the garden we were comfortable enough. You will have noticed I have underlined the word our. My wife loved the garden, pruning fruit, for we had cultivated blackberries, gooseberries and a most delicious strain of blackcurrants.
Fruits of our labour
I have not up to now I think that we bought and had conveyed to our own property, a tract of land adjoining our original garden at the rear of our home.
I had the greenhouse, now fifty four feet by twelve, two vines nicely established and productive. Rather oddly the bigger demand was for the green ones rather than the black Hamfro’ tomatoes in season, following by chrysanth’s later, and scores of boxes of bedding plants, both flower and vegetable for which of both, along this long road of semi-detached houses with their front and back gardens, there was a fairly keen demand for plants.
I was now going up towards sixty years of age and in fact of having obtained a disabled person’s certificate from the labour exchange had in no way helped me get a job. I felt if I could get employment for the last few years, our retirement pensions would be paid us without trouble and it did turn out that way.
On the opposite side of the Coach Road to us, a goodly number of semi-detached houses had been built, six of them occupied by key workers at the new factories on the Skelton Trading Estate. Most of them at one time or another had come over the road for plants, two brothers, middle aged men, (Percy and Walter Dye) Londoners, worked at the new tape-measure factory, (Howard Walls Ltd) making Trade Name Dean’s Tape Measures.
Percy came across one day for some cabbage and broccoli plants, sat on the greenhouse wall admiring the grapes and tomatoes, when suddenly he said “Oh Mr. Tyler (cockney) could you do with a little job” I told him I’d been looking for one, but as soon as I mentioned my injuries it’s no go. He said the firm liked to employ as many disabled people as possible. “Now look, come over in the morning, ask for me, I’ll get Mr. Collins (manager) and we’ll show you round the way you work here, I think you’ll be able to do the jobs that’s vacant”.
Then he told me not to make up my mind at the moment, but talk it over with Mrs. Tyler and if I would like to meet him and Walter at half past seven next morning and walk over with them.
It was a beautiful morning and the walk through the wood and over the fields to near Longacre pit was my regular route while working there. They listened very intently while I told them how it came about to my leaving that work. They asked many many questions on pit life and thanked me for telling them. On going into the factory I was surrounded by quite a lot of workers, both male and female, all talking at once. Two of my cousins daughters, Kathleen Horner and Marjorie Welsh and who had always called me Uncle –used that name now and it was often used by many of the girls, during my eight years amongst them. Percy introduced me to Mr. Peter (manager) of Teddy’s Nook at Saltburn, husband to Councillor Mrs. Audrey Collins, a big figure in our local affairs, which she still holds upto date (July).
So they showed me the machine, a very 'Heath Robinson' affair it looked to me then, but proved very efficient for the job it had to do. It’s purpose was to cover raw tape from widths of three eighths, up to one and a half inches for the Berlie corset, which was done in pink emulsion instead of the white lead on normal work.
The frame on which the tape wound was sixty inches square and when the machine was switched on, the tape running thro’ a tank of paint moving along slowly on the worm at the back.
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