People of Chatterley Whitfield – Geoff Oakes

In 1958 I started to work at Whitfield Colliery, it wasn’t easy getting a job there at that time because they weren’t setting on for some reason or other but my dad managed to pull some strings, my dad was a coal face overman before his accident and at the time I was after a job he was working in the plant records.
After doing my training at the Kemball training pit I started to work in the Hesketh pit as a general mechanic, my dad had previously told me to wear overalls which I did which made me look like I didn’t fit in as the rest of the men just wore shirt and trousers, during the time I worked on this gang I was with an old mechanic who said to me one day, ”pass me that bag form ower theer” I looked but could not see a bag anywhere, “what’s that ower theer,” I find out that a bag is a hose and he explained “a bag can be a waiter bag or a wind bag, in the two weeks that I worked with them I learned how to chew tobacco, it was Condor twist, you had to cut off about ½ inch and put it in your mouth and gently chew at it and spit out the juice, if you swallowed the juice it would make you sick, looking back, I think it was a filthy habit, but I did master it in the end.
I think this had something to do with my dad, I was asked if I would go to work in the diesel loco garage which was close to the pit bottom I agreed and that is where I worked for the next twelve years.
My first day was with a man named Bill Schofield, he told me we would be working on a three shift system, days, split shift and nights, the split shift was 12:15pm until 7:45pm this was to enable us to service the loco’s between shifts. We had two small diesel loco’s down in a district called Brights which we also looked after during the shift. The next day after all the loco’s had gone, all that was left in the garage was three tenders, tenders are what the shunters ride in behind the loco, these were made out of small coal tubs with openings both sides and seats fitted and these parked over the inspection pit. Anyway, for my first frightening experience, Bill went down into the inspection pit then shouted me to go down to him, like, “bring theesell dine ear”, so I went down and Bill had got a bed and was lying down, “mac theesell comfee “he said, so I sat on a grease tub. Soon Bill was snoring. It was not long before two men came into the garage and were looking for us, they had got spot lights and what I thought were walking sticks, (I found later that these men were officials) I was looking at them through the wheel spokes of one of the tenders, soon the two men left.

TO BE CONTINUED...........