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THE SONG OF STEEL - Monday 25 December 23:00-00:00

The Don Valley between Sheffield and Rotherham was once full of steelworks and many thousands of families relied on steel for their living. The Song of Steel offers a glimpse inside the lives of men and women who worked in the industry. In its heyday the city thumped to the sound of heavy drop forges working night and day, pub tables had guard rails to stop glasses vibrating onto the floor, and the air was black with dirt from the factory chimneys. Interviewer Vince Hunt talked to more than forty men and women who tell of hard shifts working alongside red-hot furnaces and the humour and stoicism that enabled them to survive such a world. Many of the stories are about the Steel, Peach and Tozer steelworks in Rotherham, pictured above circa 1947 by Sheffield artist Terry Gorman.

"You could see the dust glittering in t'air - you were swallowing it all the time."

Working under musical director John Tams, the songwriting team matched the tales with songs, some of which incorporate the workers' authentic dialect and slang. Tams wrote several songs following a trip to Sheffield Magna, the excellent centre housed in the former Steel, Peach and Tozer works known to all as 'Steelos'. Women feature as much as men, in songs like It's Curtains by one-time steelworker Ray Hearne, and Sheffield-born songwriter Julie Matthews' Crane Driver, which charts the experience of women working in the industry during the Second World War.

"It enriched my thinking by seeing their hands and the way they walked and their faces ..."

Ten original songs have been written for this programme, which features extracts from many hours of interviews and the sounds of the hammers, tongs and furnaces that make up a life in steel. It also explores the feelings of people involved in the strike of 1980, now widely regarded as a dry run for the Miners' Strike, when both union leaders and Margaret Thatcher's government developed tactics they would use during the later conflict. Britain’s steel industry has seen huge changes since its 1960s heyday, and many people lost their jobs in the re-structuring of the 1980s. Corus's modernised steel works in Rotherham now produces 25,000 tons of steel in a week - more than the old handmills could produce in a year - though modernisation means that today's steel industry employs a fraction of yesterday's workforce.

Detail of the 25-ton drop forge at Sheffield steelworks.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Did you or any of your family work in steel? Tell us your memories. How do you feel about the collapse of the steel industry? Send us your comments.

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Read what others have said.

Julie Nicholls Norfolk
I've listened to the programme over and over since its transmission, and still it's giving me goose pimples. If I close my eyes I'm back in my home town in the 50's and 60's. I can see the town and city halls with their black stone work before they were sand blasted clean. I remember not being allowed out to play when the smog was at its worst and when you did go outside, black droplets used to hang from your nose so that your hankie turned black when you wiped it! How much worse must it have been for the men working right on top of it? I'd forgotten the sound of the hammers but listening to the sounds in the programme brings even the smells back, the sulphur on the air and the metallic taste on your tongue when you walked past the steel works or cutlery factories. Now you have to visit a museum to experience it. I remember several friends who spent the two weeks shut down in August scraping the furnaces, they did 12 hour days for twelve days on the trot and were 'rich',if not a bit mucky, when they'd done!

david bennett dawlish
all my family worked in the steel industry.my father was a crane driver walking to work when the buses could not run for the snow.he was given a certificate for 25 yrs service which he hung behind the toilet door.sheffield is now one big shop.

Paul Quin, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Absolutely fabulous!

Chas Lister
My grandfather was GP in Rawmarsh I never met him, since 60 Craven A a day got him at an early 50's age - but the Rawmarsh steelworks all poured out of the shift and lined the street for his funeral. The sense of commitment and community just oozed from everything you could read or see. This porgramme just lit the whole memeory up of being driven in between all the high walled factores in the early 60's and smelling the smell, and seeing the haze of dust and grime. Long may the ducks fly backwards ta kep soot oota'eyes

Philip Grierson, Karlsby, Sweden
Grew up as a kid in Pitsmoor, just down the road from the mills. Think I'm still suffering a bit whenever I get a cold or chest infection from all the soot I breathed in. There were some terrible smogs in the 1950's. A wonderful programme, very moving and brought back lots of memories, mostly happy ones. There's nothing like Sheffield people.

daf, newport
my family all worked in the steel industry in south wales. both my parents left school at 14 to work in the steelworks, Lycetts (sp?), and that's where they met. romance in the foundry, i'll say. now most of the works are closed, our family has diversified, working in the army, social work and the NHS with some still at the docks working with steel. the town has changed, like all of south wales but i think there has been an eventual positive change. mind you, we don't produce the front-row forwards like we used to.

Malcolm Neal - Devon
My brother (Alan) has already described the hardships my Dad had to endure and the damage working in the steel works did to his health. I was fortunate to go to the Grammar School. This was 3 miles from our house on the other side of the Don valley and could be seen for one week each year. This was the second week of Steelo's shut down when the smog that hung in the valley for the rest of the year briefly cleared. Great piece of radio, please make the full version available on CD so I can keep a copy.

Ian Greenwood
My father was a slinger in Mill's rolling mill in Bredbury Stockport in the 50s and 60s. In those days slinging - changing the position of a line (billet) of hot steel - was done manually with large tongs. The dread of slingers was trying to manipulate crooked billets. If billets were crooked their movement down the line was eccentric and could not be predicted. To grab one was difficult and dangerous. One day a crooked billet presented itself to my fatner who instead of throwing the billet, was thrown himself. Mercifully he was not killed but his back was sufficently damaged that he had to leave the industry. Oddly enough the father of my wife spent most of his working life at the Consett steel works until made redundant along with thousands others. As odd -certainly not plannned - as an academic I have spent the last three years researching the Welsh steel industry but sadly not able to talk my findings through with these two steelworkers.

Andy, Dewsbury
Very moving and conjours up black and white images of a black and grey world. Is there any chance of a download to save the hour long broadcast? I would like some of my family who don't have access to a computer to enjoy this excellent programme.

Colin Clarke-Hill, Cheltenham
I am so pleased to see a new set of Radio Ballads being cretaed. The originals were very evocotive and atmospheric with great songs and 'auctality'. The voices of the people, in context, makes the works. I was pleased to hear again the new song of steel, having missed the original broadcast last week. I was suprised that the story of the 'super gun' and Sheffield Forgemasters link to the story was palyed down. At the time it was a very big deal indeed. Colin Cheltenham

Rhys Jones(Ripley, Derbyshire)
a very moving programme, the words in all the songs say it all!! i look forward to the rest of the series. see you up the poets for a beer Tam?

Trevor Colluney Bolton
My father worked at Vulcan Forge in Bolton Lancashire, known until it’s demise as Walmsley’s Forge the family firm being one of the last iron masters in the country. From the 1930’s dad worked his way through the various stages of production. He finally became foreman roller. I can recall going to see my dad at the foundry on many a visit. He called it a “hell hole”, I thought it was “Dante’s Inferno”, the place was so awesome for a twelve year old, pounding Naysmith steam hammer, men clad in thick long leather aprons, metal leggings and face shields, flashes of white hot bars. My father was very proud of his work despite the hard graft and danger. He used to bring odd bits of coal home in his knapsack, a winter nights treat and occasionally pieces of kidney! Lads would be sent to the slaughterhouse for suet apparently the only lubricant to grease the rolls without seizing up. The pub nearby kept a back door open throughout the night shift for jugs of beer.

Sharon Fountain - Barnsley
My grandad, Ernest James Batty, worked for most of his life in the pits. During the depression he went to work at Foxes Steel Works in Sheffield - he went back to the pits after less than a year - I always remember him saying that although the pay was good in the steelworks there 'wasn't the brotherhood' that there was in the pits. Interesting!

Bernard Robinson
I have worked in Rotheram years ago during the shut down weeks. Accompanied the fitter through the works to a pub which seemed to be on a road in the works itself. Black night, bald lights outside. Inside a white furnace of men and pints, red grime faces, muscles and sweat. My father, a pianist, was a steel worker at Dorman Longs in the Boro.His one advice to me was, Bernard, whatever you do, don't go down the works. Also here my experience was limited to a one off summer job. Cleveland Hills, Redcar Mills; The smell of steel, Blastfurnace reel. Over the border, Scent of disorder; Church and pub, Catholic grub. The North East Was a beast; The North East was a feast. Blast furnace passion, Molten metal anvil, Spitting sparks, Splitting archs. Candled & melted, Dandled & smelted. 0xygon roar, Into the core. Butterfly burning, Transparent yearning.

Mark Hedge, Butler, Ohio, USA
I started as an apprentice engineer at the Steelo's Training Center shortly before the big miners strike. What wonderful memories this program brings back, puts a fair knot in't stomach. Thanks for the memories!

Gill Wallis form Derbyshire
I would love to keep a recording of this for my sons. Will you be putting it out on dvd or for downloading to a pc?

Rattler Morgan
My Father was killed in 1968 by his involvement in the Steel industry. He worked at Tinsley Park when I was aged 10. my brother was 8 and sister 6. There was no compo and my Mother was left to bring 3 of us up on her own with little or no support, financially. from any where she had to go out and work to be able to keep use together.

Rattler Morgan
Brilliant Programme brought back many good memories. As a steel worker from the smaller works I feel listerning to this show we were a band of brothers. I served in the forces and either went into the pit at Dinnington or the local steel works. It must be said that working in the melting shop at Unbrako Steel , Forge Masters and Sanderson Kaysers the link I can make with the forces and the melting shop is that we all looked after one another ( Band of Brothers with some fantastic charactors which have all but dissapeared. a bittre sweet mind jogger!!!!

Chloe Beale
This was a brillant piece of radio.The songs complemented the spoken commentry really well. Well done to John Tams and co

philip keernan essex
In the early 1970's I worked on the construction of the fume extraction and filter system on 'Steelo's Melting Shop part of which which can still be seen outside the roof at the 'Rotherham End' of Magna. We had to have a urine test every week, and a blood test once a month for possible heavy metal, and/or lead poisining. If you'r quick interview me Dad, who is dying of an industrial chest disease, he worked in steel most of his life. Ray Hearne was instrumental in giving me moral support when I began my education via Rotherham WEA, before I went to university as a mature student, as he did with many others. There was a vibrant culture that went with iron, steel and coal that interlinked every facet of our lives. All destroyed for ego, vanity and greed. Thanks for remembering and trying.

Mick - Rotherham
Hard to listen to this without a lump in your throat if you were part of it. I was/am still, though in a much reduced and 'less proud' environment. There does not seem to be the intense camaraderie that was endemic to the industry. The passion & pride of being part of it was a great feature; listening to the programme (6 times ) brings it flooding back. The sense of "community" lost for Steel & Coal areas caused by the unrelenting swing of the McGregor axe resounds today as loud as the Rotherham Forge hammer ever did. Look around ya! It will be hard to engender the same feeling from supermarkets, software houses & services! Ah well.... but the programme was superb!

Fred Parr.Sheffield.
Being one of the Interviewees.I told my family and friends to listen to this programme when it was broadcast.And did we get a shock.You didnt need a video,it was good old steam radio at its best.We are all in our early eighties or late seventies and we where transported back in time,like Dr Who in his Tardist no pictures just the radio and memories,we where all moved to tears Living it, just has we did when we listend through headphones and a crystal set (old fashioned radio)to progrmes that transported you to places without pictures just the radio.And you have done that.Long live radio and the people that believe in it.Thank you B.B.C.Sorry for any mistakes it is a long way from a Crucible to a Computer When you are turned 80years

Karen - Plymouth
Brilliant programme, brought back lots of memories of my home town. I vividly remember the bus journey from Rotherham to Sheffield and how over the years it gradually declined and all that was left of some factories was the gate and a bit of the boundary wall. My dad worked at Steelos as a furnace brickie until they shut Templebrough down. I remember when he came home from work, everything would be covered in dust, even his newpaper. He hated working htere but worked at Steelos for years and years.

Keith Chesterton. Somerset.
The best thing I've heard in ages. Really moving, and yet somehow inspiring. Just lovely to hear Sheffield voices again. Thank you to all connected with making and participating in this programme.

Jenni Komarovsky, Nelson, New Zealand
This was a real eye-opener for me, a wonderful documentary with an incredibly moving closing. I'm so happy to have discovered this site so that I can listen on the other side of the world. And yes, where is the CD of the songs please?

Steve, Loughborough, Leics
Radio certainly paints the best pictures, the interviews, music, and sound clips took you right into the area. I remember, as a boy, travelling by train to Sheffield on the way to the Peak District for long walks. The steelworks were both awful and awe-inspiring. Despite the technology of the heavy industry people were at its heart, real people, honest people. When walking the gritstone ridges or limestone dales of the Peak District we met them, we shared sandwiches and tea from flasks. One side of the hill the Derbyshire Dales and Chatsworth, the other Sheffield and steel. We took the train home, possibly built in Derby or Crewe using Sheffield's steel and carried on steel rails. The steelworkers often went home on bicycles made in Nottingham of Sheffield steel. So many British industries used steel and employed hundreds of thousands of people. People that also lost their jobs as heavy and manufacturing industries bled from Britain. Thank you BBC for making us remember - a truly great programme, now to listen again to Brassed Off... ...for where was steel without coal.

Jon Scaife, Sheffield
What a skilfully compiled mosaic of stories and music, in the spirit of the original radio ballads. The programme seemed to me to paint an authentic picture and avoided being sentimental or macho about steel work.

Chris Jones, Rayleigh, Essex
British Radio at it's very best! The perfect media for this type of programme. Compelling stuff from Auntie. Well done I say! BBC local radio could follow from this example. There's mass of rich heritage that can be found around the counties that could be tapped into for smaller programmes of a similar vein. Might need a bit of help with funding though. Looking forward to the rest of the series...MORE PLEASE!!!!

Craig Cockayne
I started work in 1979 as a motor mechanic. At that time I could walk down Attercliffe and walk in to a job in the steel works by the time I finished my apprenticeship the steel work had all but gone. Because there was no steel work no one was buying cars so I lost my job as well. I now work in education and I visit people of my generation who have never had a job. They went to school they got there O leaves as they were called then, but it did them no good as there was no work to be had and now no one wants to employ them now because people have forgot what happen the 80s in Sheffield. There was a steel works call Hatfields it is where Meadowhall shopping centre is now. it employed 12000 people. Sheffield has changed so much since I was young. You would sit on a bus and someone would start talking to you, Sheffield was called the biggest village in England everybody would talk to each other. Now people just sit on buses looking though the window. My family have lived in Sheffield since the 1800 and a lot work in the steel works and some were killed in the steel works. People in England should remember Sheffield and thank them for all they did to make Britain Great.

Andy Rotherham
I heard about this documentry being advertised on radio 2 earlier the same day. I am so glad i did. This is brillent peace of work. From the music to the stories and the people who worked in this industry. I hope the other documentries in this series are as good. Well done to all concerned.

Malcolm Davies , Guildford, Surrey
The programme and the songs were excellent. I had the pleasure of seeing John Tams and Barrie Coope perform 'Steelos' at a folk club in Byefleet a few months ago and I believe this song will be another 'Rolling Home' anthem in the folk world. The programme itself left me feeling very humble as I was a Policeman on Steel strike picket lineduty, and never had an inkling of the nature of their work and the severity of the conditions - we beleived them to be just another bunch of trouble makers.. How terribly wrong we were!!

Mike, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Brilliant programme. Cna we get the CD? Many is the story told me by my Grandfather who worked in the 'heavy metals' side of Sheffield Steel. And I saw for myself from my Mother and Father worked in Light Engineering, producing taps, dies, reamers, drills etc. the Sheffield life in those days. I vividly remember the Drop Hammers, which, on a still night could be heard all across Sheffield. Indeed one of my earliest Child Hood memories waking at night and being scared by the continual "shh, shh, shh" of the Steam Hammers, thinking that a beastie was in my bedroom. To the day he died my Father said that the final demise of the Steel Industry (and Sheffield Cutlery) was signalled when Viners started importing their Cutlery blanks from the far east rather than using Sheffield steel. He also laid the blame squarely at the feet of obdurate Trade Unions, out of date management and a Government interested solely in 'Market Forces'. Sheffield 'steel folk' were a hard but absolutely brilliant community. Sheffield itself was said to be the biggest village in England. Everyone new everyone and helped each other in a time of need. It still hasn't recovered from the Thatcher era.

Lynne - North Yorkshire
I joined as a Commercial Apprentice at Steel Peech & Tozers in 1969 when there were approximately 14,500 employees working within the Rotherham steel industry. When I left in 1986, the year of de-nationalisation, there were only 4,500. All my relatives worked in the steel industry and I still feel very proud to have been associated with this industry. I also vividly remember the steel strike and returning to work, beaten by the Thatcher government and seeing 100's and 100's of workers filing down Sheffield Road after their various shifts to the Phoenix Rooms to be told that they were no longer required. I also remember workers going into the canteens across the works - to listen to Mr. McGregor put forward his proposals for streamlining the industry and asking them to support these. Problem was......as they walked in they were picking up the latest Steel News, with Mr. McGregor on the front page thanking them for supporting and backing his proposals! It was an awful time and all the arguments fell on deaf ears and nobody cared and nobody listened. Now we have no real steel industry in the area but we do have Meadowhall!!!

Dave Polshaw, Salford
I remember traveling down a road in Sheffield on my way to do some work at a fork lift truck company. It was December 1984. Not the main strike but a latter one. There was what seemed to be miles of brick wall. There was no flames above the walls, as there had been before, and no noise at all. Very eerie indeed. As I passed the gates there was a solitary brazier with flames mocking past glories. The gaunt strikers stared into my car, challenging me to cross the picket. Sounding my horn and giving them a wave I felt both sorrow for the loss of the industry and relief that people no longer had to work in such awful conditions. I was relieved that my job in the computer industry did not have to put up with such deprivions. When I had finished what I had to do I set of back for Manchester - It had started to snow and I went down the same row. The pickets had taken shelter but the brazier still burned. More than the furnaces did. I almost got stuck on the Snake road in the worse blizzard I had ever driven in. Who knows, I thought, perhaps we all face our own challenges! Well done to all involved in the program. Marvellous stuff.

Anthony Fields Sheffield
I worked in the Don Valley from 1948 until I retired from Tinsley Wire after 34 yrs there in 1991.I saw at first hand the destruction of the Steel Industry by the government(s) of the day It became plagued by political interference just as is happening to education today. The end result is always disaster. The speed of decline was frightening.I used to cover on morning shift occasionally and at 5.30am the streets down Attercliffe and Brightside were alive with workers.perhaps no more than two years on they were virtually empty.A mucky old city but what vibrancy;alot cleaner now but very bland the character's largely gone

Bill, Sheffield
Wonderful program. It brought back early memories of my steelworking family. Great-grandfather to father were all steelworkers called Bill, the last generation introducing the next to the works. By the time I was working age, the steelworks had all but gone. I lived overlooking the Don Valley, witnessing vast industry, rapid decline, desolation, and then slow regeneration...like new shoots after a forest fire.

John Norman, Brighouse, West Yorkshire
What superb radio and, so far, a worthy successor to the original series. I found it very moving. The woman crane driver having to make way for the returning soldier annoyed me but the hollow words of McGregor and Thatcher about market forces just left me sickened that they could'nt or would'nt look beyond the bottom line to the lives in the community beyond.

Keith Brown - Morley, West Yorks
A hearty well done to all involved. As a folky for most of my life, I have long felt that the return of the Radio Ballads was a long overdue. What compelling material. I remember as a 14year old being taken to a rolling mill at Scunthorpe and seeing live the awesome power of the rolling mills and the courageous men that worked them. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Brian Perkins from Mappleborough Green, Wark's
I have to say this was the best thing I have heard on the radio in my life!! Absolutely fantastic to hear comments from people who worked in such amazing places and conditions and to hear the related songs. I was listening in the car and arrived at my destination early so I just sat in the car listening for 15 minutes. Congratulations to all who were involved in making this programe.

Michael Duggan, Amersham
They were not satanic at least for two weeks a year. I worked at SPT (Steel Peech & Tozer) Rotherham as a student during the factory ‘stop weeks’ of summer 1964. It was good money, clearing £43 a week, and involved clearing out swarf and oily debris from the long sumps beneath the rollers. Having been brought up in another northern steel town, (leafy Middlesbrough), Rotherham somehow seemed even muckier to me, seasonally deserted but far from derelict. On its approaches from the Great North Road, you could see clots of white scum floating in what may have been a river. The Radio Ballads programme brought back quite a few whiffs, coughs, bestial hammering, noises-off, and all. Michael Duggan Feb 2006

jan wortley
My Dad was a steel roller and worked at Firth Vickers.He was in charge of several men and he was a Trade Union Official. He was one of twelve children and he didn't have a very good education. The work was very heavy and he had trouble with his back. So much so that in his late fifties he could not be a 'Roller' any more and became the pyrometer operator. He was very nervous about this and made me give him 20 words to spell each day. It was terrible watching the steel works close down and I still remember Viners bringing the first cutlery in from the Far East which also spelt disaster for Sheffield's other great industry.

Ian Tupling Ormskirk, Lancs
I am originally from Rawmarsh and my father was an open hearth furnaceman at Parkgate Iron and Steel Co. In the late 60's he said to me that I was better not in the steel industry as there were people becomming involved who eventually would destroy it through ignorance and lack of consideration. The rest is sadly now history. A humble steelworker, and one of many at that, with great forsight. All I'm left with is a wonderful photograph of him in his overcoat and cap having a fag and a pint in the Green Lane tavern. Like John Tams and Ray Hearne I am very much involved in the folk world and through that involvement I wrote a tribute to my father and men like him called 'King of Steel' whose places of work have now been replaced by retail parks. I am considering sending it to John. Death of the King Ian Tupling c 20th August 1999 Available on ‘Further Down The Road’

Michael M, Scotland
THis is one of the finest pieces of broadcasting I have ever heard. Compelling listening!

Wayne Turner NE Lincolnshire.
My Dad worked at CG Carisle Rolling Mills on Penistone Road. When I was a kid in the 1970s my Dad badly injured his hand from a cobble. The terrible conditions he worked in contributed to his premature death at forty. My Grandad didnt want my Dad to work in the mill but he did. My Dad didnt want me in the mill and I did not get a job there, but that was more due to Maggie and her cabinet, not my Dads wishes.

Sarah - Sheffield
This is amazing, the music is fantastic. I do hope that there is going to be a CD of these songs??

Andy Wells Sheffield
It's still collapsing. Outokumpu pulled out of cold rolling stainless this year. Myself and 700 others having been made redundant. It is only a matter of time before the melting shop follows. As a nation we can't keep on hemorrhaging stratigic businesses such as these and pay our way in the world. It seems to me that there has been a catastrophic failure in leadership of the UK. this doesn't only apply to manufacturing but just about every facet of infrastucture ie energy, water, transport - the whole lot really. Sooner or latter our creditors will call in their debts and we'll find that the cupboard is bare.

Gill Wallis form Derbyshire
My Dad Ron Wallis started in the steel works before the war at Firth Vickers. He remebered Brearly who discovered Steel. He used to tong out the steel alongside his brother Harold. He tried to join up twice to be with his other brother Wilf, but as he was in a reserved occupation he was refused and the Boss said if you try again I'll send you to be a Bevan Boy down the mines. He made his contribution to the war effort in the works doing long hours in front of a furnace. He said they wore clothe around the face to protect them from the heat. He never had any facial or arm hair. He was hard of hearing and had emphasema which was in part due to those punishing days. The steel strike started afer christmas and there was no strike pay. My dad asked me to join him in the strike by giving up my pocket money-I was 16years old and I would get the same % pay rise. My mum ate bread and jam for tea whilst we went on eating normally and after all the money was gone from their bank account we had to use what was in mine. I know it was 3-4 months long and it took years financially to get over it. I got my £40 back two years later but the lesson I learnt was much more valuable.

Mark, Sheffield
This sounds fantastic. My dad worked in the steel industry and told me some right tales, good and bad! Really looking forward to hearing the Song of Steel.

terry sheffield
The collapse of the WORLDS best steel industry was an orchestrated piece of vandalism,created & gloated over by the chinless wonders in Whitehall.They gave little regard to the devastation it caused to the workers the families or the cities & towns.The did more damage to the steel industry in a couple of years than Hitler did with all his bombers. A very angry ex-steelworker(redundant)

Alan Neal, Wareham, Dorset
Although I now live in Dorset, I was born in Rotherham. The bus trip from Rotherham to Sheffield passed many steel works and from the top deck you could often see into the works. As a young boy this was both scary and exciting at the same time. Although many Rotherham men worked in ‘Steelos’ my dad spent most of his working life as a bricklayer re-lining the furnaces at the Parkgate Steel Works. He was often on ‘hot-work’ and wore wooden soled clogs and his ‘sweat-towel’. As a student in the 70’s I had a summer job working in Steelos. One job involved replacing the drains beneath the Templebrough rolling mills. We used pneumatic drills in an enclosed space with no hearing protection or hard-hats notwithstanding the workers about us dropping the occasional brick – well we were students and expendable! Like many heavy industries it is easy to get nostalgic, but I recall what this industry did to my dad. From his forties to his early retirement on ill health grounds, he as plagued with respiratory problems – clearly the dust affected his lungs. He used to say the no furnace bricklayer ever reached retirement age.

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