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The Start of My Journey

By Hugh C Baker
30 November 2007, South East Wales
A digital story from Rhondda Lives!

"My father didn't want me to go down the mines. A lot of the people, children in those days were encouraged by their parents to get education so that they could get away from that atmosphere see.

I started off my education by going to the Miners' Welfare Library, and because we couldn't afford to buy new books, so I used to go to the non-fiction part of the library and get some of the books there such as Mining Science and maths. My father then wrote to the General Manager of the collieries and he told me to start in the fitting shop, in the colliery, on the surface.

Then you went down. We had to take, have a chap to meet us down there - to guide us, because if you were going in where the journeys were working, you see the ropes attached to the journey, they would be running along on rollers sometimes on the side of the wall. And sometimes they'd swing, when you come to a bend, they'd swing from one side to the other you see. Well if you didn't know when those journeys were coming and so forth, not being down there regularly every day, you don't know what could happen and also, you know, if a journey is coming, there'd be a hollow cut into the side of the wall where you'd step in out of the way. But of course you wouldn't know where they were if you didn't have someone to show you.

And of course you only had your cap lamp. And I saw the accidents that happened although we had accidents on the surface, and a fitter with us caught his arm between a belt and a roller and he had his arm pulled around the belt. Heavy industry, it's always danger. And there were bad days and there's good days, but on the whole you had the comradeship and you had to rely on your fellow workmen."

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