“They tell me that you’ve done a bit of boxing,” John C. asked of me on my Fourth day of working.
“A little at school” I replied. I would have liked to put John in the picture and boast of my boxing successes being Four times Leeds schoolboy champion and a single time Yorkshire one. I decided against saying owt, it wasn’t done in those days to brag.
“I’ve done a bit myself” continued John. “What weight do you fight at?”
“Just over ten stone.” I answered.
“That’s just about my weight,” John said, “give or take a couple of pounds.”
I was amazed that John was within my weight I would have put him at least two stone heavier.
“We will have to have a spar sometime” Johnny said
“Yeah’ I’d like that,” I replied, I probably sounded not too convincing. I felt that if Johnny could punch as hard as he looked he would probably take my head off with his first blow.
The conversation ended there. I was satisfied that it had gone no further. I was a little afraid of John but knowing myself I would not have backed down under any circumstances. I have always been able to hold myself against most, in the ring or out, I always had that feeling of being afraid before any action but also knew that once any action started I could rise to the occasion. I have never sought a confrontation nor ever backed down from one.
Another youth of the screen team was of Irish descent, George O’ Neil. George was a fine upstanding youth and a very good worker. He never seemed to complain or raised his voice, preferring to speak quietly. Consequently when ever he spoke people tended to listen to what he had to say. And what he had to say always made sense.
I now felt that I had three new friends, Tommy Clapton, the youth who started at the same time as me. Eddie Barker, who was soon to leave the screens to do his three week underground training and George O’ Neil
It came as a little surprise to learn that the colliery operated a Week in hand when paying out wages. When I told my mother she obviously knew of this fact and she said she would help me out, which I knew she would. She had done so many times in the past. My wages would be five pound odd rather than the six pounds odd that my father had said that I would be earning, the difference in pay being underground working; still it was twice what I had been getting at my previous job
I was slowly coming round to the fact that I hadn’t made a mistake in taking a job at the pit. In general there was a feeling of togetherness that I hadn’t realised had been missing in my old job. Although I still did not like getting up of a morning and going to work, I did not mind actually working. Perhaps I hadn’t made a mistake in taking a job at the pit after all
Swearing at the pit was the norm. Although I have tried to keep out the swearing in this written account, please take it as read. Everyone swore, from the Pit manager to the lowest worker. Every sentence was strewn with expletives and it seemed every second word was usually punctuated by a four letter expletive. Nobody listened or took notice of you if you did not or could not swear. My younger brother Jim and I were brought up in a family that did not swear. The most we had heard from our father was an occasional ‘bloody’; my mother not at all
At the pit I soon learned to swear like everyone else. It is hard to explain but when I was away from the pit and swearing was not the norm I did not swear. But as soon as I entered the pit yard I lapsed into a swearing mode, and I could give as good as I got. This brings to mind: one weekend the family were eating our Sunday lunch, or dinner as it was called then. I was explaining, to all at the table, of an event of the last week at work. I was so immersed in my pit tale that momentary I was at work. I forgot myself. “So when Johnny said that, I told him to Fuc…” I realised my mistake as soon as I had uttered the first few letters of the offending word. I lapsed into silence. In fact the whole table was silent, until my mother said, ” We realise that everyone swears at the pit but leave it there when you finish work.” It wasn’t meant as a put down or a reprimand merely a statement of fact
“Now what was you saying about Johnny C?” continued my mother. The incident was as if it had never happened
“Err! I told him to go away.” said I feeling my cheeks redden
An additive to this story on swearing, the first time I heard my father swear was when I was with him at the pit top. He was cursing and blinding about something that had earlier happened down the pit and was berating one of his mates. I was astounded, my father did not swear, I honestly thought he did not know how to swear. What impressionable minds we have when we are young.