Miners reunite, 30 years after pit closure

COMRADES: Former Glass Houghton Colliery workers met up for the first time since the mine shut.
COMRADES: Former Glass Houghton Colliery workers met up for the first time since the mine shut.

Thirty years have passed since the last coal was mined at Glass Houghton Colliery.

But the working life underground seems like only yesterday for many former pit men.

Former deputy Brian Hawes, who collects memorabilia.

Former deputy Brian Hawes, who collects memorabilia.

Many of them knew nothing other than this livelihood and they developed lasting friendships, playing their own parts in the mine’s life of extracting tonnes of coal.

And it is this camaraderie that was celebrated last month, when around sixty former workers met up for the first reunion since the colliery’s closure in 1986.

Brian Hawes, who was a deputy at the pit, helped friend and former colliery fitter Kevin Garbutt to organise the event, at the King George VI pub.

Mr Hawes, 68, said: “When you are underground, it is a totally different world.

Derek Dye with one of the collierys mining lamps.

Derek Dye with one of the collierys mining lamps.

“Your life is literally in the hands of your friend at the side of you.

“You get in really dangerous places and your friend watches your back and warns you if there’s any sign of trouble.

“That is the type of camaraderie you had as a mine worker. You really trusted your fellow men. You were one big team and you didn’t like to see anybody struggling.

“That bond, it never leaves you. And that’s what happened at the reunion when we got together.

memories: The men reminisce.

memories: The men reminisce.

“We could still feel that bond of that band of brothers. It was smashing.”

Mr Hawes, who lives in Cutsyke, Castleford, joined Glass Houghton Colliery at the age of 15.

He began working underground after his 16th birthday, first as a pit bottom lad and later as a coal face worker and then deputy.

He transferred to the Selby Coalfields, when Glass Houghton shut. But two decades later, he was made redundant with the closure of Gascoigne Wood pit in 2005, after 40 years in the industry.

memories: The men reminisce.

memories: The men reminisce.

Over the years, Mr Hawes has collected pit mementoes and memorabilia, including boots and lamps, which he exhibited at last month’s reunion.

He said: “It was great to see everyone and to look back at these items, and just to reminisce.

“It brought us all together again after so many years.

“It was like a lifetime of memories came out. Mining and life underground will always remain with us.

“If I could have my time, I would do it all over again. I think we all would.”

Mr Hawes said he hoped more reunions would be planned in the future.