Mining Jack’s rich seam of memories

editorial image

What do Margaret Thatcher, Arthur Scargill and three cricketing greats all have in common?

The former British Prime Minister and the ex National Union of Mineworkers boss rub shoulders with Sir Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and Bodyline tour veteran Bill Bowes in a Wakefield man’s fascinating photo album.

Jack Tunnicliffe, 88, invited the Wakefield Express to leaf through his family photos for our new heritage page.

The great-grandad-of-three, from Sandal, was heavily involved in sport and the mining industry, two important elements of Wakefield’s history.

The collection spans from his time playing for various teams at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and meeting his wife of 65 years Barbara at school and St George’s Youth Club in Lupset.

It is also a veritable who’s who of Yorkshire’s pits. Mining manager Mr Tunnicliffe spent more than 40 years in the industry and in engineering academia. He worked at a high level at Snydale, Newmarket, Prince of Wales, Lofthouse pits and three in the Selby coalfield.

He said: “You became part of the community. The manager of a mine was a significant person in mining life. I was manager of pits all around Pontefract and Wakefield. You became strongly related to the community.”

He recently drove round his old stomping grounds but found it much changed from his heyday. Mr Tunnicliffe added: “I’m sad about the loss of communities. I was brought up in a mining village in Derbyshire.”

His dad was the manager of a local mine and he used to take young Jack on weekend visits to the mine. Mr Tunnicliffe later followed in his dad’s footsteps.

The other thing that strikes you when looking at Mr Tunnicliffe’s family album is his love of sport, be it cricket, athletics or rugby.

He was a keen cricketer for QEGS and captained it’s first team for three years. One of his contemporaries was former Silcoates School John Baggaley and Colin Bell who went on to play for Wakefield Trinity.

Mr Tunnicliffe’s love of cricket continued into later life where work would also bring him into close proximity with some of the stars of the game. He would work with Sir Len Hutton who used to do site visits as part of his mining trade work. He also met two other Yorkshire greats Geoff Boycott and Bill Bowes at cricket events in Scarborough.

But perhaps his best celebrity anecdote and picture is when he accompanied then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher down a mine in Selby in the early 1980s. There is a picture of them and other mining officials wearing hard hats and donkey jackets.

Mr Tunnicliffe recalled: “She was greeted down the road to the mine with a picket line. But that was totally disregarded when she came in and out. I was very impressed with the way she knew about the situation and the problems that existed within the Selby coalfield. In my picture she is at the bottom of the mine shaft. She went down in the kibble - a bucket on the end of a wire rope.”

l If you would like to be featured in our heritage section then please email editorial@wakefieldexpress.co.uk.

Barbara Richardson, Jack's Tunnicliffe's wife of 65 years, is pictured left on the second row, kneeling, during a hockey team picture at Wakefield Girls' High School.

Barbara Richardson, Jack's Tunnicliffe's wife of 65 years, is pictured left on the second row, kneeling, during a hockey team picture at Wakefield Girls' High School.