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Black miners unite

MEMORIES MADE: Clockwise from top left, historian Norma Gregory, Oswald Roberts, Carl Phillips, Mayor of Gedling Councillor Vivienne McCrossen, Lincoln Cole, Andrew Nembhard, Garrey Mitchell, Robert Johnson and Fitzalbert Taylor with portraits

FORMER BLACK miners who toiled in British coal fields post-Windrush from the early 1950s, have held a special reunion and thanksgiving ceremony in Nottingham as part of a national heritage research project.

The experiences of black miners have been collated for a new project titled, Digging Deep Coal Miners of African Caribbean heritage, National Narratives from across the UK. The event comes after years of heritage research work led by historian Norma Gregory, founder of the Nottingham News Centre.

Gregory was determined to gain formal recognition for miners of African-Caribbean heritage who sacri ced life and limb to mine coal to fuel the British economy, homes and businesses prior to the handover of national energy provision to gas and electric companies.

Gregory is seeking the support of CARICOM and the UK Government to celebrate the achievement of these “industrial pioneers”.

SUPPORT

The project is in partnership with the National Coal Mining Museum for England, based near Wake eld in West Yorkshire, and is supported by the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales, the National Museum of Scotland and Communities Inc. Nottingham among other national organisations as well as receiving support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Black miners are now known to have worked in Welsh mines such as Deep Navigation Colliery, and Maerdy Garth and Caerau Colliery in the Glam-organ area. In England, black miners have been located from Sutton Manor Colliery, Lancashire, and at Dawdon Colliery in County Durham.

Gregory has discovered that 25 of the 51 collieries around the Nottinghamshire area had black miners working for them in particular Gedling Colliery, nicknamed the ‘Pit of Nations’ due to its diverse workforce with miners from countries such as Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Commonwealth of Dominica, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Ghana, Nigeria, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, India and Ireland.

DIRT

Lloyd Brown, born 1937 in Portland, Jamaica came to the UK in 1957 and worked as a miner at Bentley Colliery in Doncaster, South Yorkshire from 1957 to 1987. Brown remembered the dirt, dust and hard work he had to do.

Remarkably, he survived a fatal underground train disaster on the November 21, 1978, which killed seven men. He recalls: “I was shook up – we were all shook up with what had happened to our colleagues. It could have been another disaster if another train had come out and ran into each other.”

The project has recorded interviews from more than 50 surviving miners and has collated research from archives, former coal communities, families and associates of surviving miners for almost 200 known black miners from across the UK working in coal mines.

A selection of interviews and research ndings will be housed at the National Coal Mining Museum for England for public access through the project website on completion of the project next year.

Councillor Vivienne McCrossen, Mayor of Gedling, celebrated with the miners, historians, guests and volunteers at the Mapperley Social Club, formerly the Gedling Miners Welfare Social Club, Nottinghamshire.

A group of the miners were presented with a studio portrait taken as part of the project’s activities aimed at encouraging heritage participation in all ages.

If you are a former black miner and would like to join the project, get in contact at blackcoalminers.com

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