BIG JUD ET AL
I quickly learned that working for the National Coal Board built up loyalties. I suppose it came from an environment where men (-no women worked underground by law-) might depend on one another for their lives. I imagine the same will be true of the armed services or the police and other sectors which operated “on the edge” – where danger, injury or even death might always be around the corner.
Perhaps because of this it threw up its fair share of larger-than-life characters in a sector where the culture would be described by management gurus as “heroic”.
Take Big Jud, for example. He was the Manager of a mine near Barnsley. Besides being big he was bearded and ten-ton brussen. I recollect one story told about him that might give you some insight.
“Fetch me the Branch” he told his Clerk one day. (The Branch were the top four officials of the NUM Branch – President, Delegate, Treasurer and Secretary). When they arrived at his office the Clerk told them, “He’s in there”, pointing at his shower room.
“Get in here” he bellowed at them.
When they went in they found him having a shit with the toilet door wide open. Which was how he proceeded to have his meeting with them.
Then there was Osbert Hartley. He too was a Manager. At Haigh Colliery. Anyone travelling the M1 might have noticed the roadsign off to the village. A farm shop now stands where the pit was.
Anyroadup, you need to understand that the Coal Board did not breed woke or sophisticated managers. You may have gathered that about Big Jud, but Osbert was of a different ilk. Rather, he was something of a gentleman by bearing but wholly unschooled. His endearing features were his Malapropisms (or is it Spoonerisms, I forget).
On one occasion he sent one of his staff out to fetch something from town and told him “And if tha can’t get it tha can call me from t’telephone Cossack”. Or when one of his planners showed him a proposed mine layout he said, “Just what I wanted, Alan. Can’st tha mek me a repplekah on it? An’ if tha can’t mek a repplekah I want one just like it”.
Or Margaret. Margaret worked in the canteen at a Westside pit. Her party piece was to entertain customers by rubbing them up until they hardened off under their overalls; then letting their ardour cool until she began again Up and down, up and down, for the duration of their 20 minute snap-time. Harmless enough; or if it wasn’t, hard to tell who was the victim and who was the transgressor.
Alec worked in Finance. He was a camp little fucker whose sexual preferences were unconstrained. And he’d happily confess that he’d “fuck an old bayonet wound”.
He told us one day about the time he’d called in after work on his 80 year old, dying father.
“’Ow’s tha keeping today, father?” he asked.
“A lot better, thanks, Alec, lad. In fact I had a wank this morning”.
All gone, I’m afraid. Along with the industry that made us.