Wrong Road Roun' - An Urban Villanelle

entry picture

“There’s no bigger, silly bastard undergroun’

A disgrace to thee, ‘is mam an’ ‘is class

‘E took ‘is fuckin’ shovel wrong road roun’.


We’d walked back in once t’shotties fired their roun’

An’dep’ty said that we wa’ clear o’ gas

There’s no bigger silly bastard undergroun’;


So 27 colliers knelt down

An’ crawled their way through props an’ bars just as

‘E shouts, “Mi fuckin’ shovel’s wrong road roun’;


The fuckin’ pog’s that tight it wain’t turn roun’".

There wa’n’t the fuckin’ space to let ‘im pass

There’s no bigger silly bastard undergroun’.


At fust we thought we took ‘im fo’ a clown -

The silly bastard’s grinnin’ like a lass

 ‘E’d took ‘is fuckin’ shovel wrong road roun’.


Twenty fuckin’ minutes out an’ in-bound

That silly twat o’ thine ‘as cost us brass

There’s no bigger silly bastard undergroun’.

‘E took ‘is fuckin’ shovel wrong road roun’.”

◄ Night Mail

Breakfast of Champions ►


Profile image

Ann Foxglove

Fri 21st Jan 2011 23:01

And he looks the spit of that chap that plays James Bond!

Profile image

John Coopey

Fri 21st Jan 2011 22:41

Many thanks, all, for the comments.
Afficionados among you will have spotted the deliberate mistake in the photo - one of the fillers is indeed himself "wrong road round". That it was posed is given away by the one on the right sporting starched white collar and cuffs - the mining equivalent of Spartacus' wristwatch.

Profile image

John Aikman

Fri 21st Jan 2011 16:03

Neat, neat, neat!

Fabulous poem and a great example of using a structure to drive the narrative creating double the impact. There's altogether too much 'free verse' chucked out on WOL in the name of poetry...it seldom is.

This is a poem! And a damned good one at that.

Thank you.


Profile image

Laura Taylor

Fri 21st Jan 2011 09:42

Good stuff John - I do like how you portray these historical events. Terrible conditions back then. But humour to be found :)

Profile image

Ann Foxglove

Fri 21st Jan 2011 06:08

I enjoyed this very much John, especially your reading of it! And I can't think of much worse than being in this sort of confined space. I went pot-holing once - nightmare!!! xx

Profile image

bernard shelton

Thu 20th Jan 2011 18:50

liked this mate, good stuff

Profile image

John Coopey

Thu 20th Jan 2011 18:14

Prior to the mechanisation of coalmining, most coal was hand-got. This was often done on a 3-shift cycle with Shift 1 boring and stemming the shot-holes and then firing it off. This would leave a quantity of loose coal in front of the coalface for Shift 2 to fill.
Shift 2’s job was to shovel this coal behind them onto a conveyor which ran in front of the gob (the area behind the working face where the roof was allowed to fall). The conveyor took the coal away down the face into the roadway system and on out of the mine.
Shift 3 would then dismantle the props and reset them on the newly claimed ground, thus advancing the face. Finally they would ram over the conveyor to its new position. Face teams would be paid on the weight of coal produced.
This poem concerns Shift 2 – the hand-fillers.
In a narrow seam, having crawled into position on the face in file, a filler would lie on his side and shovel the coal over his shoulder onto the belt behind. He had a pog (or stint) of about 10 yards so a 200 yard face accommodated about 20 men.
Space was so tight that a filler could not pass another filler – everyone had to crawl in and out in crocodile. Space was so tight that a cardinal sin which embarrassed many a novice, was to take his shovel in “wrong road round”. You didn’t do it twice!
This villanelle is a conversation (a rant!) by a collier at my dad as we sat drinking In the Welfare. The language is real despite it never having happened.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message