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(A piece I wrote 40 years ago in support of retirement at 60 for mineworkers. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and Derek Ezra was Chairman of the National Coal Board.  I was a young recruit)


At the end of this month I shall be 59

And for 44 years I’ve worked in the mines

When once I was strong, for my health I now fear

I ought to retire at the end of the year.


I’ve worked in the Thorncliffe since the day I left school

And sometimes she’s a good seam but she’s usually cruel

She’s given us coal, boys, that the bunkers could bust

But she’s taken my fingers and given me dust.


I’ve given my best in blood, sweat and tears

And all that I’m asking’s for these last five years

All that I’m asking’s for these last five years.


Twenty two inches is the worst that I’ve had

And five days a week, boys, that isn’t so bad

52 weeks, boys, that isn’t so rough

But 44 years is more than enough.

I’ve given my best in blood, sweat and tears…


In Nottingham, Barnsley and Ponty as well

On mechanised faces and on some I’ve hand-filled

I’ve ripped and I’ve sheared, I’ve filled and I’ve bored

But when I reach 60 I’m working no more.

I’ve given my best in blood, sweat and tears…


Now Sir Harold and Sir Derek are good men and true (spit)

But when a man’s reached 60 there’s no more he can do

If retiring at 60’s for them and for you

Then I’m bloody well certain it’s for colliers too.

I’ve given my best in blood, sweat and tears…




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John Coopey

Tue 31st Jan 2017 23:55

Thanks for the comments, Ray and Harry.
Yes, indeed, Ray, Aberfan was a huge blot of shame on the NCB.

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Harry O'Neill

Tue 31st Jan 2017 22:15

Makes me glad I missed out on being a `Bevin Boy`

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Tue 31st Jan 2017 21:46

Stunningly down to earth and inspiring John. Wonderfully resonant in a sort of style of the old tracts read out in Victorian times that poets would sell and inform at the same time!
I can't help but mention the terrible business of the NCB response to Aberfan. You will know it and have an informed opinion on it i'm sure.


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John Coopey

Tue 31st Jan 2017 17:00

I'll let you into a little secret, MC. I've pinched the tune from His Bobness himself. It was his "Only a Hobo".

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M.C. Newberry

Tue 31st Jan 2017 16:02

I find myself hearing the sort of thing that Bob Dylan
might have sung about the miners in the eastern states
of America...with some substituted names but keeping the
tune and the style.

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John Coopey

Tue 31st Jan 2017 14:31

I could never "dis" the Coal Board. It was good to me, Paul Good wages, pension etc. But it was "of its time". I cannot condone fossil fuels these days.

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Paul Waring

Tue 31st Jan 2017 10:10

Fantastic poem John, a great read that describes so well the physical demands on mine workers and how they must have felt after all those years of grind. Heartfelt stuff. Thanks for sharing this.


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John Coopey

Tue 31st Jan 2017 09:55

You could say we all got to retire early in the end, Trevor.

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Trevor Alexander

Tue 31st Jan 2017 00:20

Back then, I actually worked for the NCB. Where did it all go wrong - although I did manage to retire at 61.

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