The Miner – Geordie Verse

‘Geordie Verse’, submitted by the author, Malcolm Armstrong.

Malcolm was himself a miner at Greenside Colliery, Durham, in the 1950s before joining the army and serving with R.E.M.E. attached to the King’s Hussars.
His first-hand description of work at the coal face and of washing down the dust with beer afterwards tells it all.

tab … Geordie term for cigarette.
the set … a number of coal tubs hitched together.
the bull … a device that hangs off the back of the last tub in the set, to stop the set running backwards in the event of the haulage rope breaking.
hoggers … the long hoses that connect the windy pick to the compressor.
windy pick … local term for a pneumatic drill or hammer
gallewas … the pit ponies.
to bank … means going back to the surface.




I’ve served abroad
in the queen’s good name,
and travelled on tanks and ships,
but the memories that stay most clear in my mind
are of days when I
worked down the pit.


We wore short pants,
and carried hand lamps,
and knew for a tab we would crave,
so we’d have our last drags,
pick up our bags,
and climb up the steps
to the cage.



We’d sit hunkered down,
swapping our yarns,
till we finally arrived at the bottom,
then walk in-by
with our backs bent low,
and the surface would
soon be forgotten.


As we made our way in,
the rails would sing,
so we’d dive in a manhole for cover,
then the set would roar past,
with the bull on the back,
and the timbers would
shiver and shudder.


Further in-by the deputy would sit,
in his gloomy little dug-out,
known by us as the Kist,
he’d check safety lamps,
and not one would he miss,
then cadge a chew
from some lad’s baccy twist.



Once on the face there was work to be done,
but first we made sure
that the pumps were switched on,
for the water that soaks
from the overhead stream,
seems to collect
in this one small seam.


Then with hoggers screwed on,
and pick blades tightened in,
we’d hew out the coal and put props and planks in,
and with only one stop
for a jam sandwich bait,
we’d soon have it off
from louse end to tailgate.


When the shift was over,
we’d tramp out to the shaft,
only stopping to let the “gallewas” past,
then to bank in the cage,
and when we were there,
by-god it was good
to breathe the fresh air,



When we got home,
In the tin tub we’d sit, having a soak, while we ate bread and dip,
then after our dinner,
we’d set off for town,
to have a few beers,
to wash the dust down.


Those are the days I’ll
when with my grand-
bairns I sit,
And when they ask for a
story, I’ll tell them about
the pit …


“For The People By The People” …NUM Greenside Lodge Banner


6 thoughts on “The Miner – Geordie Verse

  1. Roland, this is a fantastic piece that is close to my heart. My grandad was a Geordie Miner. He was born in Seaham, County Durham and worked in the pits from the age of 15 until he retired at 65. Thank you for writing and bringing back some great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The two of you have me up looking at maps of Great Britain. I don’t believe I traveled in what would be considered the Geordie region. I best leave this for tomorrow.


  3. Big Geordie was a miner,
    on those hacky black coal seams.
    This working man, none finer,
    held a pocket full of dreams.
    This bloke enjoyed a smoke,and toyed,
    with calling it a day.
    But since a boy,he’d been employed,
    and knew no other way.

    Geordie stood atop the Pit shaft,
    smoking rollies to the butt.
    No smiles or ciggies after,
    that Steele gate had slammed tight shut.
    With a Davy Lamp in one hand,
    and his bait box in the other.
    Descending deeper with a band,
    of comrades,more like brothers.

    The clanging and the shudder of,
    that dull descending cage.
    That fetched good men from up above,
    to earn a grafters wage.
    The men would all fall silent as,
    they knew what lay ahead.
    Stretched longways swinging axes,
    weighing heavier than lead.

    Sharp contrast with the morning sun,
    could not have been more stark.
    It was anything but fun,
    and was perpetually dark.
    Big Geordie worked his socks off,
    till his aching hands would bleed.
    All this despite his barking cough,
    (he’d hungry mouths to feed)

    Shift at an end the lads ascend,
    each one as black as crows
    A quick smile for oncoming friends,
    then hot baths and fresh clothes.
    Year in year out,they’d show their clout,
    fine fellows head to toe.
    Then word came down around the town,
    their jobs would have to go.

    The Rising sun was all but done,
    the Government called it time.
    No longer would that pit still run,
    onwards of sixty nine.
    With work now hard to come by,
    and Geordie feeling so betrayed.
    He resolved to head for Cotgrave,
    down there Nottinghamshire way.

    A few of Geordie’s comrades went,
    and near the mines they settled.
    All for a wage that payed the rent,
    Big Geordie showed his mettle.
    For fifteen years without a care,
    a worker in his prime.
    The black stuff of the highest grade,
    came from that Cotgrave mine.

    The work was hard ,the work was tough,
    Big Geordie did his bit.
    But even that was not enough,
    they closed this thriving pit.
    But not before those men so proud,
    stood firmly for their rights.
    With staunch support from all around,
    they fought the gallant fight.

    The papers used Psychology,
    to gain folks hearts and minds.
    Did Thatcher get those army men,
    to bash those picket lines?
    Now Geordie and his black stuff kings,
    lived life out on the dole.
    As like so many other things,
    we now imported coal!!

    Big Geordie was a mining man,
    Until the day he died.
    They took his pocket full for dreams,
    but couldn’t take his pride!!

    James Bridgewood.


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