The Miners

(c. 1947-1958) 

by Fred Caban


Crib Time. Courtesy of George Davison through Barry Howard.  

The miners were wonderful lot of fellows. They were very skilled at their work, hard workers, hard drinkers and keen fighters. They would argue and fight among themselves but would emphatically defend each other if need be. Swearing and foul language was a way of life with them but they would never swear in front of women and were terribly embarrassed if they made a mistake and accidentally did swear in front of a woman. They were known to be flattened if they deliberately swore at a woman. They were extremely tough. When I was in the first aid room they would come to me with a huge splinter in their leg. When I would explain to them that with a splinter that size they would need to go to the hospital to get it out they would say, “No, you dig it out” and would sit there without even a murmur while I did. They would let me take foreign bodies out of their eyes, remove splinters, treat and dress large lacerations and treat all sorts of injuries without ever complaining. When some foreign workers came up from the Snowy to sink a drift it was a totally different story. They were too frightened to let me touch them or even look at them.

It was said that the miners filled all their coal in the pub, drank their beer in their home and had all their sex in the pit because that was 90% of their conversation.

My father worked at Paxton Pit, I worked there when I turned 16 followed by his 2nd son Owen and then 3rd son Ernie. Ray the 4th son worked at Pelton Pit where our grandfather had worked. Mervyn, the 5th and youngest son did not work in the mines but made a career as a motor mechanic. A cavil out in 1958 took the jobs of Owen, Emie and myself. Our father was kept on for about another 2 years until they closed the mine completely and permanently and then he was out of work. Ray who worked at Pelton and then relocated to Ellalong remained there until his retirement at age 60. He worked for 44 years in the mine. Ray and his mate had been buried in a fall of coal. Ray sustained a bad injury to his leg which now gives him an enormous amount of trouble but for his mate it was fatal.

In spite of the bad publicity and adverse reputation that the miners endured, I considered them to be very great mates.

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