The Painters and The Miners


by Fred Caban

There was a time when some painters from Sydney were painting the Paxton Hotel. My father was having a drink in the hotel when the painters began telling him what a wonderful job the miners had. My father said he didn’t think they had nearly as good a job as the painters thought. They said their hours were 7 till 3 but sometimes they were in the pub by 1 o’clock and they were finished for the day. My father said that they had to work very hard to fill the darg in 8 hours so they had to work ever so much harder to do it in 6 and besides that it was very risky and dangerous. The painters said that it could not be all that bad. My father asked them if they would like to come down the pit and see it for themselves. They said yes they would like to see for themselves what a cushy job the miners really had. My father obtained permission from the manager and took them down one night. 

At this time there was a creep going on in the mine. A creep is when the floor is softer than the roof and the weight of the strata above pushes the pillar of coal down into the floor which makes the floor in the traveling roads rise. A crush on the other hand is where the roof is softer and comes down causing a crushing effect. As you walk along the traveling roads it is quite common for coal to pop out of the rib, a crack to appear in the roof over head and support timber to crack and splinter or break as you walked past it. These dangers really frightened the painters and they said, “Don’t try to tell us that men actually work in conditions like this”. My father said, “No; not out here where it is safe, but wait until you get in to the working area and you will find it will get interesting”. They said “No: we are not going any further, we want to go home”. My father told them that they had been mouthing off about the cushy job the miners have so they were going to go in and see where they work. He also told them not to try to go out by themselves because they would get lost and could end up in the goaf where there is poisonous gas and their bodies might never be found. He said stick very close to me and we will all get out safely. 

When they finally got out very shaken and frightened they told my father that if the miners were paid 1,000 pounds a day it would not be anywhere near enough and when they get back to Sydney, if they ever hear anybody run the miners down, that person will be severely abused. 

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