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Can you possibly imagine, being no more than a child?

To be pulled from your bed, and dragged off to work as you cried

At an age where all you want to do is play

Not to be dragged down a coal mine, for a pittance of pay.


Used in seams so damp, wet and narrow

Where even the pit ponies wouldn’t go

Crawling on your hands and knees, harnessed like an animal

Soaking with sweat, clothes ripped to shreds. Is this natural?


Or left all alone for hours on end, guarding the ventilation doors!

Alone, for ten hours or more?

In the darkness, the silence and the gloom, the time seems endless

The cold, biting into the young bones, terrified, scared witless.


Childhood, the most important years!

They should be cherished, not sent down a mine in tears

Shackled to a coal haulage implement, in places so wet and so low

Clinging on with fingers bruised and bleeding, scared to let go.


Some working fourteen hours a day, seeing very little day light

Dragged off to work in the middle of the night

Coming home, sometimes with little to eat or a place to bathe

Their young lives passing them by, to the mines they were slaves.


The coal mines, where the word safety didn’t exist

Many of the children to be put on an early deceased list

Children taken to the mines by their father

Fathers mostly unable to read or write, never knowing any better.


The families were all very poor

If they don’t work, no money was coming through the door

Sometimes the whole family went to work in the mines

Still they barely survived, even when their money was combined.


The younger children who worked there

Would be pushing the heavy wooden tubs of coal, often in pairs

Back breaking work for those so young

Pushing heavy tubs of coal to pit bottom, not out playing, having fun.


The hurriers harnessed to the tubs, like small pit ponies

Thrusters, pushing from behind, children hands so small and bony

Children, many catching illness’s, they were unable to be saved

These children, who had no childhood, destined for an early grave.

A life where puberty can be thwarted

Legs, knees, spines and feet horribly distorted

Girls, who develop pelvic deformities

That could later life cause childbearing difficulties.


Collapse of the digestive organs was also common

Diseases of the heart, causing inflammation

Stomach pains, cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting

The quenching of thirst, caused by contaminated water drinking.


Those who were lucky enough to survive, by God’s grace

Would be sent to work in the coal face

Working with a candle or a safety lamp

Hot, cramped, squalid conditions, many perishing with the Firedamp.


Firedamp or Methane, call it what you may

No taste, no smell, but in a flash it would take you away

The silent killer, always lurking in the coal mines

No mercy, no warning, not understood in Victorian times.


So, as you watch your children playing happily in the sun

Try to imagine these children, lives over barely before it’s begun

Sitting in the cold and the damp, behind wooden doors

Dark, dinghy, foul smelling, sitting on a sodden dirty floor.

Waiting all day in the dark, as a door keep

Frightened to fall asleep

If they did, they may be beaten, and their meagre pay docked

Just sitting in the boredom, waiting for the door to be knocked.


Victorian times, where the factories were flourishing

Where the workers were like slaves, working for next to nothing

Those days, when there was no such thing as electricity

Where coal was a much sought-after commodity.


And the mine owners were quick to see

Give the parents a job, the children work almost free!

The mine owners generating vast wealth

Not caring about the worker’s health.


Uneducated people to them, only fit to work underground

Cheap labour to them, with very little work to be found

Except the mines and the factories, all owned by the paymasters

Living in depressing squalor, the paymasters houses full of laughter.


Where children on the Sunday, the Lords day, day of rest

Would stay in their beds, not go out to play, they had no energy left

The modern day mines we thought, were hard and uncompromising

Unlike the Hell these children went through, not living, just existing.

Copyright Ralph Jones

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