Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Coalman, the coaltrucks and the firebeater.

Some memories of “The Coalmen, the Coaltrucks and the Firebeaters …. (blog created 3rd December 2011)

It was a regular thing! Certainly monthly during the winter months, you would hear the coalmen draw up in their wagon and lift the coal grate at the front. And then mum would shout, “Count them bags of coal they’re putting down shoot lad and make sure you count ten” You could hear the coal travelling down the stone lined coal shoot, which started its journey by the coalman lifting a metal cover (14ft square) on the floor, just in front of our front door, this is were he deposited the contents of the coal bags, which then made its way down into the cellar below the house.
The noise seemed to be a sort of rumbling thunderous sound has the coal must have caught the sides of the shoot on its way down and then as it reached the existing coal it made a loud thud, and that’s when you started counting, one, two, three and so on, up to five, but sometimes up to ten. I counted them with such concentration, just as though my life depended on it! There always were five or ten, never less and never more.

This is were W.H. Shaws office used to be, the first house in this photo which was on the corner of Spring Lane.

Most of the time, mum gave me the money each month, and I would go along to the coal office and pay the coal bill, I would take the white delivery ticket of about 6” square, showing details of the quantity of the delivery etc, and the ticket was always well smudged with black coal dust.
Going through them big doors into the coal office was just like going back in time, and it felt as though it was like a chapter out of “a Dickens novel”. (see photo above - Coal Office was on Blackburn Road as shown above, later this property was converted to the Islamic Centre, and then much later back to a private property)

“They’re were always at least three gentlemen in the Office, on most occasions they would be stood to their high desk, entering their ledgers. There were chairs for them at their sides, and so high of a chair, just like what “Bob Crachitt” may have been sat on. The gentlemen in that office were always so polite, it was especially such a great pleasure to see the boss, who was such a smart gentleman who always wore a “bowler hat” when you saw him outside, and sometimes you would see him driving his shiny red jaguar car. I never ever saw him going above 20 miles per hour, but that was about the usual speed most cars did those days. But to see him there, stood in front of his high desk with his quill pen. (It was a pen he had made with what I considered to be a very large turkey feather and cut at the bottom of the quill to provide a nib) and you would see him dip the pen into the blue ink, within the pot well, and sign his signature to his letters. His signature was large and probably measured about 2 ½” x 1 ½”. But looked really “classy”. (The Coal firm was called William Henry Shaws and the boss was called Mr. Sidney Jagger JP, and the others in that office were: Mr. Arthur Standley, Mr Aldred (well known Haslingden Cricketer), and later Mr Jagger's nephews joined the company David and Bernard Pickup)

I remember going home from school each day and walking along the side of the railway track. At one point the area was called “The Coal Sidings” and here there were always up to thirty coal trucks parked up on both sides of the sidings. The trucks were large timber oblong trucks sat upon metal bogies (bogies = assembly of four to six wheels forming a pivoted support at either end of a railway coach or truck.) These trucks contained various different sizes and qualities of coal, some for household use (usually larger cobs of around 4” to 8”) and some of the trucks contained smaller coal chippings, and these were used to keep the local factories going.

Daily I would go past the factory “fire holes” (some would call them boilerhouse) and sometimes you would see the “fire beater” shovelling the coal chippings, into the two large hoppers which were elevated at about six foot high at the front of the large boiler. I was also to later have the pleasure of experiencing what it was like to be a “fire beater” for a week or so, whilst the regular chap was off work. (buts that’s yet another story!)

Here are some of the local firebeaters I can remember were: Mr. Dewhurst at Clough End Mill, Alias at Carr Mill, Tom Riley and later Granville Nuttall at Union Mill etc.)

But getting back to the "Coal Sidings", the chaps there could be seen loading up their coal delivery wagons from the content of these trucks (railway trucks as seen in the photo above, and the chaps always seemed to be so strong, lifting and moving the bags of coal around without problem, they made it look so simple, they must have also had the “knack” with doing the same job day in, day out. One guy in particular was a giant, and a really strong chap, his name I think was “Walt” (Walter Green?). And he always reminded me of “desperate Dan” for some reason, he was always black with coal dust and wearing his thick leather padded coalman’s waistcoat. Most times you saw him or the others, you would have thought they were members of the “Black and White Minstrels cast, or maybe members of the Bacup Coconutters. You could just about see their white eyes shining through the blackened coal dust face.

Looking back it was a very busy railway sidings, because hardly a day went passed when you wouldn’t see a train spending most of it’s morning shunting coal trucks from one siding to another, separating the full or part full trucks from the empty trucks. The coal coming on a almost daily basis from various pits out of Yorkshire.

Arrival uh’ Cools (3rd December 2011)

Mum would shairt!,
Count them bags of cool!
They’re putting down shoot, lad!
And mek sure tha hears ten.
but it was five during a lean month
So I stopped all and counted,
One, two, three and moor,
Until a raiched ten.
So conscientious was I,
Tho life depended on it.
Reet again for another month.


A mail received today (6th Feb 2012) from John R. Edwards, confirms that Tom Riley was the firebeater at Wm. Robinsons, Union Mill.

Hi Bryan
When I worked at Union mill, 1958-1965,Tom Riley was the firebeater. Granville Nuttall stood in for him when he was absent. Besides firebeating, Tom carried weft to the weavers and carried their finished pieces to the cloth warehouse (which is where I started work, before moving into tackling).

Also a later mail:"Yes I was talking to Tom yesterday and he told me that he took over clothlooking when Harry Taylor retired.
Joe Southworth was the weaving manager and just before I left Jim Southworth, his twin brother, came to be a tackler.
John Simpson was the spinning manager, and a Blackburn councillor. I used to get lifts off him to go Blackburn college, every Monday night. I remember one night when there was a 'peasouper' of a fog and I spent most of the journey to Blackburn with my head stuck out of the passenger window looking for the kerb and passing the info to John. In Blackburn there were oil lamps lit in the middle of major junctions. At some there was a policeman, helping the traffic."John R. Edwards.