Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Back to the Days When Coal Was King

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Back to the Days When Coal Was King

Article excerpt

Byline: TONY HENDERSON Reporter

THE impact of coal mining in shaping South Tyneside communities is told in an exhibition which opened at the weekend.

The display at South Shields Museum, which runs until September 29, marks 50 years since the closure of Whitburn Colliery and 25 years since South Tyneside's last pit - Westoe Colliery - shut down.

King Coal: the Life and Legacy of South Tyneside's Coal Mining Communities, celebrates the area's mining heritage and the memories it has left - including those of the 1984-85 miners' strike.

On show is a re-creation of the hut outside the gates of Westoe Colliery in South Shields which was used by pickets during the strike.

The exhibition also features more than 20 paintings by artist Bob Olley, who worked for 11 years at Whitburn Colliery, depicting men at work and examining different aspects of the miner's life.

Geoff Woodward, manager of South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, said: "Coal mining played a huge role in shaping the development and character of South Tyneside and its people.

"Although the mines have now long-since closed, the culture of the coal mining communities is still very much alive and resonating today through language, values and memories. It's very fitting that we mark these significant anniversaries by examining and celebrating the borough's enduring connection with coal."

Bob said: "I hope this exhibition helps this and future generations to understand how important the dangerous and dirty job of the coal miner was and how it was a mainstay of the local economy for almost a century. "There were four working pits employing hundreds of miners supported by thousands of surface workers processing and moving the black gold by road, rail and sea.

"Some coal seams were worked miles out under the North Sea making the job of the miner even more unpleasant by the constantly wet conditions.

"Coal mining also produced a unique social bond that sadly, like the mines and miners has all but disappeared."

Historically significant watercolours by Victorian artist Thomas Harrison Hair also feature in the exhibition on loan from Newcastle University's Hatton Gallery, illustrating how the collieries looked in the early 19th century.

The collieries of Hebburn (A and C pits), Jarrow and St Hilda were recorded by Thomas Harrison Hair. His painting of Hebburn A pit, which is on show, is the artist's earliest known work.

King Coal examines the history of all the South Tyneside collieries - Hebburn, Jarrow, Templetown, St Hilda, Harton, Boldon, Whitburn and Westoe.

Visitors can listen to audio recordings of personal recollections and watch video footage in the re-creation of the Westoe pickets' hut, furnished with a second-hand settee, which was called the 'Liddle House on the Prairie' after an American TV series and the name of a particular police officer during the strike. …

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