Mining jobs and training

(c) Wigan Archives Service

Jobs

There are several different jobs that needed doing in the collieries:

  • Collier: Worked at the coal face to mine the coal.
  • Drawer: Took the coal from the coal face through underground tunnels to the haulage. Before it became illegal, this was usually a woman or a child.
  • Haulage: Took the coal from the drawer along tracks through the underground tunnels to the mine shaft opening for the cage to take the cola up the shaft to the surface.
  • Pony tenter: Looked after the horses which pulled the haulage along the tracks.
  • Trapper: This is the person, often a child or young person, which would sit underground opening and closing ventilation doors.
  • Banksman: Received the coal at the top of the shaft (bank) at the surface and transferred it to the screens or transport.
  • Breaksman: Controlled the winding engine which controls the cage up and down the shaft.
  • Screen-trapper: Screened the coal for impurities such as stone or dirt.

Training

The usual training for a collier was to begin working underground at 14 on the haulage as a pony tenter. As the boys grew stronger they would usually work with their father, himself a collier and at about 18 years old they would be a drawer for their father. At 21 they would become a collier.

The Wigan Mining and Technical School, based in the Wigan Town Hall building between 1903 and 1980s, opened in 1858 as the Wigan Mechanics Institute. By the turn of the 20th century it was regarded as one of the country’s leading centres for training in mining. With the decline of mining in the area, the college became Wigan College of Technology, later merging in 1993 with Leigh College to form Wigan and Leigh College.

I’m a great admirer of the bond between men that worked underground... it always was a very dangerous job and in many occasions, your life was in somebody else’s hands, so you had to trust them. And there was that bond that grew up, as suppose like that between men that had been in battle together.” Ian