When speaking to the men who worked in the mines in the 1950s the one thing they all talk about is the great sense of camaraderie they felt with each other. The work was hard. The conditions were tough. Health and safety was not a viewed as important as it is today and yet the men speak with great fondness of the times they worked together.
A lot of men started working in the Processing Plant at the age of 16. Each shift had four men to operate the Plant. The Shift Supervisor oversaw three others – a man collecting the processed lead from the Jig Tables; a man feeding the raw material to the Crusher and a third man dumping the rock into the Crusher House.
A Fitter, a Helper and a man for bagging the lead also worked above ground. Many men started work in the Processing Plant and then discovered that the men underground had much better wages – so they approached their Supervisor to get a job down the Mine.
When these young men first went underground they worked filling wagons and shoveling ore,… and then moved on to helping a Driller. Then came opportunities to drill a few shallow holes and charge these with explosives. Eventually, after a couple of years, they could become Drillers themselves. The miners worked in pairs – a Driller and a Helper – in three, eight-hour shifts per day. There were about four pairs working each shift. Day shift started at 8 a.m. and they drilled 30 holes – each five feet deep – into the face of the rock that would be blasted at lunchtime. After lunch they started filling wagons with the broken rock – usually about 30 wagons of rock from one blast – approximately fifteen tons. In the centre of the rock face was a vein of lead two to three inches wide and that was the important area. The remainder was waste.
There were also a number of men filling wagons with ore and extending the rail, air and water pipelines. A Blacksmith sharpened drills and tools.
Pit ponies worked in the tunnels carting the ore from the mine to the Processing Plant and three men followed the ponies. The compressors and generators ran continuously and there was a man on each shift looking after this machinery to ensure air pressure was adequate at all times.
Miners photographed c 1953
Willie Kearns, Mr Clarke, –Vickers, Jimmy Murphy (cig) Jock Steele, Joe Bradley.
Mr O’Regan, John Steele (child) Mr Edwards, Chris Byrne, Tom Byrne,
Tom McGuirk, Dick Carstairs, Stephen Burke, Robert Burns,
William Byrnes, Edward Brandan, Mr Tipping,
?, Paddy McCoy, Mick Fortune, Jake Lynham,
Edward Stakem, John O’Toole, Toss O’Toole, Arthur O’Neill