four families are grieving tonight.
four brothers, sons, fathers, husbands will be carried out of their pit never to return.
four more men are taken by our hunger for coal to warm us and light our homes.
i’ve never lived in a pit community, but as part of a pit family the hairs rise on my neck every time i hear of pitmen trapped underground. every time i look to some higher power i’m not even sure is there to help the men in the dark between rock and water; to comfort the wives, the mothers, the friends and the children. to take the miners back home with their pit boots on their feet, not carried out by their mates under a blanket. ‘let them walk out’ i whisper to myself.
this time, for all the heroism and hopes of a whole community they didn’t walk out. the whispered prayers went unanswered as prayers often do. the rescuers left empty-handed with exhaustion their only reward.
tiny in global terms. a deep seam of grief in human terms. a reminder that the industry that saw men bound as slaves to their owners long after the british empire had abolished slavery, then paid in tokens that could only be spent in their owners’ shops, still demands its sacrifices. a reminder that the earth, vast and powerful, is murderous when it chooses, crushing us like poverty.
they say you can’t understand the feel of a pit tragedy until you have been part of that village waiting, clinging to the whispered hope for its men. i believe it. but i know that the memory from my grandfather and his father squats deep underground in me. it broods under my soft life, miles from home, from where home will always be, from where the broken bodies of generations of men lie underground, where the tears of their women fell. it’s a chain that binds durham to yorkshire to wales to waikato. it rings the world to anywhere men have wrestled with the earth to win a handful of black rock and a lungful of dust. to dig profit for men who never touched a pick or a geordie lamp, for women who never washed their crushed sons and husbands to give them back to the rock, to darkness one last time.
so that’s why the blog wears black. for those four men, their four families, their village and for every man lost to the pits, every child whose father was stolen by the merciless seam, every tear shed in every pit village anywhere in the world.
from me and my folk, sleep well bonny lads.