The Pit Pony

richardpeeejStarred Page By richardpeeej, 27th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/x5mv20gk/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

Remembering stories of the pit ponies of Wales fired my imagination to say a little about the special relationship they had with the mine workers and how they helped the valleys to prosper in the days of coal production.

Blaina and the Coal Mining Industry

I was born in a small mining town in South Wales, named Blaina, and lived there for more than thirty years, initially with my father, mother, grandmother and three brothers.

There were many coal pits in Blaina at the heydays of their production, the last of which was Beynon's pit, closed in 1975. Many local families had associations with the coal pits of Blaina, by having relations working there, or in their associated industries. Many generations of the same family have stories to tell of the times gone by. Other coal pits in the town of Blaina included The Lower Deep, The Old Coal Pit, Henwaun Mine, East Blaina Red Ash, North Blaina and the NGR Park and Blaina Colliery.

There is no doubt that mining work was very hard graft in times gone by, and much of the coal was won by mostly physical manual labour, and the use of the pick and shovel. These were gradually overtaken and replaced by more and more automation. However there was always a need for many coal seams to be worked in the traditional way where the coal seams were not suited to automation.

Researching my own family tree, I came across two family members who were killed in the Blaina mines:-

The first family member killed was a William John Vaughan who died aged 41 on February 1st 1910, by an accident at the Lower Deep Colliery, Blaina.
The second family member was Noel Vaughan, who died aged 21 on the 3rd July 1856 by an explosion at the Old Coal Pit, Blaina. He was one of ten such miners who lost their lives there on that day.

Pit Ponies Down the Mine


The pit ponies were a rugged breed, short in height yet very strong. These were the basic requirements of form, in order to work in the low-headroom workplaces of the mines. Shetland varieties were commonly used underground.

It is well known that these hardworking ponies helped mainly in transporting coal by pulling heavy wagons (journeys), in the dimly lit roadways deep underground. My wife's grandfather, as well as being a miner, tended such ponies during his shift. She remembers him telling stories of his work there.

There are many tales of mining and how the pit ponies got to know the mine workers, after many years of working together. Many of these ponies were treated like good friends and became well loved co-workers. There was a mutual understanding and respect between the miner and pit pony alike.

I read of a certain pony who would know which miners usually brought sandwiches to work and how some ponies would sidle up to these miners for their share of the spoils. Most miners kept their food in metal sandwich boxes to stop the rats and mice from nibbling at their contents.

So many pits have now closed in Wales, and elsewhere in the UK, yet memories still survive of the hard working lives of the miners, of their blackened faces, and of the pit ponies that together formed part of this old and yet traditional institution.

Coal dust brought many breathing problems such as emphysema and pneumoconiosis
to many miners. My grandfather died from such an illness, and so did my wife's uncle who started work down the mine when he was just fourteen. He worked there as a miner for more than fifty years.

The Pit Pony...a poem

Oh why can't I see the bright sunshine,
Imprisoned each day in this darkened mine.
It's not through choice that I dwell underground,
It's just that the owner must make his pound.

Shackled to my journey, brimmed with coal,
A Davy lamp flickers in this blackened hole.
The only light I see are lights such as these,
I long for the daylight and the green of the trees.

Though I am fed and watered which keeps me fit,
It is little reward for my toil down the pit.
I long for the shutdown, which is two weeks each May,
When fresh air and sunlight will make my day!


© R Prettyjohns February 2014

Pit Ponies Sanctuary

Pit ponies were stabled and lived underground. Their working day was typically eight hours. At the end of the pit pony's working life, which was an average of three or four years, they were often taken to a Pit Pony sanctuary. Here they could graze on the green and luscious grasses of the welsh fields and hills.


The pit ponies themselves could suffer from similar breathing difficulties as the miners. They would spend the latter months of their lives outside in the fields where their days were much brighter than the ones spent in the coal mine.

Pit Pony Earth Sculpture at Hengoed, Caerphilly.

As a special tribute to the pit pony an earth sculpture has been constructed on the site of a disused mine. This sculpture is large enough to be seen on Google Earth.
The 660 foot ( around 200 m) long, earth sculpture depicts Sultan, a well loved pit pony, whose outline is carved into shale on the top of a former coal tip.

image courtesy twitpic www.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside
Its location is at Penallta Parc, Hengoed, Caerphilly, CF82 7GL, Wales,

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Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my gratitude to SongbirdB who has given invaluable help, advice and support with the images and final layout of the article.
welshcoalmines

pit pony sanctuary

Pit Pony Earth Sculpture image courtesy twitpic www.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside.
All other images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Embedded videos courtesy to Youtube and contributors.

Tags

Coal, Hengoed, Mines, Pit, Pit Pony, Richardpeeej, Richardpeej, Sculpture, Wales

Meet the author

author avatar richardpeeej
I enjoy playing the guitar, gardening, writing poems, doing a bit of cooking and catching up with my good friends on the net

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Comments

author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Fantastic to know they were sent to a pit pony sanctuary after their working years were over.

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author avatar richardpeeej
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you for you moderation Mark. Yes after a hard life underground at least the pit ponies got to see the daylight. They did get two weeks 'holiday' ay year too when the mines closed for shutdown fortnight in the summer.

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author avatar Mariah
28th Feb 2014 (#)

What a moving article Richard,
loss of lives in the mines was a very tragic reality, so very sad.
Those poor pit ponies, what a
harsh life they had..your poem so touched my heart, the sculpture is beautiful..a real work of art.
Thank you for sharing this very emotional post with us Richard x

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author avatar richardpeeej
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Mariah for your kind words of support. It was a hard life for the miners and the ponies underground..

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
1st Mar 2014 (#)

What a truly awesome article, exquisitely presented and every word fascinating. Thank you richardpeeej.-

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author avatar richardpeeej
1st Mar 2014 (#)

Well thank you Steve your encouraging words which are much appreciated. It's a little while since I have published anything on here but now I hope to be doing a little more. Thanks again my friend.

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author avatar Songbird B
1st Mar 2014 (#)

What a great subject and like Mark, I am so glad to hear the ponies were looked after their working life was over. The poem is really touching and as for the Pit Pony Earth Sculpture, all I can say is wow! Great to see you back on Wikinut too Rich! \0/xxx

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author avatar richardpeeej
1st Mar 2014 (#)

It is so good to see that you are back on here too Bev and writing again. Your support and the support of other friends on here is always very welcome. Thank you Bev XX

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author avatar Delicia Powers
1st Mar 2014 (#)

Great piece of history shared richard...such a hard life for both man and beast....wonderful poem and page...nice to think of them roaming those green hills after such hard years of work....beautiful tribute- thank you....

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author avatar richardpeeej
2nd Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you Delicia, I enjoyed looking into this subject very much. Yes such a hard life for both....

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
1st Mar 2014 (#)

what a lovely piece is this...thank you..
sorry you no longer comment on my pages but a few of you are not anymore so be it...

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author avatar richardpeeej
2nd Mar 2014 (#)

Hi cnwriter. Thank you for your lovely comments. Sorry I have not been on this site for a very long time due to other commitments. I am back now so have started to comment again. :-)

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
1st Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you Richard - happy to see you again with a bang of an article shedding light on unsung heroes that have passed into history. The earth sculpture of Pit Pony is appropriate for their yeoman services along with those who spent their lives underground in very tough conditions. I salute them with gratitude - siva

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author avatar richardpeeej
2nd Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you For the welcome back Siva. It is good to be amongst friends again. So Glad you enjoyed my article.

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author avatar Songbird B
9th Mar 2014 (#)

Oh Rich, I am so delighted to see that you got that Star merit because I so believed in this article of yours! Glad I could help advise, my friend and you must be delighted that it has received the recognition it deserves. Congratulations dear heart. I am over the moon for you! \0/xxx

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author avatar Mariah
15th Mar 2014 (#)

I second that Richard.. this wonderful post.just touches the heart..well done on this much deserved star rating my friend x

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author avatar richardpeeej
9th Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you for your loyal support as ever Bev. It has been a pleasure working with you on this one. Xx

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author avatar Carol
9th Mar 2014 (#)

Very well researched and written Richard Those poor ponies, I am so glad they could retire safely afterwards. So nice that our lovely Bev helped you.

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author avatar richardpeeej
9th Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you Carol. Hope you are enjoying the Spring. Yes Bev was a great help to me with this one :-)

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
11th Mar 2014 (#)

Interesting and informative post!

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author avatar richardpeeej
11th Mar 2014 (#)

Thank you Fern..looking forward to seeing your posts ...

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author avatar krrymarie
14th Mar 2014 (#)

Lovely and informative. So many people lost their lives done the mines and got ill too. It was on the telly the other day how with the mines being closed how they have messed up communities and such. Some of them miners are still not working :-(. I didn't know they used ponies down the mines how sad for them but at least they had a nice retirement though. well done on your star page.

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author avatar richardpeeej
14th Mar 2014 (#)

Oh thank you Kerry for your very supportive comments. I have not been on here for quite a while and I have missed the posts. I am tryinh to catch up. Hope all is well my friend :-)

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author avatar krrymarie
16th Mar 2014 (#)

You are welcome haha trying to catch up too not been on for ages either :-)

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author avatar richardpeeej
1st Sep 2014 (#)

Thank you Kerry I haven't been here for a little while either...

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