EPISODE 82: Bees



Begin forwarded message:


From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: Bees
Date: July 3, 2020 at 9:48:16 PM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>


BEES AND  BEEKEEPING…AND THOSE  CLOUDS

alan skeoch

July 4, 2020

There is a long trail winding…lifetime trail.

I was  a  failure as  a beekeeper many years ago.  Decades ago, At the Parker Pettit farm sale I bought all
his old bee hives and then proceeded to learn beekeeping.   The old hives were
contaminated and my days as a beekeeper ended  when I had to set the hives  afire. 
Sad. Guilty.  

Today our son Andrew, now a big man, has taken up beekeeping thanks to the advice
of Russ  Vanstone, my lifetime friend.   New hives, new bees, new place with shelter
and fields of flowers at different stages.   

Some say that certain skills ‘skip a generation’…i..e our children become more
like our parents than like ourselves.   Certain truth there in this case.  Only in this
case the skip went back two generations to his great grandfather, Edward  Freeman, 
who could do  anything he set his mind to do.  Great wealth never fell his way
but happiness did.  He was a contented man.

These are going to be happy bees.  Just wait until you see where they are
living.   And then lose yourself in those ‘Jone Mitchell’ Clouds.

alan skeoch


































“What a  great day for dreaming…;puts 

me in mind that snippet from John Lennon’s

song  Imagine.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us


















CLOUDS NEVER GET IN MY WAY


The Joni Mitchell lyrics to her song Clouds have a negative thrust 
as  the song unfolds.  I prefer the first four lines….the angel hair, ice
cream  castles, feather canyons.  I spend a lot of time looking at clouds
and interpreting  the shapes on summer days.  I will always  look
at clouds  that way. 

 “Alan, keep your eyes on the road and stop seeing
things that are not there.”  
“But they are there, Marjorie…look at those clouds…they speak to us
of things that only our imagination can  let loose…like those three
puppies at the dining room table over there in the sky.”
“And the old man smoking a pipe.”
“And the full bodied woman over there.”
“And the house lost in a snowstorm.”
“And the huge honey bee loaded with nectar and pollen on tis legs
heading back to the hive.”

“You are better than I am at seeing things that are not really
anyplace other than your mind, Marjorie. “

“Let’s just stop the car…pull off this empty road…
and see what our minds  can see in this wonderful sky
on this wonderful summer day.” 

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way









Do you want something to do?

  Take a load  off your feet and  see what you can

find in these clouds.










alan skeoch

July 4, 2020











Sent from my iPhone


EPISODE 80 CANADA DAY…IS CANADA A CREATION OF LUCK OR GOOD SENSE

EPISODE 80:  CANADA DAY 2020: CREATED BY LUCK OR GOOD SENSE?




HAPPY CANADA DAY

We  are a lucky bunch…we Canadians.  Some would say that I think.   Just sampling conditions
around  the world  in  this global Pandemic underscores our good fortune.  
Even cocooned in isolation Marjorie and I feel positive.

So here is a picture of our front yard.   All the work done by Marjorie except for the cobblestone
walkway to the front door.   Remember  A.Y. Jackson’s Group of Seven painting titled ‘The Tangled Garden’?
Well the play of light and shadow, of red and  white, of yellow and gold,  of shades of  green in our garden puts the  Jackson
painting  in  my mind.

When Marjorie showed me this photograph I did not recognize our own front yard   I had  taken
it all for granted.   Taken for  granted…as we often take our country for granted.

alan skeoch
July 1, 2020

P.S/  Now to get back to Ireland and the mine at Knockmahon…not nearly as cheerful.  coming Episode  81


EPISODE 78 LIVES OF MINERS IN BUNMAHON IRELAND 1840 TO 1875

EPISODE 78   LIVES OF MINERS IN BUNMAHON  IRELAND  1840 TO 1875


alan skeoch
June 29, 1960

WORKING CONDITIONS




This is a staged picture of  miners in the 1850’s…too well dressed…too well fed…in my opinion



The only thing wrong with this picture is the light.  There was no light in the Knockmahoon  mine except for
the stink of the Tallow candles…after a blast the miners could barely see 6 inches of light.   So imagine this
picture with only a candle wedged into a bump in the rock.


1)  AT 6 A.M.  a bell was rung and the men began to defend the shaft ladders.  Men would step off
the ladders at various levels as the vein of Chalcopyrite  was vertical.   The deepest wa 800 feet
where the passageway extended under the ocean.   There were around a minimum of  370 men
on the ladders.  Perhaps many more   The total work force  is not accurate known.
The  descent was done in complete darkness.

2) Once at the level of their work  station the  six  man teams would pick their
way through broken but non mineralized waste rock to the face of  the vein. where they
would been punching holes using hammers and heavy sharpened  chisels.The punching
would be done as circular as possible sine the hole must be packed with gunpowder then
sealed with wet lay through which a blasting wick has  been forced.

3) Only the weak light of candles helped the miner get ready to blast chunks
of ore from the vein.  Not good candles.  Rather they were tallow candles that
the miners had to buy from the company.   The candles had two purposes…light, and
that was poor, and a test for oxygen.   If the candle would not light or kept  going out
then there was cause for alarm because the oxygen had been  depleted and the
miners could smother and  die without the candle warning.

4)  Then there was the  steady drip…drip…dripping as  ground water found its way to
the stopes and  passageways.  The sucking  noise of the water pumps was comforting
because it meant the water level was  under control.  If  the two steam
engines high above stopped then the deep  parts of the mine
would soon fill with water.  And that water level  would  keep going higher and
higher.  Miners could and did drown in these condition in mines around the world
but not at Knockmahon fortunately.

5) BLASTING: Gunpowder was stuffed in the  holes made by hammers and sharpened
crowbars.  The miners paid the  mine  owners to sharpen the  crowbars.  Once filled, the 
hole was sealed with clay through which a length of blasting
chord had been inserted.  when the  fuses were  lit the crews  moved
well back into the passageways. safe distance.   All the teams are setting their
explosives around the same time.  Onc  fuse is lit soon followed
by  multiple  “Cracks, Roars and Rumbles” as the high grade  ore is loosened
from the face and tumbles to the floor,  “The smoke is so dense the miners cannot 
see a single object more than six inches from the flame of his candle.”  “The smoke is
inhaled  by himself and his comrades.”    

In this dark and unholy place  the men gather the copper baring  ore and  manhandle  
the chunks, often quite  large, to the main shaft where a lifting mechanism hauls
it to the surface.   This  will occupy the teams for the next
twelve hours until a signal is gven and the men retreat in the darkness to the ladders
for the long climb out of the mine.  Young men first, Then those in their thirties and
finally the old men in their forties.  The pay was good though…better than any other
local occupation.

Before leaving the mine head frame arrangements and  payments had
to be made for the following  day.  Candles made  of animal fat would be
needed no matter how foul they smelled.  And  Crowbars had to be sharpened and
ready  for tomorrows shift.  Again payment had to be set
aside.


GOING ‘HOME’ AFTER 12 HOUR SHIFTS

As the men gathered around the ladders changes in health became most evident.
At the  ladders that men  begin to fail.  THE sick and the infirm had to confront these
long wooden ladders.   In the dark a rung might be broken or the
ladders may swing as the human procession makes the 45 minute climb to the open  air.
This  was not easy even for the best of men.

Then they have the slow trudge to their homes some of which
are miles away in  the case of local people.   The newcomers…miners from Cornwall
for instance, lived nearby in  the one roomed botthans or in two roomed cottages
Many do not live in single family groups.  39 of the 70 bothers, for instance,  house
two families.  Take a moment to imagine what that must be like…wives and Children…no
privacy.  Religious leaders expressed concern about the morality ,.. rather  the immorality …that must
ensue from the human pyramids.

FROM WHISKY TO TEMPERANCE AT BUNMAHON



Some  men…many men… did not go home directly.   Instead  they went directly to the pubs
There were 21 of them, perhaps more than that even.  “MINERS are a drnken and
improvident race,” cites Cowman from an observer of  miners social life.  One miner
was heard to say that he regretted he was unable to spend all his money on alcohol.
“The miners at Bunmahon,get great wages,” commented the Catholic courate of
Tramore, “but they spend their money very much on liquor.”
Payday consumption of whisky was estimated  at 300 gallons.    At lot of these
miners from Bunmahon and surrounding villages were very drunk a
lot of the time which played havoc with their family life.



Alcohol  consumption among these minters in the early 1840’s was  out of control.   And then
this  strange thing happened.  The Temperance movement reached the miners.   Now this was
unusual since these miners  were largely illiterate and  many were rejected  by the large
affluent society elsewhere in Ireland.   As one source stated, Bumahon was “a wretched”
community … poverty stricken.   The copper mine changed things.   Money flowed.  And
so did whisky …  for a while.


Then came Temperance.   Some  Irish  had  a momentous change in their lives.
One family, for instance, were so impoverished  by alcoholism that they had no
furnishings. “Not even a pot to cook potatoes”/
Temperane leaders changed this remarkably.  Foremost was  the Catholic church but 
there were others among the secular community that believed earnestly that drink was
the curse of society.  In Bunmahon it suddenly became unfashionable to drink.  Families
were strengthened.  Pubs went bankrupt.  As mentioned there had been more that 21
pubs in tiny Bunmahon.  This number dropped to one pub and several semi secret source
of alcohol.  

The advertisement below for GREAT COZA as a cure for alcohol consumption is
fascinating.  I do not know what Great Coza was…perhaps you can fine out.  But the
advertisement from London,  England, was just one of the efforts to turn people away
from rampant alcohol consumption.  We are all familiar with the Gin Lane engraving
done by William Hogarth  in the 18th century.  Similar condemnations of alcohol spread through
the 19th century communities none I  might say  changed more dramatically than
Bunmahon.  

The Tee-Totalling Temperance Movement in 1840s Limerick
Another advertisement promoted  coffee drinking as one way to stem the flow of alcohol.   Maybe that
is what the Great Coza was.












Theobald_MathewTheobald_Mathew_by_Edward_Daniel_Leahy

Portrait of Theobald Mathew by Edward Daniel Leahy
“In 1840 tea-totalling or temperance was high on the agenda in Irish society as new groups began to form to promote the abstaining way of life. Father Theobald Mathew, after whom Mathew Bridge was named during his life time was the tee-totalling reformer of the period. He was born in 1790 in Thomastown near Golden, Co. Tipperary and in 1814 he was ordained. As his brother-in-law William Dunbar operated a provisions store on Michael Street, Fr Mathew would often visit Limerick. Dunbar was involved in shipping large consignments from Limerick to Jamaica.
On 10 April 1838 Fr Mathew founded the “Cork Total Abstinence Society”, which in less than nine months enrolled no fewer than 150,000 names. It rapidly spread to Limerick and elsewhere in the country and within a few years it spread internationally, the movement became known as the Total Abstinence Society or the Temperance Society. It was said that in Nenagh 20,000 persons took the pledge in one day. While 100,000 took it in Galway in two days, and 70,000 in Dublin in five days. At its height, in 1844, the movement had some 3 million pledges, or more than half of the adult population”




The most cruel of events happened in Ireland at the same time that the Temperance movement was
taking root.  What cruel event?   The 1846 Great Potatoe Famine.   One effect of the famine was
the total disappearance of the 70 bothers (one room houses) in the community of Bunmahon.
Where  did they go?  Many in Ireland died of starvation.   But through the whole period of the
great Famine, the mines at Knockmahon and Tankardstown were in full operation.  A mystery
yet to be explored.


alan skeoch
June 2020

END EPISODE 78

EPISODE 76 LIFE AS AN IRISH COPPER MINER IN BUNMAHON, COUNTY WATERFORD

Note:  Here is  part of the flesh and blood history of  Bunmahon and Knockmahon.
We are lucky to have  first person descriptions…fragmentary, earthy, nasty, quite wonderful.
No tome to do this  all in one run thought..so here is  Episode 76

alan




EPISODE  76   LIFE AS AN IRISH COPPER MINER IN BUNMAHON, COUNTY WATERFORD  1840 TO 1876


THE INVISIBLE  PEOPLE





alan skeoch
June 2020


It is hard to visualize the life of an Irish copper miner at Knockmahon minion the 19th century.
The image that is  locked in my mind is the darkness…absolute darkness as the hundreds  of
miners  descended on wooden ladder deep into the bowles of Knockmahon.  And  then when
they reached their various levels some of them proceeded southward in passageways  excavated
under the sea.   In the dark.   With the steady trickling of sea water drip..drip..dripping.  Suction
pumps driven by two steam engines far above the men tried to keep ahead of the water but
the miners must have known that a collapse of the ceiling would mean certain death.  

Today, in 2020, those ancient workings are preserved intact by the very water that 
threatened those miners.   The darkness remains absolute.


//alanskeoch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/5.Mineral-Flows-inside-the-mines-@Copper-Coast-Geopark.jpg” class=””>

Today, tourists can  go underground at Knockmahon…the upper workings.   Today Bunmahon is alive but not  like it was in the 19th cetury It will never
be a copper mining community again.  Which, I must say, is a good thing.   You can go  to Bunmahon and really  imagine
what copper mining must have been like in those years between 1840 and 1875.   And I hear the Bunmahon pub has
reopened so you can get a pint of Guinness which you would have had difficulty getting in the 1860’s.




An Irish  historian, Des Cowman, has scrupulously researched life in these copper mines
His book encapsulates the lives  of these men and women of the Bujmhahon 19th century
community.

I was rather surprised in 1960 to find that not one of our employees more anyone else
in Bunmahon seemed to have much knowledge about these miners.  They just evaporated
into thin air.  In reality the miners moved on…overwhelmingly they moved to the copper
mines of North America.

Below are snippets from the historical records unearthed by Des  Cowman.  
I will make a comment but I will try to present first hand evidence.  It may seem a
bit chaotic but remember it is scraps like these that historians tell their tales.

THE SETTING

“A considerable stream of dirty water…very foul smell…flows down  the Bonmahon hill
towards the shanty town…sand  from the dunes blown into the gutters choking them so
the sewage accumulates in  ponds and becomes stagnant…most cffensiveanddangeorus
to the health.  Indeed, almost  the entire population of this  slum disappeared with the famine.”

Here stood 90 one-roomed bothans scattered along the road from Knockmahon…700 people…
39 of these bothans housed more than one family.

THE MINERS

I doubt there are any pictures of the real copper miners of Bunmahon.  Photography
was rather experimental at the time.   Why bother taking pictures of the lower class
when the upper class were so willing?   

But we can find  pictures that are darn close to the reality of Bunmahon…the depravity
will be missing.   The strange things about most of these miners was their sobriety.
The Temperance Movement was a big success in Bunmahon.  Not at first when 200
gallons of whisky was consumed on paydays.  But early in the history of the community
whisky consumpition dropped to a  gallon or two.  And the pubs dropped from 21 to 1.

They built a Temperance Hall for $1,000 which  became and is  still the Catholic
Church in the old village of Knockmahon on the east bank of the Mahon River and
close to what was  once the heart of the copper mine.  Poor people,  yes.  For sure.




The miners exhibit the unmistakeable signs  of  debilited constitutions.   Their faces are sallow, they
have an anxious expression in countenance and their bodies are thin.  (1860’s British report on
Cornish Miners many of  whom migrated to Knockmahon and Bunmahon.)

“At he border of middle age, or soon after, their health begins to fail, … they rapidly acqwjuire the feebleness
of declining years — A person of fifty is old for a  miner.”   (1860’s report to Br. parliament)

“debilitated constitutions”  but not as bad as coal and lead miners. No methane to contend  with for instance.

In1845 Knockmahon was 800 feet below the surface with about 70 work stations at various levels.  Work
was done by six man crews who aced as  independent subcontractors with the company.  They agreed
to raise so many tons of ore at a fixed price with a bonus for overage.  One month agreements…a kind
of  auction of the ore-faces.  Winners got the good  ore faces. Competed with each  other in other words.

Other six man teams  hollowed  out shafts, braced the walls…again by agreement  to excavate so
much rock for a fixed price.   

This  system kept the miners and shaft diggers competing with each other.  Not as employees of
the company.

THE DAILY ROUTINE

COMING NEXT….REALLY ALL PART OF EPISODE 76


EPISODE 75 Insight into the life of miners… WELSH MINER’S LANTERNS IN ONTARIO BARN

EPISODE 75    WELSH MINERS  LANTERNS…FOUND IN AN ONTARIO BARN


WELSH MINERS LANTERNS FOUND IN AN ONTARIO BARN

alan skeoch
oct. 2018 and June 2020

NOTE:  I wrote much of this  story in 1918 when we made a startling purchase of a  pair of miners  lanterns at a farm sale.   The story gives some

insight  into the Bunmahon miners  life which  was awful. More on that life later.  This story does connect with 1960 because when I left ireland
I took a side trip (at m own expense) to England, Wales  and Scotland. making connections  with people and places my grandmother Louisa (Bufton) Freeman and
Grandfather Edward Freeman  talked  about.  Yes, there is a connection to the life  of  coal miners.  And for the real readers amongst you try to
find  a copy of “How Green Was  My Valley” in the library.
  
Now the Story:

Earlier I related  the heart warming story of Jack the Clydesdale whose home in Dr. Richardson’s barn is secure in spite of the auction sale. The new owner
of the farm wanted  Jack as much as she wanted the farm.

There was another unusual facet of the Richardson auction…which  is the subject of this  story.






TWO WELSH MINERS LAMPS:  WHAT WERE THEY DOING IN AN  ONTARO BARN IN 2018?

ALAN SKEOCH
OCT. 2018




Seemed out of place.  Two heavy  copper cylinders sat on a table outside the Richardson Barn at their Sept. 8, 2018 auction sale.   Something  clicked

in  my mind  when I noticed them so I took a quick  picture and hustled to the other auctioneer who was selling a coyote pelt and  a  horse trough that looked better than
those cylinders.

“Marjorie, you might throw a bid at those cylinders if the  price is right.”
“What are they?”
“Not sure but those  cylinders are out of place…not something found in Ontario barns…wish
I could  remember what it is about them.  Important.  But don’t go crazy in your bidding.”

“Here they are, Alan, Happy  Birthday.”
“ Now I remember…  These two copper cylinders are…
“Jim McCartney, the auctioneer called them ship’s lanterns.”
“Well he is wrong.  These  are miner’s lanterns…designed to give a very little bit
of light in the dismal  darkness of  coal mines  in South Wales.”
“Why so  big and so heavy…allow just a flicker of  light.”
“The real purpose is  to detect dangerous coal gas…explosive.  These lanterns 
were invented  after hundreds  of British  coal miners had  died from gas ignitions
underground.  A spark. A candle.  A  match.  Enough to blow a coal  mine  into a
mass graveyard..  In the 19th century these underground detonations in coal  mines
were regular events.”
“What gas are you talking about?
“Lots  of  different gas in coal  mines…I suppose the  worst was  methane trapped  
in pockets in the  coal…ignites easily,”
“How did  methane get into coal?”
“Coal was once ferns, trees, plants of  all  kinds…most once grew in the Carboniferous Era 359 million of years  ago to 299 million years  ago in
the  Paleozoic period when the earth was  really swampy and oceans were  hundreds of  feet
lower because so much water was trapped in arctic and  antarctic polar ice.  Plants  lived and
died, their  bodies  forming thick blankets  of decaying matter.  Gas was  part of he process of  decay.
These thick beds of plants eventually got covered with sediment in later  eras forming coal which 
is  a sedimentary rock formed by pressure and the absence of oxygen.   Thick  beds of coal are 
found in pockets all over the world…lots  in Canada and  the United Staes and  Britain and a massive
amount in China.”
“Slow down, Alan…do you mean this coal which  we  can buy in the store is 300 million years  old?”
“Correct…ancient as time…measured  in millions of years…that one chunk of coal.”
“So coal is plentiful but not infinite…what happens when we use all  the coal?”
“Good thinking…dreadful thinking really.  It took millions of years to press those ancient plants  into coal.  Yet
we  have  only been burning  coal for about 300 years…consumption big time.   When the coal is gone there will beNo more coal made
unless a catastrophic even happens and our trees and plants are once again covered with sediment and pressed into new coal.”
“You scare me  at times.  Get back to that methane…where does it come from?”
“Methane was  identified  back  in  18th century by  a scientist who  noticed  ‘swamp gas”
bubbled up and smelled bad.   Produced by rotting vegetation.   Deep coal mines trap
methane  pockets of  CH4 (Methane) that is released by miners. Mix methane with oxygen
and the chance of  explosion occurs.”
“Has that ever happened?”
“Don’t play around  with me…of course coal mine explosions have happened…lots  of times.
Some truly devastating.”
“Name one.”
“Universal  Colliery, Sengheydd, Wales…massive underground explosion on October 14, 1913, killed 439 miners
of the 1,000 underground at the time…and 100 horses…worst mining disaster in British  history.

Black and white photograph of the Universal Colliery, taken from a raised position, and showing crowds waiting for news
Families waiting for announcement of deaths in the Universal Colliery, Wales.  Nearly 
half  of the 1,000 coal  miners died  in the  explosion…and 100 horses.

“You mean there were 1,000 men digging coal deep  in the bowels of Wales and nearly half were killed.”
“Right.  And that is  just one example.  Coal miners  were killed or maimed  every  six hours. Mining
is a dangerous business.
“Did you say there were 200 horses  down there as well.
“I did.  So  many stories…where to begin?”
“And  what about those copper cylinders…how  do  they fit into the story?”
“Good comment…let’s deal with those things.  Look at the pictures below.





Pit Ponies, Pit Horses, pit pony history, miner Ceri Thompson, Canadian Coal Mining history, Sable Island, underground stables, Underground haulage, Coal Mining Canada

Pit Ponies, Pit Horses, pit pony history, miner Ceri Thompson, Canadian Coal Mining history, Sable Island, underground stables, Underground haulage, Coal Mining Canada

“Your lamps…I see them in those miners hands…same thing”
“Designed  to sample the air…lamp gets brighter As explosive cas appears…gives  miners warning to get the hell out fast.”
“What about those horses?  Just leave them to get killed?”
“Most miners loved their horses…living company for them in the near absolute darkness of the mine stopes  and alleyways.”
“You said  ‘most’ which means some miners were not so kind.”
“Correct.  Just like any collection of human beings there are always ‘not so nice’ miners  who abused  the horses.”
“How?”
“Beat them.   There is  an amusing story about one miner who abused his horse.  The horses bolted and ran through the mine
tunnels while the miner chased after him.  Eventually the horse just disappeared much to the chagrin and anger of the miner.
“How could  a grown horse disappear in a coal mine?”
“That’s what the miner said.”
“Was the horse ever found?”
“Yes, a while later.  The horse had jogged into a side tunnel where a coal cart had been parked.  He hid  behind the cart while 
the angry miner ran back and forth cursing no doubt.”
‘How   could a horse hide in a coal mine?”
“Easy.  You have forgotten that coal mines were pitch dark most places.  The horse knew every twist and turn in the mine even
though he could not see.  Amazing.  If horses  could only laugh and whinny softly, ‘You son of a bitch, you won’t find  me here no
battery how you yell and  swear.’”
“God, must have been awful down  there in the darkness.”
“No one knows really except for the men deep in the pits.”
“Some of those coal seams were not very thick…no room for horses for sure…I saw pictures  of men pick axing coal seams while 
lying of their sides…maybe only three feet of clearance.  Horse no help there.”
“That’s where the miners kids  proved useful…small people needed.”
“Children in coal mines?”
“:Sure, some as young as six years old.  Some children spent their lives deep those pits.  A lot of them died  in explosions and roof collapse 
and accidents…and then there was black lung…dreaded killer when sharp bits of coal dust builds up in the lung.  Terrible death.

“You exagerate, Alan, little children were not miners.”
“Sure as hell were…as a matter of fact children were used in coal mines before horses.  The horses, most of them, replaced the
children when child abuse scandals became general knowledge in the 1840’s in Britain.  Children were prohibited in mines.
“Saved?”
“Not completely.  Who would know if a kid was deep in the mine.  Absolute darkness except for  slivers of light from the lamps.
Miners were poorly paid…needed the extra cash from their children.  Many payed rent for company houses and  had  to shop in
company stores…wages barely covered expenses.  Mine owners were not always humane…they wanted  profits like any
capitalist.
Note re: Miner’s lamps/  left: kind of lamp given to foremen and mine execs
right: kind  of lamp given to miners and children, obvious wear, has number
wich was stated as  miners  left shift…a  way of checking who was still below.
In mine collapses and explosions this system gave identity of men still in
mine, either dead or alive.


CHILDREN, DOWN IN THE COAL MINES


“The first coal seams were found  on the seacoasts…thin bands  of coal…this led to problems.”
“Problems?”
“yes, the  deeper the coal was  mined  the smaller the tunnel?”
“So?”
“So , small people were best as miners…and agile people who could easily crawl on hands and  knees.”
“So?”
“So, who are the smallest people?”
“Children!”
“Right.  Children were very useful as miners.  They did  what they were told.  They were small.  They were cheap. And they were
expendable.  Who cared what happened deep in the dark of a coal mine?”
“Surely , you exaggerate, “
“Nope, check the records.”
“I do  not have time to do  that.”
“OK, here are some comments by child miners in the 1840’s…part of a British government  investigation after a  mine
accident that killed children deep in a coal mine.”


In the 1840’s the Welsh coal  mines were investigated by a British Commission and  child labour was reduced as a result.  Some  of the  reports sent by the 
government authorities were very graphic.   “I got my head crushed…by a piece of  roof falling.” (William Skidmore, aged 9)…”I got my legs crushed some
tme snce, which threw  me off work some weeks.” (John Reece,  aged 14)…”Nearly a year ago there was  an accident and  most of us were burned. I was 
carried  home by a man.  it hurt very much  because the skin was  burnt of my face.  I couldn’t work for six months.” (Philip Phillips, aged 9)
Philip Davies had a horse for company. He was pale and undernourished in appearance. His clothing was worn and ragged. He could not read:-‘I have been driving horses since I was seven but for one year before that I looked after an air door. I would like to go to school but I am too tired as I work for twelve hours.’ Philip Davies, aged 10, Dinas Colliery, RhonddaDrammers pulled their carts by a chain attached at their waist. They worked in the low tunnels between the coal faces and the higher main roadways where horses might be used. The carts weighed about 1½cwt. of coal and had to be dragged a distance of about 50 yards in a height of about 3 feet.

“We are doorkeepers in the four-foot level. We leave the house before six each morning and are in the level until seven o’clock and sometimes later. We get 2p a day and our light costs us 2½p a week. Rachel was in a day school and she can read a little. She was run over by a dram a while ago and was home ill a long time, but she has got over it.”Elizabeth Williams, aged 10 and Mary and Rachel Enoch, 11 and 12 respectively, Dowlais Pits, Merthyr
HORSES
Some horses were abused, more   often though horses were loved and  well cared for…but all the horses used in coal  mines led a  trouble filled life.  Mine ceilings collapsed  on them, picks  and shovels cut them, some miners beat them, horses suffered from black lung like the miners, explosions  killed them…In 1876, the RSPCA (Royal Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) urged protection be provided by law.  In that year alone  there were 71,396 horses working in British mines, 2,999 of them were killed, 10,878 were injured.  “
Pit Ponies, Pit Horses, pit pony history, miner Ceri Thompson, Canadian Coal Mining history, Sable Island, underground stables, Underground haulage, Coal Mining Canada
“That’  not a horse, Alan…you said horses worked deep  int he cola mines…that’s  a pony, small one at that
“Pit ponies, often Shetlands, and full draught horses  such as Clydesdales worked underground…all sizes.  Low ceilings favoured small ponies such  as that one above.  The  animal  does not look abused…looks loved  by those teen age boys. “
“Imagine the terror felt by that horse being lowered deep into the cola mine.  Folded into a ball and lowered as much as 1,000 feet in mines that had the besthard  anthracite coal.  Miners tried to rescue the horses in mine disasters  but often could not do much
(I wish this picture was  larger.  Here is a boy, perhaps nine  or ten years old, sitting in the darkness beside a ventilation door which he had to open and  close as cartloads  of coal  drawn  by horses came by   Lonely?  Scared?) “Not a tough job, right?”
“Not tough, I guess, but would  you want to sit all alone in the darkness for twelve hours opening and closing the curtain when a horse camp by with a cartload of coal.  Lonely, perhaps frightened, perhaps proud to be part of this strange world of adults.”  The passageways  were not lit.  Pit horses soon got to know their way through the mind  passage in the absolute darkness.  Horses even knew when an eight hour shift was over and then made their way to the underground stables for their supper.  
“Lots of girls were sent underground in the early years.   Working class kids.  Pulling cartloads of coal from the coal face where men hacked at the coal or set small explosive charges in hand drilled holes.  Some girls pulled big boxes of coal using carts that had no wheels.  The use of girls in the mines ended before the use of boys ended.  Law eventually prohibited children.  “
“MAny mine owners  cheat and  use children despite the law.”“Sad to say…many kids  still worked underground.  Hard for mine owners to resist the attraction of cheap labour…payed  children  a couple of pence a day…two cents a day.  Of course a  cent had a lot higher value then.  But the pay was  never enough for a working man and his children to ever treat the poverty cycle.  As the song Sixteen Tons said they ‘owed their soul to the company store’.

(Source 25) 12 year-old John Davies at work in the Rhondda (1909)
12 year old John Davies comes  up from Rhonda mine carrying his miner’s lantern, lunch  bag and jug of water.

PERSONAL CONNECTON:  FRANK FREEMAN, YOUNGEST BROTHER OF MY GRANDFATHER EDWARD FREEMAN

More than  a  century later, in 1960, I had an opportunity to visit the Welsh coal fields near Aberdare.  I had read ‘How  Green  Was  My Valley’* so had  some
idea of the  difficult life coal miners faced  n the past.  Only in 1960, however, did I become  aware that my great uncle Frank Freeman lived there in a 
place called  Ysgeborwen.    He  was a butcher and our meeting was brief, perhaps an hour, but the ambience of that coal valley cannot be forgotten.  Some of the
coal ‘pits’ were still operating and  I distinctly remember miners coming off shift singing.  Singing!  Really singing.    And  I also remember
being given a  brokeN clay pipe that had  been excavated when an old  1840  era coal seam was  being converted to an open pit mine. “The old carts
were still down there…scooped them up…that’s where this  pipe  stem came from.  Odd.  Pipes and  matches were dangerous things to
have in an underground coal  mine.”


*How  Green  Was  My  Valley” made  the Welsh coal fields famous.   Even became motion picture.  The  book was thought to 
be an accurate history of the  brutality of coal mining.  years later the book was determined to be fiction.  Based  on overheard
conversations of Welsh families living in  London.  

ALAN SKEOCH
OCT. 2018
 

 



WHAT IS  COAL…WHRE DOES COAL ORIGINATE?

“Did you ever wonder where coal came from?”
“Plants … millions of plants I think…sort of hard  to believe.”
“Really hard  to believe…
“But true…millions of  dead plants over millions  of years…plants, mostly giant ferns, from the Carboniferous 
Era when the earth was warmer and the atmosphere had lots of carbon dioxide….plants love CO2.  By chance
thick beds of dead plants got trapped under water that was eventually covered with thick bands of mud.   Piles  of mud
which became slate and other sedimentary stone…heavy…the heavier the overburden the more those bands of
plants  were pressed…pressure so great that the plants became beds of  coal.  Anthracite coal was the best 
kind of hard  coal…also buried  the deepest …anthracite coal mines are often more than 1,000 feet below the surface.


SONGS THEY SANG


Ahhh. I’m so tired. How long can this go on?
Said if you see me comin’ better step aside
A lot of men didn’t and a lot of men died
I got one fist of iron, and the other of steel
If the right one don’t a get ya then the left one will
I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine
Picked up my shovel and walked to the line
I hauled 16 tons of number 9 coal
And the straw boss said “Well bless my soul.”
(Melody 2)
Sixteen tons what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me cuz I can’t go.
I owe my soul to the company store.


Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
Nobody knows my sorrow.
W

Dark As A Dungeon, song lyrics

Song: Dark As A Dungeon
Lyrics: Merle Travis(1)

Music: Merle Travis
Year: 1946
Genre: 
Country: USA


Come all you young fellers, so young and so fine, 
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mine. 
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul, 
‘Til the blood of your veins runs black as the coal.
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net 
(CHORUS:)
Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew, 
Where the dangers are many and the pleasures are few, 
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines, 
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines.

It’s many a man I have seen in my day, 
Who lived just to labor his whole life away. 
Like a fiend with his dope or a drunkard his wine, 
A man must have lust for the lure of the mine.

(CHORUS)

I hope when I’m gone and the ages do roll, 
My body will blacken and form into coal. 
Then I’ll look down from the door of my Heavenly home, 
And pity the miner a diggin’ my bones.
This song was originally posted on protestsonglyrics.net 
(CHORUS)

The midnight, the morning, the breaking of the day, 
Are the same to the miner who labors away. 
Where the demons of death often come by surprise, 
One slip of the slate and you’re buried alive.




A Welsh miner and pit pony partner. Photo courtesy Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, Wa







EPISODE 74 WHO WERE THESE MINERS? THEIR LIVES WERE “POOR,NASTY, BRIUTISH AND SHORT.”

episode 74    BUNMAHON AND  IRELAND     A  MINERS LIFE WAS ‘POOR, NASTY, BRUTISH  AND SHORT’ 1840 TO 1875




alan skeoch
June 2020

The adits  are empty.  The shafts are silent.  The stopes are as hollow as the tombs of
ancient Egypt.  And as  hidden.  AND AS EMPTY.

Well that is  not quite true.  We know quite a  lot about the miners of Knockmahon and
Tankarsdstown.   Several years after our survey work overtop the old mines
the area  suddenly became a tourist attraction calle the Copper Coast.  Much
credit for this goes to Des Cowman, an historian who delved  into the mines and
put flesh and  bone on the miners.   They were an  almost invisible lot of men since
few if any could read or write.  They had no time for such  a luxury.

They were an underfed unhealthy lot.   Poverty stricken.  The Bunmahon region of
County Waterford was described as wretched.  A place where life was short…
A miner would be lucky to reach the age of 50.  Some old men (i.e. 50 year olds)
were working deep in Knockmahon mine because the records identified three
kinds of  miners climbed the ladders out of the pit..or into the pit.

Young men first either up or down.   Then older men but physically fit would
go second.  And finally the old  men minters last.


THESE MEN ARE PUTTING ON A BIT OF SHOW WITH THEIR CANDLES. .. CANDLES
WERE THE ONLY SOURCE OF LIGHT FOR THE BUNMAHON  MINERS.



Climbing these ladders was dangerous.  Why?  Because there was  no light…no
lamp, no light at all.   The miners  had to feel their way  down.  depths of 800 to 1,000
metres.  In the dark…one man following the other.  Miners  At the level they
were expected to begin mixing there was some light but not much.  Each  miner
bought cheap  candles from the mine owners.  With flickering  candles the miners
drilled holes in the rock face with hammers and sharpened iron bars.  They paid  the owners
to sharpen the iron barts…just as they paid for the candles.  When a punched hole
was deep enough the lead miner of the six man crew would stuff the hole 
with gunpowder then seal it with clay in which a wick was inserted. A warning bell
was rung…the men moved back from the rock face…well back.  The gunpowder
exploded filling the stope with thick black smoke and pieces of rock dust.  The smoke
was so thick  that the candles light was reduced to a few inches.   The miners fanned
the smoke away to see what ore had been blasted.  They needed to be very
close to the facing wall to see if they had  loosened rich ore from the seam
or just rock.

Miners in the copper mines of Bunmahon  were lucky.  There was  no methane
gas to explode and  kill them like there was in the coal mines of Wales
and  Northern England  and Scotland.  But the luck was early worth noting
as they breathed in  the tiny shards  of rock dust which began to grind
their lungs into bloody pulp.


CORNISH COPPER MINERS IN 1912…THE BUNMAHON MINERS WERE A ROUGHER 
LOOKING LOT OF MEN…SOME OF WHOM CAME FROM CORNWALL.  THE KNOCKMAHON
MINE OPERATE FROM 1840 TO 1875.  THEE MEN LOOK HEALTHY.  THE MINERS OF
BUNMAHON LOOKED SICKLY.


TO BE  CONTINUEDIf you would like to learn more about geology in general, take a look at the website of the geological survey of Ireland which has lots of great information to get you started.

Fwd: EPISODE 56 (NOW EPISODE 73) BUNMAHON IRELAND TO EYWOOD ESTATE HEREFORDSHIRE EYWOOD ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL SEPT. 4, 1960 TO SEPT. 7, 1960

EPISODE 57 BECOMES EPISODE 73


Note to READERS:  EPISODE 56 IS REALLY  THE CULMINATION OF THE IRISH SO SOME OF YOU

MIGHT LIKFE THIS WRAP UP OF THE JOURNAL … EPISODE 56 THEN BECOMES EPISODE 73 IF  YOU

WANT TO KEEP THINGS IN A  SEMBLENCE OF ORDER.  REPEAT OF SOME OF THE PICTURES SHOULD
BE ENJOYABLE.

THE NEXT EPISODE WILL TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT THE IRISH MINES  WERE REALLY
LIKE BACK IN THE 19TH CENTURY…FUTURE EPISODE 74.

I AM SO GLAD THAT SOME OF YOU ARE READING THIS JOURNAL AND WOULD LIKE TO
THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONSES.  IT IS A GREAT TRIP FOR ME TO TAKE ONCE AGAIN.

ALAN SKEOCH
JUNE 2020

EPISODE 56    BUNMAHON, IRELAND TO EYWOOD  ESTATE HEREFORDSHIRE  … ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL SEPT. 4 TO SEPT. 7, 1960

alan skeoch
May  2020

THE IRISH JOB COMES FIRST:

IRELAND IN SEPTEMBER 1960…KNOCKMAHON MINE.  COULD IT BE REOPENED?   

RUINS OF THE MINE REMAIN TO THIS  DAY (2020) AS TOURIST DESTINATION  .  IN 1960 THAT WAS NOT THE CASE…IT WAS
A RUIN.

DR. JOHN STAM AND JOHN HOGAN…ON WAY TO MINE SITE
IRELAND  WAS CHARMING IN 1960…MUCH AS PICTURED IN THE FILM THE QUIET MAN.



What is that expression about ebb tide?  Shakespeare’s  Julius Caeser where  Brutus  says….

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

I know this  may sound silly but I have often thought of those words
when faced with an opportunity.  Either I grab the opportunity or I let 
it slip away.    In the summer of 1960 I had been trusted  to operate 
a Turam electromagnetic survey on an ancient mine site on the south
coast of Ireland.  A  place called  Bunmahon where copper had been 
mined in the19th century and there was just a chance the old mine could
be brought back to life. 

 I was  in the right place at the right time.

The previous summer four of us…called  ‘instrument men’ …who operated
a Turam job in south west Alaska near the Aleutian Chain.   One man,  Bill Morrson,
 knew how to set up
the generator, base line,  read the console, etc.  I was  assigned to be his helper.  Bill taught me all the
ins  and  outs of prospecting with the Turam.  The other two fellows,
Don Van Every and  Ian Rutherford also were instructed. That was
1959.  

[
POLICE KEPT WATCH  ON OUR WORK

The following year much to my surprise i was the only person still around who had
operated the machine.   The other three guys had gone God knows where.
I was on the ebb tide…riding high.  Entrusted  by Dr. Norman Paterson to
sleuth out the old  mine in Knockmahon,  County Waterford, Eire.  Dr. John
Stam,  a professional geophysicist would interpret the Turam Readings. 
John Hogan wold do the geology.  It
was  up to me to get the magnetic data…to make sure the Turam worked.

Ireland in 1960 was exactly as tourist  photos described.

Local newspaper arrived occasionally … as did police …even the village priest…all kept close eye on us.


“ALAN,  DO YOUR REALLY NEED ALL THOSE EMPLOYEES?”  Question raised by Canadian office.

MY BOSS IN CANADA, DR. NORMAN PATERSON WONDERED WHY SO  MANY MEN WERE HIRED.  THERE WERE GOOD
REASONS.  THIS IS  PAYDAY … PAID MEN WEEKLY AND GAVE BONUS OF CIGARETTES AND CHOCOLATE BARS.   YES,
I WAS CRITICISED FOR THIS LARGESSE.


MUCH MONEY WAS  SPENT IN KIRWIN’S PUB.  MOST OF  THESE MEN WERE EMPLOYED BY US.  TERRIBLE NEED
FOR JOBS.


I RENTED THIS OLD TRUCK A COUPLE OF TIMES.  NEEDED CRANK.  FLOORBOARDS HAD GAPS.


THIS IS THE TURAM…E.M. UNIT AT WORK IN AN IRISH WHEAT FIELD.



IF WE HIT HIGH READINGS  WE OCCASIONALLY HAD MEN DIG PITS DOWN TO BED ROCK.
LOTS OF MYSTERY AS A REJULT OF SOME OF THESE EXCAVATIONS SUCH AS  THE 
DEAD COW CAPER …LED TO DISCOVERY OF OLD MINE ADIT FROM 1850’S.

June, July and August…I did  my job.  Tried not to let anyone  down.
This  was  a big responsibility which  I took very seriously.  There was a
social side of the job as well like A pint   of
Gjuinnes  each night with Dr. Stam and John Hogan in Kirwin’s [ub
helped  all of us relax.  We hired the whole village. I will explain 
that in future episodes.  Perchance a  few readers of these episodes
saw the John Wayne, Maureen Ohara,  Barrie Fitzgerald  movie titled
‘The Quiet Man”…an  imaginary story about Ireland that was  damn
near true.  Surprised.  Joyful. 

When the job ended.  The Ebb tide came once more  I made a fast
decision without prompting.  After crating up the mining equipment
and  shipping it ask to Canada.  I set sail  on the EBB tide for
England.  This was my chance to see if EYWOOD  REALLY EXISTED.
Truth be told I had no idea where I was going.  Eywood was in Herefordshire
England.  First I had to get there.  If I failed I would  still fly home.  Just a few
days later than Dr. Paterson expected.  My job was over anyway.  Fast 
decision to catch that Ebb Tide to Eywood.

Perhaps my journal entries are the best way to describe this
adventure.  Remember I was going almost blind but not totally.
I had a name…Cyril Griffiths whose mother Polly had been in
constant letter writing contact with my grandmother from 1905 until
her death in 1954.  And I had  a name…Lower Wooten Farm somewhere
in Herefordshire, perhaps close to Eywood.  Eywood itself was
blank.   The Estate, to my knowledge, had been put up for auction
and then demolished.  

 Why go there at all?  There was a sense of
mystery about the estate and just a chance that the estate gardens…
where Granddad was head gardener for a decade…just a chance 
that huge brick walled garden was intact.

JOURNAL

Sunday September 4, 1960
Bunmahon,
County Waterford,
Southern Ireland

Packing up the job.   Has been an exciting time.  Mr. and Mrs. Daye presented  me with two
figurines.  Mrs. Kennedy,  the village leader, gave me a fine tablecloth.  Tommy gave Me a nice
bottle of Guiness Stout.   


CRATED EQIPMENT … BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR ME…FLATTERED TO BE TRUSTED.

In the afternoon I hired Barney Dwan to help crate up our equipment.  Very sad to leave.
Barney has been my right hand man.  Later Dr. John Stam and I drove to Tramore for a
fast game of mini golf and a meal of fish and chips topped off with a bottle of Bass Ale.

I am going to miss all in the village.  Managed to hire quite a few of them so became a
major employer paying them one pound  a day plus free packs of Wild Woodbine cigarettes
and chocolate bars.   Back in Canada, Dr. Norman Paterson wondered why I needed so many
employees. 




THE SOUTH COAST OF IRELAND IS DOTTED WITH HISTORIC RUINS

HERE ARE THREE OF THE BOYS TAKING A REST.  THE CATTLE HAD TO BE PREVENTED FROM EATING OUR GROUNDED
CABLE…BUT COULD NOT BE STOPPED.  LITTLE BALLS OF COPPER WIRE WERE VOMITTED…OR PASSED.  

THIS YOUNG BOY WAS HIRED TO GUARD OUR GROUNDING RODS AND GENERATOR FROM
CATTLE AND SEMI WILD PIGS.   HE TOOK THE JOB VERY SERIOUSLY. CAMPED THERE.

 “Cost of labour here is so cheap…. ten men amounts to less than cost of 
one man in Canada.   And I need ten men to protect our base line for the cattle keep eating
chunks of the cable then regurgitating balls of yellow sheathed copper wire.  Try to stop
this from happening.   Also need a man to lift me over the stone and brier fences.  Sounds
stupid, I know but these fences are a nightmare.  Danger that a bull would charge and I cannot
get away with console, battery pack, copper coil, record book, etc.  Need another two men
to protect our grounding points and tend the motor generator.  Then need two linecutting
crews…etc. etc.  Want more Dr. Patterson”  

 Barney Dwan told me a story about a nun crossing
an open field.  All they found of her were her shoes with her feet in them.  Semi wild hogs
got her.   Not sure I believe this  story.

I will miss all these men.  Just  getting to know all their names and meeting
their families and now we are packing up the gear.   I will also miss Kirwin’s pub in the
evenings.  Quite a  social hub.  It does not take long to develop at taste for Guiness.

MONDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 1960

We finished  crating all  the equipment  and made arrangements with Frank Kirwin to 
transport the crates to Waterford. Seemed  like all was ready.  Not so.  I could
not find my return tickets home…flight.  Panic.  Mrs. Kennedy helped…no luck
so she called a great group of the villagers to her home.  Why?  Seemed  strange
to me as well.  “Master Skeoch has lost his tickets home.  He needs our help.
There were about  a dozen people gathered in the sitting room. Some got down 
on their knees and prayed.  Others held hands in a circle.  Then Mrs. Kennedy did
the strangest thing. She reached in the pile of records, papers, graphs,
waste paper and pulled out my tickets…one reach only.  I know this sounds far
fetched  but it was real.  After that I took a family photo of the Kennedys.   Bridey, my
maid (yes, I had a maid) presented  me with an Irish handkerchief.  You remember
Bridey…she was the person who yanked the covers off me while inked and
announced “Time for Mass, Master Skeoch” and made certain I attended even if
I was a Presbyterian.  Because of her we did not work on Sundays as we did
on bush jobs in Canada.

THIS IS THE KENNEDY FAMILY.  MRS. KENNEDY RAN THE VILLAGE REALLY.  SHE HAD THE ONLY STORE IN TOWN.  HER SON
GERALD WAS  HANDICAPPED AS  YOU MIGHT NOTICE.  HE FOLLOWED ME AROUND AND WAS A JOY.  THEIR LABRADOR DOG
WAS TRAINED TO KEEP GERALD FROM WANDERING INTO THE SEA.  MR. KENNEDY WAS A  FARMER.

The boys all  came to see me off.  Very sad farewell, This  has been a big
adventure for everyone including me.  Would it mean the rebirth of the village?
That would remain to be seen.  (It did  not happen)

Tommy, Frank and  I drove to Waterford in the old truck.   Met John Stam
and John Hogan.  Picked up newspaper that had featured our crew and
the attempt to reopen the old  Knockmahon mine.  Then I  caught the
train to Dublin and road in the first class compartment…like John Wayne
did in the The Quiet Man movie. Seemed I had been reliving that movie.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1960

Woke early and  enjoyed the full tourist breakfast…several eggs, sausages, rasher of bacon,
fried tomato, marmalade and triangles of toast…then coffee.   Viisited Arbuckle, Smith
and Company to finalize arrangements  with KLM airline for my flight home.
Then went shopping in the rain.  Portable clock,27 shillings, sixpence;
Sweater for Marjorie, 3 pounds, 10 shillings; three fake shillalahs , 40 shillings;
2 pints of  Guiness, 2 shillings;  gifts for Kevin Behan and family, 10  shillings.
Rented a slide projector and showed slides of Bunmahon job to the Behan
family who had hosted me so well in Dublin.  Kevin became name of our first son
in distant future … named after Kevin Behan.
  Back to hotel late…deep sleep…too deep as it happened.

WEDNESDAY , SEPTEMBER 7, 1960

Late awakening.  Alarm clock did not work.  Had a hell of a rush to make the
ferry boat to England.  Miss that boat and  all my plans to visit Eywood Estate
would  be ruined.  “Can you get me to the docks fast?”, I asked the taxi and
we speeded through the streets of Dublin.  Made it by skin of my teeth.
Boat trip was  uneventful but nice.

Where was I going?  I really did  not know.  Caught a train out to Herefored which
seemed a good place to start since Eywood was in Herefordshire.  What to do
in Hereford? I looked  up the name of Cyril Griffiths in the telephone book.  Felt
lost really.  The train platform emptied.  I was almost alone.  Almost.
“Can I help you son?”, asked a well dressed older man.  

STRANGE EVENT HAPPENED:  “Yes, you can help maybe.  I am looking for
Cyril Griffiths who lives  at Lower Wooten Farm somewhere in Herefordshire.
Just saying that made me realize this venture was really stupid. 

“I know Cyril
Griffiths and know Lower Wooten Farm,  perhaps  I can give you a  lift there…near
the village of Almely…some distance from here.  I am the local bank  manager
for Cyril.

CYRIL AND NANCY GRIFFITHS.  NEAR RELATIVES.  THEY OPERATED OATCROFT FARM ON THE EYWOOD ESTATE UNTIL THE
ESTATE  WAS BROKEN UP.  THEN THEY OPERATED  LOWER WOOTEN FARM PICTURED BELOW.  WONDERFUL PEOPLE.

What a surprise.  The whole Grifiths family were expecting me.  Mom had sent them
a letter that maybe I would arrive in early September.  Shy greetings.  Cyril and
Nancy Griffiths, aunt Polly, and their son David who was about 14 years old.

HERE THE WHOLE GRIFFITHS FAMILY IS OUT FOR A FORMAL PICTURE.  OUR PATHS  WOULD CROSS MANY TIMES
FROM 1960 TO THE PRESENT.
THIS PICTURE IS BACKWARDS  BUT GIVES GOOD VIEW OF LOWER WOOTEN FARM.  PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A SUBSEQUENT
VISIT.  MARJORIE IN DOORWAY.  ON THAT TRIP WE CAUGHT A HEDGEHOG ONE EVENING…IT CURLED UP LIKE A BOWLING BALL
SO WE BOWLED WITH IT A FEW TIMES THEN IT TRUNDLED AWAY TO THE FENCEROW.

Lower Wooten Farm was  a storybook farm.  Built in the 16th century and designated an 
historic building that could not be  changed.   The Farm was wonderful.  A bed was ready.
The floors were uneven.  The ceiling was held up by oak  beams.  The roof was ancient
slate.  (SEE PICTURE)

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8, 1960

Beautiful day in a wonderful  setting. Young  David took me around the farm where we
helped Cyril debeak turkeys so they would not cannibalize each other I assumed.
Then Cyril drove us into Eardislely, a quaint black  and white 16 th century village.
In the afternoon we  drove to a farm auction near Leominster.

VISIT TO EYWOOD …

EYWOOD AS IT REMAINS TO THIS  DAY…A RUIN.

“Alan, I expect you will want to see Eywood.  Not much to see anymore.  The great
house has been demolished…just a few brick walls  and the stone entranceway remain.
but your grandfathers place is intact…the gardens were bought by Henry Mills.
I know him well.  He will be glad to see you.

END  PART THREE

PART FOUR 

EPISODE 57:  COMING  NEXT:     EYWOOD … WHAT REMAINS OF A GREAT ESTATE

































EPISODE 72 BUNMAHON IRELAND ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL WED. AGUST 24, 1960

EPISODE 72   BUNMAHON  IRELAND   ALAN SKEOCH’S  JOURNAL 


ALAN skeoch
June 2020

Well friends this will be the end of my personal experience in Ireland in 1960.  End of
my journal entries.   But it is not the end of the story.  After this Episode I would like
to take you back  to 1840 then to 1875.   Mining conditions…miners lives…women’s lives
Those years are described as wretched for people in Bunmahon.  I hope you have
enough Imagination to put yourselves in their shoes.


This  cottage could just as well be in 1870 rather than 1960.  Typical working class cottage.
Those living here had to look for work wherever it could be found.  And then begin walking
to get there.   The house was heated  with peat…cooking with peat that had to be cut into
blocks and  dried.   The air inside the homes was  mixed with smoke.  ‘


Roads  were used by sheep, cattle, people





alan skeoch
June 2020

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 24, 1960

Rained  all morning so heavy that work was  pointless.
Andy Kiely’s father died at 9 a.m. He was 91 years old.  The lads
will need a half day off tomorrow for the funeral.  Why didn’t someone
tell  me Andy was trying to work for me and look after his dying
father at the same time.  God, I wish I had not fired him.

We  covered 6,900 feet of line in the afternoon.

John Hogan and Paddy (who has a serious  hunchback) went
down to the pub at 5 for a game of darts.

Barney and  I went exploring at 8 pm … up a glen and into adits  that
no one had entered for 40 years according to Barney. Ocean entry point. Water past our
waists for 400 feet then I was stunned with the beauty of the place…walls 
of reds,  greens, whites.  We found  numerous skulls at base of 
an  old shaft that had been closed in at the top after these animals 
had been dumped.   Waterfall inside gave a mourning kind of  sound…
sort of  frightening.






We passed by Andy Kiely’s house on way home  where the wake will
be going on all night.  I was a little nervous entering the house…unsure
I would be welcome for I  never knew the man.  My lads were all there…lots
of noise and stories.   And old Mr. Kiely was there as well…coffin vertical as 
I remember but unsure.  The house was tiny. Packed with people who
were happy to see me.  Some music on a violin. Glad I dropped in.
Pangs of guilt.

THURSDAY AUGUST 25

Pushed the lads so that we finished base line #3 and checked set up for Base  Line
#4….Locatikon looks good, fairly flat.  No doubt the cattle are hiding.

Let the whole crew  off at noon to attend mr. Kiely’s funeral.  We joined the procession
to Ballaneen.  Coffin beng carried by a hearse (9ld truck?)  while the whole village of  Bunmahon and
others followed behind blocking the road.   Seemed dangerous and proved to be so
when a car with a load  of barley tilted aroound a corner and suddenly
tried to brake .  Managed to stop just a  few feet from the hearse.

Andy Kiely spent the night in Ballyaneen.  Not in the church where his father was
to be buried but in the pub.   Today , his dad was buried…vertically.  The graveyard
was full I assumed as this was the same graveyard used by the miners families back in the
1840’s,  1850’s, 1860’s and  1870’s.  Not much room left.  Or that is  the way I interpreted
things.  Could be wrong.


Final passage: Mourners join mother-of-five Mrs Graham on the last part of the journey before her burial
This is NOT The Kiely funeral…but it is similar…not as fancy but the roadway
full of  people following the hearse.  Hearse was aged as  opposed to new.


John Hogan  and I went for a walk along the seashore in the evening
as the waves lapped at our feet.  A seal  came in very close.  Then we 
climbed  to walk along the cliffs above the beach.  Quite a number of females
followed us  to get a good look at the “miners”.   Never in my whole career
as a mine instrument man  did I ever get such attention.  Rather embarrassing
but cute at same time.

FRIDAY AUGUST 26, 1960

Rained  all day but I took the lads out in the afternoon to do  two lines.
We worked over time just to get them done.  A normally small creek
became a raging torrent which we had to carefully cross…water above 
our knees…surging.  Sounds small but was  not so   
Earlier we waded  easily.


Farmer Welsh  approached me hysterically screaming that I had killed
one of his bullocks.   The animal was down unconscious.  His legs
were twitching and his mouth frothing.  After a while he came around
and seemed normal.  Farmer Welsh not satisfied.  Who is paying these
farmers?   I get the flak but have no idea about compensation.

SATURDAY  AUGUST 27, 1960

Another weather commpromised day but we went out anyway.
Managed to cover 6,000 feet after a few tense moments evading
Farmer Welsh’s bull.

John Stam sent letter from Amsterdam asking how job was going.
So I spent the afternoon drawing profiles and making  a quick reprort.

In the evening John Hogan, Barney Dwan and I explored  some old
stopes that Barney located.  Very exciting.  John Hogan seems to
enjoy penetrating these old mines as much as we do.  And the results
make sense when tied into the anomalies detected on the geophysical
instruments.




SUNDAY AUGUST 28, 1960

After Mass, John Hogan and I climbed the Cameragh Mountains…2500 feet high 
and found the so called Bottomless Lake.   Found a Ram’s Skull.  Beautiful
day in the heather.
Coumshingaun Lake, Waterford


Hit some chickens on way home…couldn’t be helped.  Then went to a
Civil Defence  demonstration in Bonmahon.   Drove to Tramore for
golf  (miniature with lots of  kids) , supper was fish and chips like 
everyone else.  Back to Bonmahon for a dance but found it was
a  closed dance for Civil Defence people only.  Town people got
angry and started breaking down the door  and fighting. One man
was totally out of control.  John and  I tried to calm things down.

MONDAY  AUGUST 29, 1960

Delayed  most of the morning with cable breaks.    Cattle.  Wonder 
how many are on the ground frothing for Farmer Welsh.  No joke…must
see  what is  done  to compensate.  At lunch I had
Willy drive me to Dungarvin to pick up expense check then wired
for more.

Afternoon was spent repairing  cable breaks but still managed
to do  12,000  feet off line.

I will try to finish the project this week and then pack  up and
head  for home…with a few side ventures.   Got a wire from
Amsterdam saying John Stam would arrive back in Ireland
at 4.25.  Glad to hear that for there will be some loose  ends
that only John can  clear up with Dennison Mines.

Spent rest of evening testing the Ronka.

TUESDAY AUGSUT 30, 1960

Holy Smoke…today we managed to complete
Base Line #4…20,900 feet.  One of our best days ever in
Ireland.  Cattle herds must be taking a holiday.
Base Line  #4 now done.


NOTE FOR THOSE CONFUSED ABOUT CABLE AND CATTLE

Below is a picture of our cable back pack with Barney laying a base line cable.  Usually the
Base Line was three miles or around 15, 000 feet with grounding rods at each  end and 
a motor generator at one of the terminal points.   The generator produced enough electricity
to create an strange loop…strange to  readers because the loop was completed  in the  ground’ 

The sensitive machine I carried could pick up electrical impulses in the ground.  If there was a
good conductor at some point….like a seam  of chalcopyrite…then the readings would differ
from the background readings which would  be flat.   To pick up these readings we used two
vertical  copper coiled  receivers that were kept 100 feet apart and joined by a rubber sheathed
electrical  cable.  Very complicated for me to describe since it was 60 years ago that I did
Turam work.

Look at Barney below.  The base line cable is  only a single strand of plastic sheathed
copper wire.    That cable breaks easily.   It is even easier to break if you are a cow chomping
on what looks like a long strand of unusual  hay.   

We did get breaks in the cable when doing a wilderness survey back in Canada or Alaska…i.e. from rodents chewing or
larger animals  getting their feet caught.  But those breaks occurred seldom.  In  Ireland
the breaks occurred regularly…often…and sometimes many breaks at a time.  The breaks
were repaired with electrical tape very simply.  Finding the breaks was a  different matter
when the cable was three miles long.



The roll of base line wire starts off heavy but gets lighter the more the wire is unwound.
My worst experience with this back  pack of wire was on the Alaska  job where we had
Sikorsky helicopters to reach distant tundra base lines.   I tried to jump from the pontoon
to the helicopter cabin without making allowance for the extra 70 to 80 pounds of wire
on my back.  I failed  to complete the jump and fell to the earth about 6 feet below as
the helicopter took off.   No harm done except to my ego.  Tundra in summer time is like
one immense sponge bed.


I set the staking crew  working on  Base Line #5.  Crew 
chief is John Fleming who takes the work seriously. 
I admire his grace and  natural  leadership of men.
Wonder why he is so poor.  I guess the only chance
of going up in the world is to leave Ireland which is
something he refuses to do.

Usual beer and darts then drove to Waterford to
pick  up John Stam.

WEDNESDAY  AUGUST 31, 1960

We set downBase  Line  #5 and managed 6,000 feet of line
although it rained a good part of the day. I put the staking crew
on overtime with Andy in charge this time.  

John Stam  told us about the Geological Congress
in Copenhagen.

John Hogan and I ent  to Waterford to see “Around the
World in  80 days” which I found quite boring.  Movies cost 25 cents. Waterford
was really beautiful on this last evening in  August.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 1, 1960

Worked  like the devil  (What an odd expression when I think of it?)
Finished  Base Line #5 (18,800 feet).  Had  a few tense moments with
killer bull and  a half baked farmer who seemed ready to run me through
with his pitch fork.  He is supposed to be a  dangerous man. Farmers
are a kind of gentry class here…contrast with the day labourers
who have 1 acre plots and small cottages.  Tension between the two
groups was very evident.

I was a little startled when doing a reading because a horse
lay his head on my shoulder.  Friendly.  




I took the lads out for overtime work at night and  we worked
until darkness fell.  My staking crew were working in the Gardenmorris  
bog where all four of them dropped into shallow sink holes often…wading
often as  well.   I had to go and find them at 10 oclock at night. They
were trying set straight lines in the dark using matches.  Impossible
work of course.  But they thought I needed them to finish.  What great
men.  What a poor labour boss I turned out to be.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2, 1960

A Long hard day…8 a.m. to 8 p.m. then office work to 10 p.m.
Laying out the loo[p in the morning , then drove to Tramore to get
my hundred dollars from home.  Would need that once job is
done and I try to visit Eywood Estate in Herefordshire.   Came
back and did part of  a line before  driving to Dungarvin to pick
up 300 dollars from our Company to cover estimated wages.
In Dungarvin a town drunk wanted an argument and fight for
reason I could not figure.   Returned to Bunmahon and took the
lads out for evening work doing Turam in pitch darkness using
flashlight to guide us through the Gardenmorris Bog.

I should send this note back to Toronto.  Hard to 
believe we did it all.

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3, 1960

Up with the sun and recovered Base Line #6 then laid
out Base Line #4 again so we could do ‘in between lines’

Returned  home where the lads were waiting to be paid
off as  the job was  ending.  Very sad moment as we had
all shared an adventure.  We will never meet again.  This
feeling of break up  is common for anyone in the mining
exploration industry.  We arrive,  form friendships, pack
up and leave.  It takes  a toll psychologically.  Makes me
more sensitive I think.  Makes me value he present and a 
little wary of the future.

John Hogan and  I recovered the motor generator and then
drove on  to Ballycrasteen to visit a tiny church.  Unsure why.

Back home I asked the lads  to lay out our wire and cut
out the bad spots.

Then in the evening I did a really stupid thing.  We had
a few gallons of gasoline which we had mixed with 
oil.   What was  I do with it?  I should have offered it to
one of the lads but instead  I decided to set the sea on fire
at Bonmahon beach.   With quite a following i carried the
drum of perhaps 5 to 10 gallons of gas…and poured the
contents into the water.  Tommy handed me a lighter and
then Whoosh…the sea was on fire.   That gesture was rather
stupid.  No  second thought given.




My collection  of slides were good but we had no projector.
The lads  and Mrs. Kennedy scoured the village for a projector
but failed.  That was too bad. It would have been a nice ending
to have everybody down a Kirwin’s pub looking at our adventures.
A better ending would have been an announcement that the 
mines at Knockmahon and Tankardstown were to be reopened.

(P.S.  The long term results of mining exploration are rarely, if ever,
known by crews like ours.   Opening or reopening a mine takes
a lot of capital.  Raising capital takes time.  Unfortunately the
reopening was rejected because there were too many faults.,
 I was told much  later, .)



My fondest picture from the Bonmahon job was taken early in the job when the lads and our Canadian crew were 
enjoying each others  company assessed by a few brown bottles of Guinness.


In 1965 Marjorie, Eric and I went back to Bunmahon.   Things had changed.  Even less work available.   Other friends visited
the site in subsequent years.   One visitor reported  Kirwin’s  pub was closed  and up For Sale.”   Sad…

Now readers…you must arrange to see THE QUIET MAN with john Wayne, maureen Ohara and Barrie Fitzgerald.
It is romantic.  Maybe I should add a bit of  romance.  Give me some leeway.  


EMD  EPISODE  72

Next  Episode is  coming …














EPISODE 59 BUNMAHON IRELAND ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL SIDEBAR STORY OFGERALD AND HIS DOG

EPISODE 59   BONMAHON IRELAND    ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL   


SIDEBAR STORY OF GERALD AND HIS DOG

alan skeoch
June 2020



GERALD AND  HIS DOG

Time passes. Sometimes  moments in time are captured and cherished.  This is one
of mine.   The story o fGerlad Kennedy and his dog.

This was  Gerald’s companion who I have named Fergus because I cannot remember his
proper name.   He was taken for granted.  He was also magnificent.  A dog I cannot forget



The little boy was named  Gerald Kennedy.   He loved having three Canadian miners at his home.  He would have loved  to be part
of  our mining exploration.  I realize now, 60 years  later, that Gerald was part of our job.  


That might be Gerald with his kiddy car heading for the ocean.  He would  not be alone for long.



There are so many stories  to tell about that Irish  job in Bunmahon, County  
Waterford.   One sidebar story touched us all  but was soon taken for granted
as a routine event.  Hard  ti  forget,  Better to be remembered.

So I would like to tell the story of Gerald Kennedy and his companion separately.   Gerald was
afflicted with Down’s Syndrome.   People sometimes try to pretend children so  afflicted
are not part of the give and take of daily living. That they Are present as an embarrassment.

Gerald  could not be treated that way.  He asserted himself wherever he could.  The sudden 
presence of three mining men from Canada was a great thing for Gerald.  So, when Mrs.
Kennedy got our meals ready, Gerald hung around.  But never alone.  Wherever Gerald
went his Companion, ‘Fergus’ wes rogjt beside him.  Fergus was a big rather aged black
Labrador dog.  To Gerald, his companion Fergus was an extension of himself.  

Sometimes he rode on Fregus’s back as if the dog was  a pony.  Fergus never
flinched.  Sometimes Gerald would even Bite Fergus on the ears.  Fergus did not
growl or indicate displeasure.  Fergus  did not try to avoid Gerald.  Where Gera;d
went. Fergus went. Simple as that.   

Loyalty of dogs to their masters is not unusual.  Common. Expected. Taken for granted.

But Fergus  took loyalty a good distance further as I witnessed one stormy evening on
Bunmahon beach.

Gerald came down the road with Fergus.  They walked right by Kirwin’s pub after crossing
the main road.  Was I wrong or did  Fergus look both ways before he let Gerald  cross.
Hard to say. They were pressed close together.  Was Fergus pressing Gerald?

Then they continued down to the beach where some good sized waves were
beating up the sand into swirls.


Ocean’s are dangerous places for little boys like Gerald.  His dog Fergus knew that and  kept Gerald safe.


Straight down to the water.  I began to get concerned lest Gerald drown.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  Fergus went into the water right away.
He was a  Labrador after all.. A water dog.   But that was not the  reason 
he preceded Gerald.  Fergus stopped when the water waves were lapping 
his legs.   He turned.  And Gerald  waded in immediately but Fergus would 
not let him get in much deeper than his ankles.  If Gerald  moved  along…Fergus 
moved along. 

And eventually they both came back and went home.

A minor incident that has stayed in my mind’s eye for 60 years.

We went back to Bonmahon, Marjorie  Eric  and I…but both Gerald
and Fergus were no longer there.

I met Gerald and Fergus in 1960.  My  wife Marjorie and I went back to Ireland on a  visit in 1965.  Neither Gerald nor Fergus
were still around.  

alan skeoch
june 2020