Thursday, 13 September 2018

Fancy a Tipple? ...


This came about as I’d wanted to visit Morden (Coal) Mine, which I thought would be interesting; but the miner’s cottage and artefacts are in Nanaimo museum … 


Morden Colliery as marked - slither of green in centre -
while Boat Harbour is under the 'pin'.
… the tipple though is all there – well that’s a tale unto itself.  It’s a concrete tipple … not quite what I was expecting … but then the early 1900s was an innovative period for building, at a time when the technology of reinforced concrete was becoming increasingly identified with construction …


… so it’s difficult to comprehend that in 1913, when this tipple was being constructed, reinforced concrete was a novelty.  The pithead has been fenced off, but …


This noticeboard was all the information
available ...and only viewed through this type
of chainlink fencing ... difficult at best

  • the old railway line is now a 1.2 km trail down to the river

  • a wooden trestle took the railway over the river

  • which then wound its way to Boat Harbour

  • where coal would be unloaded, but on one occasion ‘scabs’ (men) were loaded in a box car to break the Union’s line …

  • it didn’t work – the ‘scabs’ joined their fellow miners on strike


    The trail is marked in red: the board wasn't clean, the
    chain-link enclosure didn't help, nor did the reflections!
  • the small park covers some of the mine workers’ web of tunnels


  • in 1913 they started the mine having struck an eight foot seam of coal at a depth of 600 feet ...


  • … which went down as far as 900 feet once the shoreline (map above) was reached

    Shows the railway line superimposed on
    the sketch of the maze of sub-terranean
    tunnels below
  • the men would use the railway line further up as a path to get to work … for a few kilometres from their dank, dreary, living quarters to the tipple

  • guided only by their headlamps, once down in the cage … from which the coal had been tipped … then walk 2 or 3 kilometres through the maze of subterranean tunnels to the coal face …



Site plan

  • after their shift they would then turn about face and repeat the journey to get ‘home’ to wash the coal dust off … probably with freezing water …



  • before the morrow dawned and the day would start over …





  • but as one lad described: “It wasn’t such a great mine.  It was terrifically gassy.  For the first couple of hours you went down there you’d be absolutely sick until, I guess, your bloodstream got the gas mixed in and you were back on your feet again … my brother lasted seven hours and was working so slow they fired him”



This is what is left - sorry! difficult to see because of
the light - you can just make the info board ... its roof is at
the top of the fence ... with the detail underneath.


The strike provided the management with an opportunity to erect a concrete tipple replacing the wooden one … this method had been pioneered in Britain, Europe, South Africa and Australia … so Northern America was catching up.






Kinsol Trestle near us in Cobble Hill -
recently repaired and restored

After the strike ended in 1914 … experienced workers, who had been blacklisted by other mines, were welcomed to work at Morden.  For a while all was well … but financial problems plagued the company, soon closing the mine.




Life in the early 1920s was not easy … and at some stage I’ll get to see the museum in Nanaimo, which I’d like to combine with a visit to a marine park on one of the islands.


Miner's Memorial at side of tipple

It was not so long ago … about a hundred years ... when life here was so different … yet those were the times when the miners’ camaraderie was their common bond … 


... with the knowledge that each time they went to work, they might not come up … and knowing that they were there to help each other out of difficult situations.



I visited twice - each visit only for a few
minutes ...I'd been hoping there'd be more to
see ... the slide show does a very good job.
The early pioneers in all trades started off the provisions for the health and safety standards that we have today … for which I know we are all grateful ...



Here’s an interestingslide show which let us see some great pictures of the Morden Mine and its tipple …



There is more history at this Historic Places site ...


A short video (3:21) on a coal tipple line - provided by Lenny - thanks so much ... it's a good watch with some 'cool music' as Lenny advises ... very true!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

43 comments:

Hels said...

Industrialists were beasts, whether they built mines or railway lines. They exploited the workers who had no choice about leaving the dangerous, underpaid or backbreaking jobs.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, I learned something today. And you are learning so much about your surroundings there.

Elephant's Child said...

It was an appallingly hard and dangerous job. The world over.
I am not surprised that the miners developed a cameraderie.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Amazing history! It’s a dangerous job even today, which is why miners of any kind are paid well. Good for the union.

If you’re interested in industrial history, this is the Sunshine Harvester decision from 1907: https://www.fwc.gov.au/waltzing-matilda-and-the-sunshine-harvester-factory/historical-material/harvester-case. In it, the judge worked out what the absolute minimum a worker with a family needed to live on, taking into account food, rent, clothing, etc. and gave it to them. I don’t think the boss, H.V McKay was happy about it. But it was the first decision of its kind in the world, and it happened in Sunshine, the suburb of Melbourne where I’ve worked for over 20 years!

Sue Bursztynski said...

PS I always thought a tipple was about drinking - who knew it also means something made of concrete? 😁

Nilanjana Bose said...

You are putting your time to such good use. Mining was/is a difficult and super dangerous way to earn a living. Gases in bloodstream? Yikes, don't fancy that at all.

D Biswas said...

We've replaced one kind of misery with others--I hope one day we all embrace alternative energy sources, which are good for the environment,for the workers, and all of us.

Thanks for this insight into mining, and 'tipples'!

Damyanti

Anabel Marsh said...

I find these old mines really interesting and moving - what a hard life, both with the work itself and the exploitative bosses. It does sound as though this one could be more visitor friendly though!

Jz said...

Interesting, indeed. But someone needs to go smack the fools who fenced off the information board without offering another resource. (Yes, my zen is still a work in progress...)

Elsie Amata said...

I could never do what those brave men did for a living. I can understand why their bond was so deep. Thank you for sharing this!

Elsie

Jo said...

We had enough coal mines in the UK, did they call them tipples there I wonder. Interesting - I would love to have gone down the mine but maybe not if it is "gassy".

Annalisa Crawford said...

Such horrible conditions those brave men worked under. Just the thought of being underground for hours on end makes me shudder.

Keith's Ramblings said...

Working in such conditions is unimaginable. After reading this I need a tipple!

Jacqui Murray said...

What great history. Moving from an agrarian society to industrialized was difficult. Good quote from that boy about his brother.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm sure that gas mixing with their systems was not good. Mine work is scary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Hels - I know ... it was the time of the industrialists rise to power, while they tried out new ways to work ... still we wouldn't be here now if not for them.

@ Alex - well I'm looking at things that I can easily access to check out ... but it's being interesting to put it mildly ...

@ EC - yes ... it's the same everywhere. We often forget that the workers were 'teams' and helped each other ...

@ Sue - well it was only a little that I was able to glean - perhaps the museum in Nanaimo will tell me more. Unionisation was coming in by then.

Thanks for the Sunshine Harvester video - I'll be back to view it ... and comment.

I couldn't resist using 'tipple' in the title - I'd never heard of it used as a pithead ... or the workings at the top ...

@ Nila - well I'm doing what I can - this was hardly worth dropping in on and I was disappointed ... I'd hoped to find a visitor centre or something ... but the slide show is good. That gas quote is pretty 'noxious' isn't it - while the oxymoron of pretty and noxious in one sentence sits oddly ...

@ Damyanti - I know tipples ... such an interesting word to find. But the misery these guys must have experienced ... yet some rose above and became well off - the way centres (towns) started.

@ Anabel - I know coming from Cornwall ... the mine shafts and counting houses in the landscape have always stood out. Unfortunately it was the way of the world then (and I regret now) ... I'm hoping I'll find more in Nanaimo ... but it's a pity that this little site couldn't be better protected ...

@ Jz - I was frustrated that I couldn't read the board more easily ... or find out more - in the end the slide show came up as I searched the net. Eventually I'd found something ... perhaps there's more in Nanaimo - but I wasn't going there these two trips: soon.

Thanks everyone ... I thought no one would be interested in this!!

Andrea Ostapovitch said...

This is very interesting. I love visiting old mines and imagining what life was like for those workers. It's often very hard to believe that it wasn't very long ago.

Have a great day,
Andrea

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elsie - we all think we wouldn't have coped back then ... but when life is that way we'd have managed and gone where the family went - but thinking about it is not easy is it ...

@ Jo - plenty of coal mines in the UK - where they've now created residential areas and parks on top of the old workings. I suspect it was more an American term ... but I enjoyed the word; while the concrete workings were just being accepted and had been tried out at mineheads in other English speaking countries. I went down one mine in South Africa - and I can't say it was my favourite visit! But interesting to experience, and thankfully it wasn't gassy.

@ Annalisa - so many mines down in Cornwall, Devon etc ... where conditions must have been similar but a century or two earlier. Yes I don't like being down in the earth either ...

@ Keith - I know writing this up ... I thought a drink might come in handy.

@ Jacqui - it's interesting being able to see relatively recent history here ... where the population isn't huge and so one can reach these areas ... and having grown up in England, and then lived in South Africa - I can see how similar the development is. The workers really struggled to find work in the 1700s and 1800s, when we moved from an agrarian to industrial society. Yes I liked the gassy quote ... breathes life into the understanding ...

@ Diane - I suspect it was a horrible experience ... presumably similar to 'the bends' - which I would not like to experience ...

Well thanks to you all for being interested - you've set me thinking ... so I suspect there'll be more ... cheers from this tipple! Hilary

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Love this sort of history, Hilary. Ta for bringing it to us! YAM xx

Out on the prairie said...

When I saw the title I thought of a dessert. I will have some more tipple please.LOL Lots of mining here brought in many types of people, but only limestone any more. The coal was too soft.

Sandra Cox said...

What a harsh way to make a living.

Chatty Crone said...

Look up sometime how the Hoover Damn was built - it was horrible too. A harsh way of making a living - during the depression. Sandie

Liz A. said...

Mining is such a dangerous job.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Andrea - that's what amazes me about being here ... the areas here were all being developed at the same time as those in South Africa, where I lived for a while. Then my Cornish origins help bringing the mining history to life ... but here I'm finding out more. Not so long ago ... seems like it should be centuries, not just one + century ...

@ Yam - it's always interesting to note certain facts ... bringing this sort of thing to life - making us remember how difficult life was for so many ...

@ Steve - tipple in the trifle would be a very good idea. A good trifle is delicious. Immigration was the mainstay of that early population in the Americas, as elsewhere.

I was so interested to read about the different sorts of coal from different parts of the world ... your American coal came from hot steamy swamps, burning rapidly ... while the coal in South Africa burns really hot ... not sure how the British or European coal burns ... Sometimes - we just learn things!

Cheers and good to see you ... let's hope Florence doesn't do too much damage to the east coast - all the best for everyone in her path - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sandra - well that was the way back then ...

@ Sandie - I know any of the big projects cost lives and where conditions weren't at all easy ...

@ Liz - mining is dangerous and makes us think about life back then ...

Thanks for your visits - cheers Hilary

Debby Gies said...

Fascinating article Hilary. Miners certainly risked their lives in more ways than one, especially their lungs! :( Great piece of history. :) xx

Elizabeth Seckman said...

My grandpa started out as a coal miner, but it was hard, dangerous work. He decided he wanted a new career, so he studied to be an electrician. He and my grandma already had four kids, so he would lock himself in the bathroom to get a bit of quiet time.

Lenny Lee said...

wow! how interesting. like some others, i thought "tipple" had to do with drinking hard liquor. never knew it had to do with coal mining.

i had to look it up on Google and definitions only spoke of drinking so i typed in "tipple in coal mining" and got a lot of good information. being a coal miner was and still is a dangerous job. for sure not something i'd want to do.

in Appalachia in the states, primarily West Virginia, coal mining still remains the only profession that sustains families and small towns. i watched a short video that shows a good view of the tipple and surrounding structures. it's in the states. check it out. cool music too. a song called Coal Tipple, Coal Mine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ90RMeUEvI

thanks for another interesting post. i always learn something new from your posts.

M Pax said...

My mother's mother, her family came to the US in the early 1900s. They were coal miners. I wonder if the timing is related.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Debby - those early days ... must have been frightening - but worse if one didn't have a job and thus couldn't feed the family, or oneself ... but lung disease must have been horrible - it still is ...

@ Elizabeth - how interesting that he was able to change trades and had the guts to do it ... and then needed time to get away - my uncle used to go down the garden to the shed to get away from my aunt - they even had no children!! Kids ... I remember how noisy we were - so can understand your grandpa ...

@ Lenny - that's a great video - I'm going to add it at the bottom of the post - cool music as you say. I couldn't resist calling the post that title ... thought it would intrigue ...

It's interesting isn't it - I use Wiki and usually get the answers I want - which I did this time ... and coal mining came up first ... actually mining I think ... but it could be an ore tipple.

I know the Appalachians are a great coal mining area ... and with lots of interesting people living in and around there. It's an area I need to know more about - sometime!

So brilliant comment - and thanks for looking out the video on Coal Tipple - delightful music and song, along with the pictures of the tipple and railroad in Widen, West Virginia ...

@ Mary - I'm sure this is the sort of work your grandparent's family may have been involved in - and I'm sure the timing would have been similar. Each area would have had similar, yet different methodologies - dependent on the type of coal they were mining ...

It is interesting to think back that hundred + years ... so much change in this past century ... thanks so much for all your comments - see how much has happened - cheers Hilary

Nas said...

This is an interesting post about the history of it. Yes, life was so hard back then.

Lynda Dietz said...

Coal mining . . . I don't think we, in the safety of our jobs that are not life-threatening (in most cases), can grasp the daily dangers these men faced, simply going to work.

Fil said...

Very interesting story Hilary - It really makes me shudder to think what those miners did - we visited the mining museum in Northhumberland recently - those kinds of places make it very vivid.

mail4rosey said...

Just the fact that your body would react so negatively to it would make you want to run (regardless of if it leveled out or not after a bit of time). It's amazing how people can/could/and still do in different ways, put money before precious life.

DMS said...

I love how much you are learning about your surroundings! So many interesting places to explore. I can't even imagine going down in a mine and doing work- the conditions sound difficult to say the least. Thank goodness for the people who fought for better working conditions. Thanks for sharing. :)
~Jess

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nas - well it's a microscopic snippet of life in those days - so hard as you say ... especially if we put ourselves in their way of life ...

@ Lynda - you're so right ... we can't possibly relate back to those really terrible, awful, dangerous days of just going to work to earn a penny or two ...

@ Fil - I agree having been down one mine in tourist conditions ... I really don't want to do it again. I imagine the 'new' museum in Northumberland would have been very interesting and I'm sure now with the techie bits they could really bring the exhibits and stories to life ...

@ Rosey - I can't understand how they kept working ... but guess they didn't understand the dangers - other than the fact it was a way of life ... and they had to earn money somehow.

Re putting lives at risk as we work ... I think in so many ways 'we put money before precious life' ... as you suggest ...

@ Jess - well I'm sort of doing what I can while here ... and in this day and age - it's made it easier for the least intrepid of us (me!) to be able to visit various places relatively easily.

Yes, we are lucky that people because they were born in their era were able to get us better working conditions - and it continues on ...

Thanks for visiting and thinking back to our forefathers and their way of life in the 1800 - 1900s ... or earlier in some instances.

Cheers to you all - and I hope everyone and their families and friends are safe ... Hilary

Chrys Fey said...

I almost thought a tipple was a drink. HAHAHA!!!

Sandra Cox said...

That's interesting that the scabs joined the miners' strike. Who'd a thought. I wonder if they were coerced by the miners or felt their loyalty lay with their fellow workers. It couldn't have been easy to walk away from a paycheck.

Pat Hatt said...

Sure has to be quite the bond indeed. Heck, I wouldn't even last 7 hours haha one miserable job indeed.

Trisha F. said...

I learned something new! I always think of the 'little drink of alcohol' but didn't know this alternate meaning of 'tipple'. :)

When I read the original POLDARK series, I got a real feel for how awful working in the mines was - and probably still is!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chris ... it usually is - except in mining situations ... so no wonder you thought in the booze direction...

@ Sandra - they (the scabs) were brought in to break the strike ... but I guess realised or were talked into the situation re the mine - perhaps they also realised it was an awful mine to work in ... regardless of the wages. Those days were just so difficult ...

@ Pat - yes working together they'd have formed a strong bond wouldn't they ... and I so agree - I wouldn't even have got in the cage to go down into the mine in the first place: as you say one miserable job ...

@ Trisha - good to see you ... and once I'd come across this other meaning I thought that it would make a good 'hook'. The Winston Graham books are very Cornish and very well written ... hence so many miners left and opened mines in other countries ... Australia, South Africa, Mexico and the Americas and I'm sure elsewhere ...

Mining now is safer - yet things still happen.

Thanks so much - glad you came across to read about 'tippling' ... cheers Hilary

David Gascoigne said...

I have visited a couple of old mines and the sheer sense of claustrophobia compels me to get back to the surface as quickly as possible. It must have been hell indeed to work in those places. Vancouver Island is one of my most favourite places, but even the most cursory acquaintance with seismology tells you that one day it is going to be devasted by an earthquake and sunami. Some experts conclude that it is imminent as those things go.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ David - I haven't ventured below the surface of old mines ... as I know I wouldn't last long. It must have been awful working in one of those early mines - the camaraderie would be essential for them.

But yes - this place will go up one day ... somehow - earthquake or tsunami. Lots of activity going on around the Pacific Rim of Fire - so no doubt it will happen - if it could hold off for now I'd be grateful!

Thanks for the visit - Hilary