mudcub (mudcub) wrote,

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Sex With Miners

I came across this essay by George Orwell called "The Road to Wigan Pier". Commission in the 1930s by a Socialist book club, Orwell described what it is like working in a coal mine of the time, and the living conditions and lifestyles of the miners.

When you have finally got there--and getting there is a in itself: I
will explain that in a moment--you crawl through the last line of pit
props and see opposite you a shiny black wall three or four feet high. This
is the coal face. Overhead is the smooth ceiling made by the rock from
which the coal has been cut; underneath is the rock again, so that the
gallery you are in is only as high as the ledge of coal itself, probably
not much more than a yard. The first impression of all, overmastering
everything else for a while, is the frightful, deafening din from the
conveyor belt which carries the coal away. You cannot see very far, because
the fog of coal dust throws back the beam of your lamp, but you can see on
either side of you the line of half-naked kneeling men, one to every four
or five yards, driving their shovels under the fallen coal and flinging it
swiftly over their left shoulders. They are feeding it on to the conveyor
belt, a moving rubber, belt a couple of feet wide which runs a yard or two
behind them. Down this belt a glittering river of coal races constantly. In
a big mine it is carrying away several tons of coal every minute. It bears
it off to some place in the main roads where it is shot into tubs holding
half a tun, and thence dragged to the cages and hoisted to the outer air.

It is impossible to watch the 'fillers' at work without feelling a
pang of envy for their toughness. It is a dreadful job that they do, an
almost superhuman job by the standard of an ordinary person. For they are
not only shifting monstrous quantities of coal, they are also doing, it in
a position that doubles or trebles the work. They have got to remain
kneeling all the while--they could hardly rise from their knees without
hitting the ceiling--and you can easily see by trying it what a
tremendous effort this means. Shovelling is comparatively easy when you are
standing up, because you can use your knee and thigh to drive the shovel
along; kneeling down, the whole of the strain is thrown upon your arm and
belly muscles. And the other conditions do not exactly make things easier.
There is the heat--it varies, but in some mines it is suffocating--and
the coal dust that stuffs up your throat and nostrils and collects along
your eyelids, and the unending rattle of the conveyor belt, which in that
confined space is rather like the rattle of a machine gun. But the fillers
look and work as though they were made of iron. They really do look like
iron hammered iron statues--under the smooth coat of coal dust which
clings to them from head to foot. It is only when you see miners down the
mine and naked that you realize what splendid men, they are. Most of them
are small (big men are at a disadvantage in that job) but nearly all of
them have the most noble bodies; wide shoulders tapering to slender supple
waists, and small pronounced buttocks and sinewy thighs, with not an ounce
of waste flesh anywhere. In the hotter mines they wear only a pair of thin
drawers, clogs and knee-pads; in the hottest mines of all, only the clogs
and knee-pads. You can hardly tell by the look of them whether they are
young or old. They may be any age up to sixty or even sixty-five, but when
they are black and naked they all look alike. No one could do their work
who had not a young man's body, and a figure fit for a guardsman at that,
just a few pounds of extra flesh on the waist-line, and the constant
bending would be impossible. You can never forget that spectacle once you
have seen it--the line of bowed, kneeling figures, sooty black all over,
driving their, huge shovels under the coal with stupendous force and speed.
They are on the job for seven and a half hours, theoretically without a
break, for there is no time 'off'. Actually they, snatch a quarter of an
hour or so at some time during the shift to eat the food they have brought
with them, usually a hunk of bread and dripping and a bottle of cold tea.
The first time I was watching the 'fillers' at work I put my hand upon some
dreadful slimy thing among the coal dust. It was a chewed quid of tobacco.
Nearly all the miners chew tobacco, which is said to be good against

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