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Home  > Show and Tell  > Victorian child mining: creative writing from Bearsden Primary School

Victorian child mining: creative writing from Bearsden Primary School

March 08 2011

Pupils from Bearsden Primary School have taken up the Show Me challenge to imagine they are Victorian child miners and write about their experiences underground...

Photo © National Coal Mining Museum

Young boy using a pickaxe to mine coal. He is in a cramped position and covered in coal dust.

A day in a life of a trapper
My name Jimmy. I'm a trapper. I open and close the door to let the gas to come out and to let the Drawers come in. I usually wake up at 5 o'clock. I'm up and ready to go down into the mine at 7 o'clock and I go down in the cage. The cage is a big metal cage that takes you down in the mine.

When I'm down in the mine I go to the door, it's really hard to stay awake (did I say its pitch dark.) It's so dark that you can't see your hand in front of you. I earn £25 a year. You're cramped in a small confined space for 12 hours. The drawer pulls the coal; you can hear the drawer a few metres away. There are 15 minutes in between each drawer to come. There's a bird called a canary, it comes into the mine and collapses if the gas is leaking. My uncle was killed being a trapper, he was 11 years. He fell asleep. I hope that does not happen to me.
By Greg Macleod

Mining in Britannia
My name's Jack im ten years old and im a miner. I was going down in the cage and I heard a boom. Then when I turned round and told bob (mi brother) is that oil I smell or is it just me? Nay it smells like poisoned water. When we got to the bottom we saw water. Come on lets follow the way opposite the current said mi older brother bob. So we did then there were rocks covering the track. Must of been the explosion I heard earlier blooming trappers. We should go back said bob. So when we got back to the cage we tugged the rope for them to bring us up but the rich and greedy only care about money so they didnt let us up. So were trapped down here said bob.

Two hours later water was at neck height,and theres still an hour to go and we knew we wernt gonna make it unless we learned to swim but the one thing that surprised us was how easy it was so we made it through the hour and lived to tell the tale.
By Jack Hunter

My job as a Drawer
My name is Benji Mctavish. I am ten years old and my job is a drawer. Every day I get up at 5:00am. Every single morning I am very cautious to get up because I always think I could die. But I have to work because our family need the money desperately.

My whole family have all been drawers. My dad unfortunately died because he got crushed, the roof of the mine fell on him. I've got two brothers one of them is called Billy and the other one is called Joe.

When we go down the mine we bring down a canary with us because if they collapse in the cage that means that we have to hurry and get out fast or we will die soon.

On the other side of the mine there is a trapper and he opens and closes the door to let out the toxics and if he doesn't do that properly we could die or he could get trampled by a horse cart.

Also you would not want to go in that mine it is so cramped and the smell is horrendous and it is filthy. There is sewage down there and my trouser legs are always really damp at the end of my shift.
By Mackenzie Baldie

My life as a Drawer
Firstly I wake up for another day of pure hell and scramble out of my small bed. Then I get ready for my twelve hour day. When I wake up I can't see light and when work finally ends the sun is gone.

When I arrive at the mine I go down in a cage with the other drawers. Then we have to go and collect our carts which we painfully have to pull around a small everlasting tunnel with a chain around my waist. Often on the job the carts are so heavy and so tiring to pull around I fall asleep or even worst collapse. Then my boss is not happy. Every tiny bit of coal that gets thrown on the cart feels like a horse falling on my back. Then I have to crawl painfully on my knees across the treacherous stones in the tiny space that I have to move in.

Finally, the day is over and I can go back home even though I feel horrible and can hardly speak from all the coal fumes.
By Catriona

My Working Life
My name is Oliver and I'm a trapper. I work from three am to nine pm and I am only ten.

When I leave in the morning the sun has not come up yet, but when I come back from work the sun has already gone down. Once I get to work I go down the cage and go to my door.

The mine is a very cramped and gloomy place. Lots of children that do my job are in risk of dying, either from getting ill or falling asleep and getting squished by a cart.

The only reason I'm in the job is because my family need money. I work at the mine, my brother works at the factory and my mother works in the mill. My father died two years ago in a mining accident. My brother couldn't find any other jobs for me so I had to go to the mine.

Normally when I go down to the mine I wear ragged clothes and my cap but on Sundays I wear my best clothes for church. I walk to work with my friends. Most of them have died.

Everyone says it will be me next, but I won't die. I have to help my mother and brother.
By Natalie Smart

The Coal Mine
It was dark, cold and damp. Most days weren't as dark as this. I would usually see a small fraction of light, and that would make my day. But the rain and clouds were blocking any light from getting into this misty mine. My name's Hector Shaw, I'm 11 years old and I'm a miner...

I was dirty and tired. I had been told to chisel down the biggest wall in the mine, with my stupid blunt pick-axe. I was terrified at this wall. I started reluctantly, and it seemed to be okay.

2 hours later, I was exhausted and angry. I took one mighty blow at the wall, and it started to crumble. Rocks fell on me, and within seconds the whole wall collapsed on top of me!

I tried to scream, but I was too frightened. I scrambled through the rocks, trying to find a way. I finally crawled through a small space, leading out of the rocks. I stumbled out, but I seemed to be past the wall. It was a fairly large space, but a dead end...

There was a small, what seemed like a pond in the middle. Suddenly, a white spirit came out of the pond, and glided towards me! It all seemed so quick then...

I woke up in my small bed. My mum was crying at my side. "I thought you were dead!" said my mum with relief. At the door was my workmates, smiling at me. "You should take a few days off work" said my workmate. "I can help you with money and supplies." "Oh, thank you" said my mum. She turned to me. "I'm okay now, mum" I whispered.
By Hector Shaw

The Coal Mine
It was an early morning at least five o'clock but I had to get up for work. I am a trapper. My mum couldn't afford for all my brothers and sisters and me to go to school. As I walked into the kitchen I could tell it was bread for breakfast. We always have bread. The bread was mouldy and had been off for at least two weeks. After I had had my breakfast I said goodbye to my mum and went to work. I would have much rather have gone to school but unfortunately I work.

When I got to where I work, I went down to the door and I looked at the everlasting tunnel getting darker and darker. As the door shut you couldn't even see your feet. It was pitch black. I was always so cold and wet as soon as I went down. All I did for a whole twelve hours was listening to hear carts creaking and let them through the door.

I'm always worried if I fall asleep and get crushed in such a narrow space it's easy to get crushed. It's so dangerous especially if a cart ran over you. I then saw the door open and I knew that meant that work was done.

As I came out I saw I was filthy and I had cut myself while opening the door. It's so frightening and I don't want to go down again but I have to.
By Rebecca Munro

Victorian story
It was a normal day. I woke up at 6am and set off to the mine. I work as a trapper. I got to the mine at 7am. I think it's a bit early when I get to the mine I am really tired so I try not to stagger down the mine.

When I am inside the mine its dark, damp, narrow and cramped its also very tight and filthy. Breathing inside the mine is very hard because there is a lot of dust and bugs. It can be very dangerous in a mine as well.

Eventually I lost track of time. It gets creepy and frightening down there. I get tired and scared encase I fall asleep in the mine and get crushed. All I can think about is the end of the day. It had been 10 hours in to my shift. I thought it's nearly the end of this. 1 hour later I am not alive any more.
By Hannah McCurdy

Working as a Trapper
2ND OF MAY 1856. The day has arrived. It's my first time working as a trapper. I am exceptionally nervous. I quickly get my tatty old clothes on then kiss my mum goodbye. I have to leave early because I have to walk 2 miles to get to the mine shaft.

When I arrive I go down in the cage, it takes you down to the bottom of the mine. When I reach the floor of the mine I get straight to work. It's a 4 hour shift so I will get very tired but I can't fall asleep because I could get squashed by the carts. The first cart comes up after 15 minutes.

When the cart comes up the man that's pushing it says "It's your first time and you're doing very well lad." But then suddenly the man says "GAS GAS." So I try and get out of the mine but there is a vast rock that is blocking the way out. I try pushing it but it is too heavy. I started to feel woozy and then fall asleep....
By Iona

Me in the mine
Hi I am Carlo. I work in the mines. I am a trapper I have to wake up at 4AM. I have to be in the mines by 7am sharp. If I am even 1 minute late I will be fired and if I am fired my family will have no food or drinks and then they would all die.

I walk to work. It is only 25 minutes away from my house. When I get to work I am feeling very sad because my dad died of a silly explosion. I was starting to cry but that's life my mother always used to say to me. I went down and down and down in the cage and went to my door there was a rumour that was going round saying there was going to be an explosion. I fell for it. I was very scared. I had to stand here for 12 hours. All my friends fell asleep and died. I was very cheerless and I wanted to go home. I heard my dads spooky voice saying "THERE IS AN EXPLOSION RUN RUN RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" And then I saw him and his friends ghosts. Bob and Billy wanted to come through they were bullies to me. They always wanted me to die. I was getting very tired and claustrophobic. My day at the mines was coming to an end and I was looking forward to going home.
By Anurudh Dade

My Day at Work
My name is Courtney. I am 10 years old and I work as a trapper. I wake up at 6:00am and I get up and have breakfast and go to work.

First I go down by a cage after that I sit down and open and close the door. I go with my mum and dad and we walk to the mine.

Suddenly, the water started to raise Suddenly i felt scared as the water raised really high it was like the sea! After that everyone ran out and then it started to dry out. Then it was getting really late and i had 15 minutes to go.

I was walking home with my mum and dad and then we went home and had dinner.

The next day I had to get up at 7:00am and work for 12 hours again. So I walked to work again, soon after I had to open and close the doors again.
By Courtney Trotter

My job as a Drawer
My name is Billy Mctavish, and I am 8 years old and I work as a drawer. I pull extremely heavy coal carts along a dark, narrow, mysterious tunnel, and I usually work 12 hours a day.

Sometimes, I hear crashing or banging noises and I get terrified. I have to go down to the mine in a rusty, old, creaking cage, and I get frightened in case it breaks or falls down. The smell in the mine is disgusting, and sometimes I have to cover my nose.

This morning my brothers Jamie and Joe ran into my cramped room and shouted '' GET UP, WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE!"

I immediately got up, skipped breakfast, and went to the mine.

When I was In the cage going down to the mine, I remembered I was in for another day of danger, pain and being frightened. Then I started to cry.............

In about the middle of the day, I heard a crack in the roof, and water started pouring through. In a matter of seconds the water was up to my ankles. I sprinted through the mine and warned my brothers, then we tried to find a way out of the mine......

After 5 minutes the water was up to my chest, and it seemed that the tunnel went on forever... but, then we saw light and just before the dirty water was up to my nose, we pushed open a wooden trap door and escaped from the mine!

That night, me and my brothers were proud that we escaped from the mine, and my brother Joe was bragging for most of the night, but I didn't care, and I just went to sleep.
By Theo Ramage

My Life as a Trapper
It all started off on an early, dark Tuesday morning at 5 o'clock. I had a small piece of stale bread. My mother gave me a hug and said with a worried voice "good luck and be careful!"

I walked out the house, the only reason mother was so worried was because father died in the mine.I walked through the thin, dull streets until I reached the cage. The cage is big metal and wooden cage that lowers the Miners and Trappers down the mine. Jimmy, my brother greeted me and told me not to be so worried. We both walked into the cage, as we got lowered down into the mine my nerves went crazy, I breathed my last breath of fresh air.

Suddenly everything went dark, my hands were shaking but Jimmy's voice calmed me a little but I was still terrified. We had reached the bottom of the mine. I got out the cage and went behind the door, Jimmy started to tell me instructions and told me not to have a nap otherwise I would get squashed. But I was not listening and was totally oblivious to what he was saying. I was just thinking of the responsibility I had and what if I fell asleep and the mine exploded.

Then Jimmy walked away and everything went silent. I looked around and I couldn't hear or see anything. But then suddenly I heard someone shouting but I couldn't hear them, it sounded like Jimmy but I didn't know what to do so I looked down the coal mine but it was pitch black. But all at once the ground started to shake and then the roof collapsed and a huge block of coal hit my head and I fell over.

I heard voices; I woke up on my bed. My Mother started to speak "I'm so glad you are awake!" "But how did I get here?" I said well your brother saved you" She said proudly. "Thank you" I said to my brother "It's ok I'm just glad you are ok!"
By Joanna Anderson

The Coal Mine
5 Am. I woke up. I quickly put on my ragged clothes. Afterwards I made my way over to my mother. I kissed her goodbye and set off into the grimy streets of London.

It was pouring with rain although I had on my bonnet, it didn't do a very good job because it was my grandmother's when she was my age.

When I eventually got to the mine I got in to the cage. I had butterflies in my stomach. I had been into the mine plenty of times before, but this time it felt different like something bad was going to happen.

Rumbling! I heard rumbling. I didn't know what it was but I did know what it was but I did know that I wanted to get out of the mine! I tried to unlock the door but I couldn't because it was locked!

Suddenly I the roof came tumbling down and I was surrounded by bits of rubble and I started to cough. Would someone save me?
By Katie Lennon

The Trapper
I woke up at half five in the morning in my dull, dark, scabby room. My covers were half ripped. I have to share a room with my little sisters who are one and two. My older brothers have to share a room (I have three older brothers). My other little sister shares a room with my older sisters (I have two older sisters). By the state of my room you can probably tell I'm poor.

Today I have to go to a new job as a trapper. I'm not to happy about it because thousands of people have died been down there in fact my own older brother died because he fell asleep and got trappeld on by a horse I was only three at the time it's been six years since my brother died.

At last I set off a half past six to get to my job on time I start at seven o'clock if we are early we get more money so my mum wants me to leave at quarter to six.

I got to the mine I started to feel nauseous and depressed but the work had to be done. I went down into the dark, creepy and mysterious mine. When I got down I had to quickly open and close the door it got to noon and I was half asleep then eventually I fell asleep and luckily I woke up at five in the night I had two more hours to go of my work but eventually time past and I had to go home but my point is that I really hate my job.
By Jennifer Wilson

Victorian Story
My name is Kirsty MacDonald. I am 11 years old and I'm a trapper. I wake up at 5am so that I'm there for 6. I work a 12 hour shift. I get tired and if I fall asleep doing my job I may die. I don't go to school because I work too long. Unfortunately, I need to get money so that I can pay for food and everything else.

On my first day of work I was showed a little of the mine. Believe me it is super scary. You see all these people with black faces and people with cuts, bruises and blood. It's just like a nightmare. I could also see birds, they were Canaries. My boss said to me "you need to work hard and if a Canary dies we need to get out!" "Ok sir", I said. So I set off to work.

I went to the door, I had to shut. This was the most used door. So I had to open it and shut it quite often. I sit beside the door all day. After a while a person came. I smelt a funny smell. I said to the drawer, "Isn't there a funny smell?" "No it's probably you getting used to the smell the mine has." "Ok" I said. The drawer carried on walking.

Suddenly, I heard someone screaming. But I thought I was just hearing things. I heard someone screaming "Help!" this time. Then it got louder and louder. I could hear everlasting footsteps. I opened the door to have a look. All I could see was creepy black dots then BANG. Something exploded and the next thing I knew. I was getting trampled on by people.
By Kirsty Donaldson

My mysterious day of work as a trapper
As usual I start every day of my life by waking up 5am. I get on my scrappy ragged clothes, have a half of bread and get down to the coal mine for my 12 hour day of work. When I got there my boss iss already moaning and groaning at 13 minutes past 7.I sigh. Next I make my way down to the coal mine and get ready for 12 hours of opening and closing a door. Uhh.

I suddenly turned round and there strike danger! I panic. "Ah!" I scream whilst running out of the mine. While I am running out of the mine I say to my boss "Run there's danger coming ". "Ok everyone OUT!" he shouts. Eventually everyone makes it out of the claustrophobic mine as well as we have to stand in a little cramped room waiting until the danger has gone.

Before we know it the 12 hours have gone and I make it back home in time for my other half of bread.
By Claudia Tait

Coal mine 965
My name is John I am ten years old and I work in the mine. I start work at 5:30am and finish work at 8:30pm. Today I go down with my brother Joe. Joe is four years older than me and fifteen in two weeks. Joe works in the mine as a drawer and gets paid seven pence I only get paid four pence but money's money. I get in the cage and we get lowered down into the mine. My first impressions a year ago were gloomy stiff mucky and shadowy but now it seems much better. I get out of the cage and me and Joe and start walking to our jobs. A girl called Victoria shares jutes with me every so often and she was in the mine today. It is quite damp in the mine which means it was raining last night.
Victoria says she will take over so that I can have a break next. I belt out of the mine as quick as possible to go home and have lunch. At ten o'clock I come back down to the mine. It's been raining out side so I am shocked when I come back in and it is dreadfully wet on the soil. If the water goes up to our shins then we get out of here. Soon the boss calls me and seven others including Joe and Jamie who is my grandfather. He tells us about the importance of being in the mine and what he expects of us. He also says that if we do our new drills then we will have a massive pay rise of 10p which would be great it would mean we mite get pudding. At last I was off jutes for two minutes. When my minutes were up I set off back to the mine where I was shouting for Victoria but she did not open. After ten seconds she did open but then BANG! I died.
By Jasper Huntley

The Dark Day
I am a drawer, I pull the cart full of coal it is so heavy. I also work 12 hours a day and I am about to tell you about a day not like any other. It all started when...

One day I was asleep on my cushion because my family can't afford a proper bed. My mum woke me up and she said "wake up and get to that mine!"

I slowly plodded out of bed and said "wake up!" to my sister. She slowly got out of bed the 2 of us wander down to the mine. I jumped down the mine and began drawing coal for 5 hours. I was so sleepy I took a 2 minutes breather and I heard a loud deafening rumble and knew some thing was not right, I screamed "something is wrong!!"

Everybody came pouring out the mine and I saw my boss coming and he said "Well done, you saved everyone from the mine with your quick thinking!"

I noticed that my friend was gone…she was still in the mine! I was very nervous in case I got stuck but I had to help my friend. I jumped back into the mine that was overflowing with oil. The mine was thick with yellow water and smelt like mouldy wet coal. I saw my friend buried in the coal I dug her out and carried her out of the mine.

When we reached the surface, I was very out of breath but it was all worth it as my boss said "Well done!" I got an extra day off work.
By Megan Howie

Coal mine tragedy retold
It was a cold Monday morning when the disaster happened. It was a cold Monday morning I woke up 4:00 am in the morning to go to work for my 12 hour shift I started my work at 6 o' clock and I am with memories in my head of what happened last month there were 2 miners mining and then BASH!!! and there was a gas leak the 2 miners did not get out in time so they died.

As soon as I got down the mine there were 2 drawers ready and waiting with a load of coal so I let them out about 30 minutes later I thought there was a gas leak so I opened the trap door but it was only me .About half past 2 in the afternoon and again I thought I could a gas leak again by this point the 2 drawers were here again and I was getting quite annoyed because the trap door would not budge and the gas smell was getting much stronger and then and then it was almost unlocked then BANG BASH KABOOM!!! the trap door unlocked and we got out well I got out alive but the 2 drawers did not .I had a broken leg and arm I could not go to work for a year! When I eventually got back to work I was very anxious it might happen again but it did not.
By Iain Lambie

The Mine
This story starts at a small Broken down house my house actually. It is Wednesday and I am on my way to work although I am only 13 years old. I have been going to work for 2 years I don't mind besides they give me a reasonable wage of 10 pence for 12 hours a day. I get more than a trapper because a drawer has to carry a heavy cart around all day long.

"Emily" my mother called "I know you're not allowed food but you need lunch. It's a bit of stale bread it should keep you going" she said.

"Thanks mum I say smiling but as I walk away I hear someone crying. She does it every time I know she's just scared but if I comfort her, I will start to cry to. When I eventually get to the mine I go straight to the mechanical cage. I think to myself what if this is the last time I go into it...but a large bang interrupted my thoughts and the cage door swung upon. I got straight to work the miner filled it up almost immediately. I thanked him and then from that moment on the hard work started. After an hour or so I stopped myself this was my third round of coal. My feet were started to get sore and it was getting harder to see. I lifted my light I couldn't wait till this twelve hours were over I finally carried on. I could feel the cold breeze of outside I knew were I was now I was near a door. "Coming through" I say "open the door" I called. I started coughing. When was the last time they opened the door as the gas is filling up. Then it hit me. I knew what was going on. I felt my way to the door but it was no use. I didn't know how to use it. I started praying. With all your might God please save me I don't want to die young. But if this is my final hours then mum I love you and all my family. Then I fell asleep.
By Bethan Chalmers

Coal mine
Hello I am 10 years old I'm nearly 11soon but anyway my name is Ronaldo. I am a Trapper I work 3 to 12 hours my family or poor but about in 2 years I think my Family are poor but about in 2 years I think my family will be middle class But for now I'll just have to wait. OH I've got to go to my job and Fast.

Now I've got here. "You're just in time!" - That's my Boss Jake. He's nice and fine . Time to get the job done. Next I get put in the cage. It gets Frightening sometime on the job. Next I have to open the door. Four other miners I see everyday But one day I came to work. Next everything seemed fine until a blow up of gas came and then it went BOOM. Then I was hurt and badly hurt and I could of died. Now I am just FINE but sadly I cannot work.
By Arlo McCurley

The Coal Day
Hello my name is Lily. I'm 11 years old. Today is my first day at work, my job is a miner.

"Come on Lily you're going to be late for work" Cried my mum.

"Alright mum I won't be late today" I said.

It was 7:37 at 8 o'clock I have to be ready for the day ahead. I quickly ate my breakfast and ran out the house. I was 3 minutes late, but no one was there except my boss. He looked angry "It 8:27" he shouted, but then I asked him why was no-one there?

"You were to go down the mine half an hour ago" he replied.

He put me with another girl who was late as well into an extra cage he had. So we went down into the dark, creepy mine. I heard footsteps of someone. It was scary, then I heard rumbling it grew louder and louder someone was screaming then stopped when the rumble finished. I knew a person had died. So then we hurried and got lots and lots of coal so that we don't have to get more just in case we die.

Then the girl said "I can hear water."

"Me too" I whispered.

It grew and grew up till our necks. We climbed up the cage rope and went up. Everyone was staring at us.

"One more hour left" my boss said.

We explained what was happening. Then he dragged us out. He told us to go home and not come back, he didn't believe us.
By Nurges Al - Mussawi

My First Day In A Coal Mine
My name is Grant Smith I'm 10 years old and I'm a trapper. It's my first day being a trapper and I'm very scared. My dad died down there and I'm not willing for me to die down there as well. Anyway I have to do my job or my family will not have any money. My big brother Michael gets paid 10 sixpences a day so we are very short on money. My mum is called Carolynn she has to do all the cleaning and washing at home and also works very long hours in the mill.

So it's my first day I'm really scared and sort of existed "Right Grant time to go in. ""Ok sir!" That is my boss called William he gives me all sorts of jobs to do in the mine. "Grant time to go in!" "yes sir, coming sir" "Grant close the door!" he shouted "yes sir!" bang it was shut I could not see a thing I could just here the rattling of the cart coming. "Grant open the door!" "Yes sir!" I said nervously. "Good job Grant, I will give you five sixpences and if you keep it up I will give you 10!"

It is getting near the end of my shift. "One more time right grant open the door yes sir ok open right close the door the again I could not see a thing still all here was the rattling of the cart grant open the door yes sir open ok grant close it know yes sir. you can come out know. thank you sir .You have earned 10 sixpence well done thank you sir good bye so my name is Grant Smith and I'm a trapper.
By Grant Smith

Many thanks to Miss Livia and the class of P6 at Bearsden Primary School for emailing in their wonderful accounts.

Why not take up the Show Me challenge too? Get in touch with your miner's account.

You can find out more about the terrible working conditions for Victorian children down the mines and see pictures and photos in our Miners' stories from Echline Primary School.

There are loads of great museums where you can discover more about the history of coal mining. Here are just a few:

National Coal Mining Museum for England, Yorkshire
Woodhorn Colliery Museum, Northumberland
Haig Colliery Mining Museum, Cumbria
Astley Green Colliery Museum, Lancashire
Snibston Discovery Park, Leicestershire
Radstock Museum, North Somerset
Big Pit (National Mining Museum of Wales), Torfaen
Elliott Colliery Winding House, New Tredegar
Scottish Mining Museum, Newtongrange

By Rachel Hayward