The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

The Banksman at the pit head was responsible for the safety of men going down and up in the cage. He would have been in contact with the winding-man and with his opposite number at the pit bottom they worked as a team using a system of bells to signal one another.

The shift was nearing an end and men were gravitating towards the cage at the pit bottom, once there they sat around chewing the fat, waiting their turn to go up in the cage to the pit head. Everything would be discussed at such gatherings, work, unions, money, or lack of, all very much in good humour.

The talk went around and around until it turned to which pit had the fastest cage. The volume was rising now as everyone wanted to tell their story. Jimmy sat, quietly in the corner, back against the wall, his face giving nothing away.

“Here’s a man that’s worked in the most pit around here in his time, what do you say, Jimmy, what pit has the fastest cage?”

Jimmy thought about it for a wee bit, then went on, I was getting on the cage at the pit bottom of the Number 9 Colliery in Lochgelly, I had forgotten to lift my graith, and asked the lad to hand me in my pick and shovel, at the pit head, the Banksman asked,

“What shovel will that be Jimmy?”.

Spell you name for me

After the Second World War, Britain welcomed many immigrants into the country, they were not only escaping the war but the devastation the war had wrought on their country. We were pleased to have them, for at that time so many young men did not return from the war and take up their old positions here at home.

The new pit at Comrie, in West Fife, would draw in many of those refugees and immigrants, amongst them lads from Poland. Now it happened that a number of Polish workers were sent down to the pit bottom and told to find Jimmy Hamilton, he would instruct them as to their duties.

Jimmy, needing to keep account of those working under him and suspecting that being Polish they would all have a name that would be difficult enough to pronounce far less spell. Jimmy took out his book and with pencil poised asked them to line up and one at a time, spell out their names.

The first did as he was told, S-M-I-T-H, he spelt.

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