Nottinghamshire black miners' history project launched

image copyrightCoal Authority

A project to record the little known history of black miners has been launched.

Gedling Colliery, in Nottinghamshire, was known as the Pit of Nations, with hundreds of workers drawn from 15 different countries in the 1950s.

image copyrightNottingham Post

While race riots made Nottingham streets dangerous for black people the miners said they were treated as family down the pit.

Historian Norma Gregory is now collating their experiences.

Many of the miners came to the region in the late 1940s and 50s when West Indians were promised work.

image copyrightNottingham Central Library

Not everywhere was welcoming to the new arrivals - former personnel manager Gilbert Hopkinson said mines with pit villages tended to be a closed community.

image copyrightNottingham Post

But, Ms Gregory said that during Gedling's heyday between the 1950s and 1970s, about 10% of the workforce was black, leading to its moniker The Pit of Nations.

And while racism was rife on the surface, with riots in Nottingham making international headlines in 1958, it was too dangerous down the pit not to trust colleagues.

image copyrightNorma Gregory

Garrey Mitchell, pictured above on a visit to a mining museum, worked for eleven years from 1975 and they were not treated any differently to their white colleagues.

"We were like a family down there, we had to look after each other. But when we went back on the surface it was a different story altogether," he said.

image copyrightNottingham News Centre

Calvin Wallace, above, said: "Everybody got to unite. You can't go down there with anything in your heart about Tom, Dick or Harry. You all have to get together."

image copyrightRon Mills

Ms Gregory, the daughter of Jamaican migrants, said she hopes to expand the National Lottery-funded project.

"Since I started to collate and record the work experiences of former Nottinghamshire black miners, I found all the ex-miners, black and white, were willing to share their memories and mining memorabilia.

"They believe that sharing their experiences, somehow keeps coal mining alive."

  • Watch the retired miners in an emotional reunion on Inside Out at 19:30 BST on BBC One in the East Midlands or on iPlayer
image copyrightNottingham News Centre
image captionGedling Colliery's banner gives a hint at the diversity of the miners who worked in the pit

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