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The Appalachia Issue

Miner's Welfare

George Mills runs the show down at the Clifton Miner’s Welfare Social Club, deep in the heart of The Meadows area.
Κείμενο George Mills

Photo by Alex Sturrock

George Mills runs the show down at the Clifton Miner’s Welfare Social Club, deep in the heart of The Meadows area.

used to work in Gedling pit in Nottingham in the early 1950s. It was very hard work. This was when miners were on “nine yards” duty with a pick and a shovel.

In the pit you’d be in a hole 3'6" high and you’d have to hack nine yards into the coal. You’d get a good shotfirer to fire into the coal and then you’d chop it into pieces and that’s how you’d get the coal with your pick and shovel. Then you’d put it onto a conveyor belt and it would go back to the coal face. It was very dangerous in them days because the hydraulic pit props had wooden supports. You’d be lying on them thinking “this isn’t very safe” and for all the hard work I used to get paid around £3.50 a week. Now I’m the Entertainment Secretary at the Clifton Miners’ Welfare Institute. It was originally a miners’ welfare building and it was built in 1923 so the miners’ families could come in and use it. After all the pits closed down and the Coal Board no longer sponsored us, we had to change the name from “Welfare Institute” to “Social Club”. Now we’re a charity and we have to do things for the community. We have various functions for the community to come in. We have sequence dancing, line dancing and tae kwon do. We have parties for the kids at Christmas and we have pensioners’ pantomimes. We do a lot of things for the pensioners because it’s no longer exclusively for miners. There aren’t that many miners left, you see. I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I’ve noticed a difference in the area. A lot of people who come here are middle-aged. We’re not attractive to the younger generation unfortunately. They’d rather go to the pubs and clubs. We are noticing that membership is going down and we’re not replacing the members who are dying off with the younger members because the younger people don’t want to come to a working man’s club. They go to the city centre fun pubs, drinking the bottles and the Reefs. They don’t want beer or bitter. They don’t want to come here and listen to the 60s and 70s stuff, they want to listen to the new stuff. I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried discos, karaoke, everything. We’ve tried to play regular, updated rock stuff but the regulars don’t like that. I’ve tried to cater to youngsters but it’s very hard, you can’t please them. It’s a nice place though. It’s well-known on the circuit for the lighting system, which I operate manually. I play to the beat of the music and it’s quite effective. Still, the youngsters don’t come. It’s different these days. They don’t encourage them to go to work. They make it better to stay at home. Kids today, they’re not bothered about working. As long as they’ve got enough money to go into town and get a drink they’re not bothered. But the work isn’t there for them. Not like it used to be. It’s a shame, but that’s society really. GEORGE MILLS