FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

The Appalachia Issue

Coal Every Day

Steve Brierly is a coal merchant with a business on Ilkeston Road. We met him outside the chip shop when he was knocking off for the day. The next day we went back to his yard and talked about how the whole industry was screwed.
November 1, 2006, 12:00am

Photo by Alex Sturrock

Steve Brierly is a coal merchant with a business on Ilkeston Road. We met him outside the chip shop when he was knocking off for the day. The next day we went back to his yard and talked about how the whole industry was screwed

got into selling coal because this business used to be my grand-dad’s, and my dad’s. Now it’s mine and my brother’s. The business is going down. The living is going down. The council have changed homes from coal fires to gas fires in the last five years.

When my dad was alive we had three wages but now we only have two. We do enough work to keep it going and we make about £12,000 a year. Which is not a lot these days.

Typically my working day starts about 9 AM. My wife’s not very well so I have to take the kids to school. We’ve got small transit van and big seven and a half tonner to carry these coal bags around with me. They weigh 50 kilos each.

It is tough to keep going. We do a little bit of work for another company that delivers sheds and decking. We do a little bit of work for them in the summer. It just keeps the wheels turning here.

I was born here on this street where the old houses were. There were about 28 houses on this street when I was born. Now there are just four.

The chap who pulled down all the old houses reckoned they were good, with no damp in them or anything but they had no bathrooms. They had a toilet outside. Some did install a bathroom but most of them were pulled down. They built about 70 new houses and flats and everybody moved out of the road.

The Raleigh bike factory used to employ 12,000 people. Now they employ 80. All the parts are made abroad and now it’s just assembly.

The job situation here has definitely changed for the worse. The university employs a few people but it’s only part-time jobs.

You go back to the old times, when you had people who worked at Raleigh and you could walk to work. Now the jobs are all out of town, you’ve got more congestion and more cars. Back then, everybody knew each other. You could leave your doors open. Now I can’t even leave the gates to this coal yard open for a few minutes because somebody will be in here. They’ll just come in and say “they’re just having a good look around.” They’ll be climbing in the back looking into people’s houses and that.

It’s always been poor here but when I was a kid it was never like that. It’s a lack of discipline. You’ve got people who won’t go to school. It’s very difficult with them.

Some of them don’t want a job.

People have changed and they want more money, they don’t want jobs like working at the Raleigh factory. We had this one lad and we offered him a job and he said that he could go and pinch more than that in an hour. When you’ve got that attitude it’s very difficult. With this job, you’re looking at £6 an hour. Which isn’t a lot.

STEVE BRIERLY