Sunday, April 15, 2007
You wouldn't get ME down a pit on that money
a sort-out. I've no idea why it was in there - on the back it looks like it was
used as scrap paper for keeping score in a game between two mysterious people, "R" and "D".
The underground wage for a 15 year old in 1951 was 59 shillings and sixpence (half a shilling shy of £3) a week. At 21 this reached £6 7s, or 127/-, which translates to £6.35 in post-decimalisation terms. Allowing for inflation (which, in the 50 years since 1951, has totalled 1784%), that's £119.63 a week in 2001 money. That works out as an annual wage of £6,220.76, which is less than the current minimum wage for someone under 22 years of age. And that was in a time when Harold Macmillan said that "most of our people have never had it so good".
Also, have a look at the bottom - the piece of paper was part of a leaflet called "The Skilled Man the Nation will Always Need". At its peak during World War II there were over one million miners working in 958 mines.
- Twenty years later - 280,000 coal miners go on strike and the Heath government introduces power cuts and the 3-day working week. I remember, as a 7 year old, that we had to light the rooms with candles - what household now has candles apart from the sort that go on top of cakes?
- Thirty years later - the Coal Board announces major pit closures and it's the beginning of the end for the remaining 190,000 skilled men. I was at Swansea University in 1984 when the taxi driver David Wilkie was killed. Not a great time for people living in the Valleys; in fact South Wales as a whole wasn't doing particularly well.
- Forty years later - Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, announced up to 31 out of 50 remaining deep mines faced closure.
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