We recorded the oral historries of the miners after the portrait sessions had taken place.
In all we captured the histories of around 12 miners, 2 miners’ wives and two daughters of miners.
We recorded around 14 hours of oral history. The recording are being edited down for the first exhibition that will open in Rhondda Heritage Park, early 2022.
Portions of them are being used to inspire and as a teaching tool for the young learners in the school and youth group workshops.
Broadly speaking the lives of the miners were characterised by their age and location. The most elderly miners, who are now late ’70’s to 84 years of age, experienced longer periods under-ground prior to mechanisation of the pits. They experienced working as colliers with mandrels, pick and shovel. Safety was less stringent for the older miners, who experienced working, when they were sometimes 14 years old, without any safety gear. what-so-ever Accidents and explosions were also more common place.
The “younger” miners, experienced a life that was “easier” in-so-much as there were more safety measures in place and the unions were much stronger, to guarantee regulations were adhered too. Having said that the life of a collier was always a hard life. Pay was not great, work was hard and strikes were even harder.
Comararderie is the one constant that all the miners mention. They loved their fellow workers and becasue of that they loved (and hated) life undergound!
Talking to the wives and daughters of the miners was extrmely eye-opening and not for the first time, the fact that the women, who stayed at home, feeding, washing clothes and attending to daily chores, also bore an immense burden.
We have some amazing testimonies. We have used several of the miners stories for inspiration in heritage workshops that are taking place in local primary schools. They will also be use in The Last Voices of The Rhondda exhibition itself. Eventually the recordings will be passed onto the South Wales Miners Library.