Monday, 27 August 2012
Mining Lead in the Dales.
Lead mining used to be one of the main industries in the Dales and evidence of many of the mines still remains - spoil heaps, remains of chimneys and buildings - and they are always in spots which are really so picturesque now.
But conditions for those miners through the centuries must have been appalling. Men lived in pooraccommodation, usually miles from civilisation, worked long hours in cold and wet conditions and earned a pittance.
At the early part of the twentieth century the mines closed when it suddenly became cheaper to import lead from Europe and many miners were left penniless, workless and virtually homeless.
The young, strong men often managed to get their meagre possessions to Liverpool where they set sail for America and what they hoped would be a better life. (There are parts of the States where Yorkshire names remain as a link - e.g. Richmond), others stayed behind and of course many of them would lose their lives in the Great War. As it has always been throughout history - the poor are expendable.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to have a drive to Surrender Bridge and walk along the track to the remains of the Sir Francis mine. The afternoon was glorious; the heather was out; the grouse were calling from the sides of the track and Tess was in her element. She was on the lead as we passed an ominous sign which said "Please keep tight control of children and pets as venomous snakes are active at this time of the year."
Sadly we never reached the mine workings as great black clouds threatened and we only just got back to the car before it rained. But it was a lovely walk and the beauty somehow intensified the feeling of what awful lives these men must have lead.
The stream in the valley bottom was so pretty and there were mosses and wild flowers growing along its banks. But its remoteness of course seems just an attraction in these days of cars. This would not have been so when walking out of the area meant a walk of maybe fifteen miles to get to Richmond, the nearest town.
I wonder what people will be visiting of ours in two hundred years time and marvelling at our old ways.
On a similar subject, there was a brilliant programme on BBC2 last night about a ferryman from the Thames spending a week with a ferryman in Dhaka in Bangladesh - in conditions so indescribable and with a lavatory (if you could call it that) shared by forty people. The dignity and friendliness of the family he stayed with was humbling.