Out of the mouths of coalminers

The latest edition of Bygones, No. 258, 24th July 2017, features an article on the recently published book Pit-Talk in the East Midlands by Natalie Braber, Claire Ashmore and Suzy Harrison.

The book was the conclusion of a project on pit-talk at Nottingham Trent University, latterly funded by the British Academy.  The book features coalmining terminology and dialect which were collected via oral testimony from 50 former miners who worked in various different geographical locations in the former East Midlands Coalfield. Miners talk varied considerably within the region, not only between different coalfields but sometimes at pits situated near to each other.

Added complications were the effects of migration, especially following the mass migration into the Nottinghamshire Coalfield during the 1960’s, and the effects of full-mechanisation from the late 1950’s.  The National Coal Board (NCB) made an attempt to standardise terminology during the mechanisation of the coal industry but in many cases the miners resisted using these terms and developed mining terms of their own.  For example coal face hydraulic supports were universally known as chocks.

So what is the difference between your ganzi and your yorkies?  These are terms I have certainly never heard in the former NCB South Nottinghamshire Area.  A Ganzi was a coat worn in the pit whilst yorkies were knee strings worn by miners to keep their trouser bottoms out of the mud.

Bygones is a monthly local history and heritage publication by the Nottingham Post.  Editor is former Post journalist, Andy Smart.