Fig 1: Vicars Water, Clipstone, in the late 1960’s: Photo: Chad Newspaper
Coal, Community and Change (1965-2015)
Miners Welfare Fishing Club Memories
Competition fishing has a long association with the coalmining industry. On 5th September 1903, an amazing 138 people went on the Annesley Colliery Fishing Club outing by train to Redmile on the Grantham Canal, with Alf Dexter from Newstead winning the first prize. On 7th September 1907, the club returned to the same venue and a very poor day was reported with only seven fish being caught.
Many of the Miners Welfare Fishing Clubs were established in the 1950’s and early 1960’s following the formation of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) in 1952. CISWO was a successor to the Miners Welfare Commission and was established as a limited company, being a partnership between the National Coal Board (NCB) and the coalmining trade unions to address the welfare of employees and their dependants ‘beyond the colliery gate’. In 1995, following the reprivatisation of the coal industry, a successor body, also called CISWO, was established as a charity.
Fig 2: CISWO Offices, Berry Hill, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. – 2018.
My introduction to coarse fishing was in 1968 at the age of 11 during the summer in which I had finished Primary School education and was due to start Secondary School Education in September. My first ever fishing trip was to the Fens with East Kirkby Miners Welfare Angling Club, a section of the Miners Welfare at Kirkby Summit, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. Ironically this was the year which the Kirkby Summit pit closed, sending shock waves through the local mining community. The fishing match was on the Middle Level Drain at Crooked Chimney near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
Fig 3: East Kirkby Miners Welfare Angling Society Membership Card – 1970
By the early 1970’s, I had joined Newstead Miners Welfare Angling Club (NMWAC) as a Junior-Member. At Newstead I would progress through the ranks, from a junior member (under 15), intermediate (15-18), senior (over 18) and finally become Club Secretary in the late 1980’s. I won my first fishing match in 1975 on the North Bank of the River Nene at Peterborough. In 1986, the Newstead and Annesley Miners Welfare Clubs amalgamated to form the Newstead and Annesley Miners Welfare Angling Club.
Fig 4: Newstead Colliery Village – 1970’s.
Getting the Bug and Trips Out
My Stepdad got me interested in fishing and soon I got the bug. He was a Ripper at Newstead Colliery, later working at Annesley Colliery, he and my Mum married in 1970. I brought my first rod and reel, a six-foot boy’s road and Intrepid Black Prince fixed spool reel, plus all the associated gear, floats, lead shots and hooks, from Suggs Sports Shop, Kingsway, Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Eventually my Stepdad gave me a 12ft split cane rod, my first fishing proper rod. By nowadays standards, it weighed a ton!
Club fishing matches took place from the first Sunday following the 16 June, the opening day for coarse fishing known as the ‘glorious sixteenth’ and carried on until early December, in total twenty-four matches. A presentation evening took place every April at the Miners Welfare Institute when the Colliery Manager would be invited to present the trophies and prizes. During the summer month’s away matches included trips to venues including the River Nene around Peterborough, the River Welland around Spalding, various drains in the Fens in Cambridgeshire and the River Witham and Drains around Boston in Lincolnshire. From September, when the nights were drawing in, matches would revert to the local River Trent between Nottingham and Newark. These were referred to as home matches.
Fig 5: Newstead Miners Welfare Angling Club Match list – 1974
Forty to fifty pegs (fishing spots) were pre-booked by the Club Secretary the previous year. Subscriptions and distribution of fishing club membership books and match fixtures would be at a meeting in early June, two weeks prior to the first match. Sometimes if there wasn’t enough pegs to go around, a small junior section would have several lads fishing in it. Alternatively, young lads would sit with their Dads, fishing at the side of them, learning the ropes and tricks of the trade! Eventually, if you got a reputation for being a good angler, you would be referred to as being a ‘Crack’! Some of the lads who fished with Newstead MWAC went on to be decent competition anglers on the open-match scene.
Fig 6: Newstead and Annesley Miners Welfare Angling Club Annual Presentation – April 1989.
The Bank Bobby
The fishing club would employ the services of a ‘bank bobby’. His job was to ensure the anglers got to their pegs, start and finish the match by blowing a whistle and weigh the fish in at the end of the match. At Newstead MWAC, Rex Pearl, son of the Club Secretary and founder member Bill Pearl, was bank bobby and he was superseded by Mick Kidger (Kidg) in the early 1970’s. Kidg was a right character, out of travellers stock, who took the junior members ‘under the wing’, often ribbing them mercilessly as part of the induction to real life. We remained friends for well over forty years until he passed away in 2018, aged 73.
Fig 7: Mick Kidger (left) former Bank Bobby for Newstead Miners Welfare Angling Club with former Club Secretary, David Amos – Badger Box, Annesley. 2012.
The Match Fishing Bus Trip
Transport was by local coach companies, Newstead Miners Welfare Angling Club (MWAC) used Barton Buses from Chilwell. It was a usual site to see other coaches, crammed full of anglers with their fishing tackle, all heading out east for the day. It was a full day, pick up times were 5.30am – 6am around local pit villages and you didn’t get home until the early evening. Sometimes you would see members of other local clubs on match stretches at rivers far from home and occasionally the bus would seem to almost tip over on one side if a famous match-angler was spotted on the riverbank!
Sweepstakes and bus-fares were paid on the coach en-route and it was often the case that the remains of a buffet from the previous evening at the Miners Welfare Institute went around the coach and were devoured by the miners like a set of gannets! The match winner, second, third and section winners were all paid their monies on the way home and the conversation would be about who had caught what, when and how.
Fig 8: Barton Buses – these took forty anglers & all their fishing tackle to the match venues.
Fishing Trips – Lads Day’s Out
Friendships were soon forged; still to this day I fish on a regular basis with friends who have been fishing buddies for over forty years. In addition to the Miners Welfare Club days out, we started going on lads fishing trips during school holidays. Early fishing outings as lads would be to the River Trent at Fiskerton which involved catching a 6.15am Trent Bus at Kirkby to Mansfield and then transferring to a single decker Mansfield to Newark service (Midland General) which dropped off at the various villages by the river.
Another popular day out was to Codnor Park and Butterley Reservoirs in Derbyshire. This would involve a return trip on the Midland General B7 service from Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Many a time a bus-driver would pull around the corner at Kirkby Nags Head and give out a cry of despair as he saw a group of six lads compete with rod holdalls, wicker baskets and bait bags waiting at the bus stop! There wasn’t much space on the bus to put all the fishing tackle!
Fig 9: Codnor Park Reservoir, Ironville, Derbyshire, in 1982 – Photo – D. Amos
Learning the Tricks of the Trade
Old timers would teach you how to fish, using various techniques and different baits. At Codnor Park Reservoir one old time angler taught me how to mix cheese paste, one of the favourite summer baits at the time for tench. Despite changes in fishing methods over the years and the development of commercial fisheries dominated by carp, I still adhere to the three tips an old timer at the Newstead MWAC gave me many years ago;
- So long as the float goes under, it doesn’t matter what is on the end!
- When you have decided where you are going to fish, you have to take what is going in front of you on that day, whether it be 50lbs of fish or 5lbs!
- A bad days fishing is better than a good day a work!
These guidelines have stood me well for a lifetimes fishing.
Researcher – Nottingham Trent University (2019)
Dealing with the Past: Coal, Community and Change (1965 – 2015)
Fig 10: The author, three tench for 13lbs, Popham’s Eau, Cambridgeshire – 1987.
Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (East Midlands) – Information Booklet
The Diaries of Wm Richmond Snr and Thos Richmond, Newstead Colliery Village, 1888 – 1945.
Coarse Fishing at Shipley Country Park, Derbyshire County Council Booklet, 1978.
Collection of Miners Welfare Angling Memorabilia belonging to D.Amos.