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Lyndon Westwood - The Canari Project

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Lyndon Westwood - Oral History Interview


A recording for the Canari project of disabilities in the mining industries taking place at the Disability Can Do offices in Blackwood on the 2nd May 2018.  The interviewee's were Lyndon Westwood and his wife Wendy was also present.



Liz: Can you talk about, please talk to me about yourself, for example where you grew up.



Lyn: I grew up in, I was born in 106 Millbrook Road, Springfield, that’s down the load. I spent 23 years there before I met Wendy and then we had a house in Cwmfelinfach then we finally moved up to the Penllan and basically that’s where we are now, now we are back down to the Springfield, sorry as well but that has been my homelife you’ll, that’s it.



My working life extended from I suppose 8 years old my first job.



Liz: What short of things did you use to do?



Lyn: I 8 years old and 9 year old believe it or not I worked for the Moore’s Brothers down the Mill. Do anyone know the Mill? Yeah, do you know the history about the mill at all?



Other Voice: No, I know there was a Mill down there.



Lyn: Yeah, I used to work for the Moore’s Brothers, down the mill, two lovely gentlemen and their claim to fame was they were the first people in Britain to receive the distress signal on the Titanic and they picked that up in the Mill.



Liz: That’s interesting



Lyn: People know that, that’s actually true.  They worked, they were working because that is actually true. They worked for Edison, they used to pay them so much to retain that



I think it was due to the location, it was a funny location down there because you won’t hear the radio when you go to the Mill Bridge around that area in that road  (Liz: Yeah) so whether that aided them or not I don’ t know but to work for them I used to grind corn, for the pigeon fancies around here and then my job on a Saturday and I used to get six pence for it.  I jump in an old van and drove from the mill up to the welfare Springfield and across the welfare was a damn right? (Liz: Yeah) and the side of the damn was where they extracted the water to run down to the mill when they wanted it operated, so my job…. we have to go across it in the water into the river and with our little bars and we slowly move the concrete and they ‘d say that’s enough water back to the mill and then the mill will start turning and then my job was then delivering packets of corn into the local thing and it worked ever since for me then



Liz: That was from 8 year old



Lyn: 8 year old, because we had no pocket money what we had was 6 pence a week off them.



Liz: It was hard work.



Lyn: Well, yeah but I think everyone else done it as well, you see.



You know my friend had 2 milk rounds I had two paper rounds as well and a milk round to finish it off…. Then on a greengrocers van and I was still doing it now when I was in Oakdale School, we had no pocket money we couldn’t go to mum and dad we were seven of us in the house.



They were seven of us in the house else and in the old dad worked in the mine in Wern Ddu Colliery but I remember when I used to go to school



You’d be at school wouldn’t you and then they'd say put your hands up for the school trip, do you want to go to Austria for a fortnight's skiing then, do you want to go to France on a sail board.  I used to put my hand up all the time.  And I used to take a letter home and give it to Mam and say can I go there and she’d open the letter and say they want 18 pound and I go yeah and she’d said you know what your father earns?  Haven't got a clue Mam.  7 pound a week love so no you're not going to Austria or France, you could go to Barry with a club but you certainly wouldn’t be going to Austria or France.



Liz: It was hard bringing up, was it? You don’t know any different



You said your father worked for the Colliery.



Lyn: Yes 47 years    



Liz: How did this affect family life? Was your mother and yourself worried about him being down there that something would happen?



Lyn: No I think we were a bit too young for it we were fascinated because I think



same time I was about 8 or 9 he took me and my brother down to the Waunddu Colliery we walked down there and he took us down the pit he arranged with the manager to take us down to the pit bottom to see what it's like at the bottom of mines and perhaps that was in my head I don’t know.



I you know just thought it was fascinating, they were dirty all the time and getting paid for it you know what I mean? and that was only the only thing I can truly remember was, well there's two things, I couldn’t work out why our dad went to bed when he came back from day shift see because he'd be in the house at half past three and then have his dinner and then go to bed and I couldn’t work out why dad is going to bed now it was only nearly four o’ clock, in the afternoon in the summer like



and I found out when I started working in the colliery because you would come home and fell asleep eating your dinner it was that hard and you either fell asleep on the table, which is true, or I just used to go on the settee and wake up at 9 o’clock at night and tend to go to bed and then I realized why dad used to go to bed because after walking to work, doing your work, coming back home you had no time to do anything else he was that tired.



Liz: He was absolutely exhausted



Lyn: And the only time I can remember, terrible time, I don’ t know I must have been 9 he come in the kitchen and he came in his dirty clothes and I’ve never seen him, no one ever seen him in his dirty clothes, never used to come home in them because they had the baths



I don’t know what time it was 10 o’ clock 11 or something like that and I kept saying to my Mam why's our Dad home and I said look at that lamp Dad and he had a lamp on and he just said “go away” I got to go back out now there's a lorry picking us up, and I found out after that was the Aberfan like and they was taking all the miners out the pit and taking them to dig the the kids out of the Aberfan but he never spoke of it, there was no word regarding that was the reason why he came home like that, you know, it sticks in your memory, little things like that you know.



Liz: Were you aware of any disability, people with disabilities down the mines.



Lyn: When I was in the mine or before?



Liz: When you were working in the mines.



Lyn: I would say a lot because it was a regular occurrence. Our dad would come home and say to our mam, because obviously all this around here was worked in  Waunddu Colliery the majority of them on a rota like…



And our dad used to come in and go Cyril's had it today, he got buried, he is dead, I would pick up things they didn’t want to tell me or the other kids, they were just talking general, mum because they knew everyone, you know or someone had his arm ripped off, someone had been crushed and that was a common occurrence, that was, it didn't put me off, it just, I was fascinated by it all, you know, because in your mind I couldn't see it.  But when I was there, I see men dead, yes I carried men out that were dead



Liz: Yeah



Lyn: Not a very nice experience I know it was part and parcel of it, you know, because they knew everyone, you know or



Liz: It was the way things were



Lyn: A lot of men had their disability but they went back to work not on the same job but doing a lighter job you know perhaps on pit bottom pressing a switch for the coal to go in nothing so physical like



One guy with one arm  remember it got ripped off he went back to work and he just worked in the lamp room with one arm, because he wouldn’t, like an option today to would be to say I’d be on the sick, good money but he didn’t.  The option was you would go back to work and get as much as you can, yes basically that’s what it was the money then wasn’t compatible to what it is now you know what I mean (Liz: Yeah) but yes I’ve seen a lot of disabilities but I’d say this



I hope noone's offended here.  The funniest one was, it was funny at the time. I forgot his name, Emlyn I think it was anyway we were coming out of the face and emlyn worked the switch you know and we used to ride the belt illegally you know instead of walking three mile he kept the belt going for us and when we got off the last one used to say to the point we're all out now and he'd knock it off and then we'd make our way out of the pit.  As we were walking up he dropped dead and he was sixty four, he couldn’t breath, he had emphysema and we tried to bring him around but no we couldn’t, it was four or five of us unofficially and I know might sound terrible



Anyway we got him out the pit see and then medical man was on top with a stretcher and we carried him down to the medical centre and then of course, this is afternoon shift, you phoned the manager, then we had to phone the police and so anyway we had to jump on our bus in Nantgarw because we had the furthest to go and they were saying come we’ve got to go, we’ve got to go like we're late as it is, we’re driving up the hill and one of the older men said, well I think we’d better turn around and go back and I was asked in this Denis why do I go back far, he said well if we go back he said and we put him in the bus and tell them that he actually died in the bus, his wife will get a thousand pound you see because otherwise you would got nothing so that’s what we did.  So we put him in a bus before we left the pit and that was the way for his wife to have the money.  It was very quick thinking and I still smile to myself today, may sound terrible but I don’t know, is it that bad, no I don’t think so, it it?



Lyn: Oh there were quite a few there, going back to the industrial industry is a lot that happened to me I don’t know if you want to know about it or yes carry on about it or?



Liz: Yes carry on. 



Lyn: Well, the first one, we’d just got married, didn’t we Wend, I got buried on a Friday afternoon we had a roof fall come down and because our face wasn’t flat it was on an incline like that if you can understand that was a seam of coal and I mean steep down there and the whole thing toppled ove and I can remember the feller in front of me said put your helmet on your face because the coal above was so fine it would have suffocated us you know, so I put the thing on there and a stone came down and I know the size it came through a gap and it pinned me in the base of my spine, I couldn’t move nothing, I couldn’t feel nothing I just said I'm dying and then I forget the name, he died after but I had a trainee with me, which we’ve would suppose to keep him three feet from here you know because he’ve done nothing  anything happens you grap him and look after him so that was he was buried and didn’t want to live because his wife was gonna leave him so were were looking at each other he said I’d rather die because of my wife and I was trying not to laugh because I was in so much pain, cut the long story short anyway they got us out and when we went out in the end, it dug us out they said how do you feel and I said and I can’t feel anything from my waist down, I said it’s all numb



There was ambulance on the top of the pit, the biggest black Jamaican doctor I’ve ever seen in my life, he was huge, he wasn’t fat, he was just huge and he was on the top of the pit and said there you are you see, he bent me over and it was a nurse and he said what’s the matter boy, I can’t feel anything I said, I can’t feel anything, right in the ambulance and we'll take you to Caerphilly miners, I said OK, we were in the ambulance anyway, I got into Caerphilly Miners obviously the local hospital, miners hospital and the nurse came and tried to wash me down because I was all black aren’t I head to foot like, so they try to wash me down and it was all running on the floor then the coal dust, he started doing things I said Ι can’t feel nothing, so he said now time is getting on I was supposed to be leaving at quarter to 10 but it was 3 o’ clock in the morning now and he said this is what we are going to do, we are going to take you home, he said and you are going to be lying on your living room floor all night and then I'm going to come up and see you in the morning. That’s where they took me then, anyway they put me in an ambulance, I lived in Cwmfelinfach at the time and then (this is absolutely true by the way I haven't made this up…)  As they drove by I said number 5 by there boy



I said why don’ t you just carry me arm in arm and put me in because I'm tired and I'm hurting and I just want to lie on the floor so they were arm and arm around me, won’t they it must have been 4 o’clock Wend so they knowcked the door and the light went on and she opened the door and she threw a bucket of water over us because she thought I'd been clubbing with the boys and they said what a reception your husband's been buried. 'I thought he went to the club with the boys and they were clubbing' because we'd only just got married and no one from the coal board thought to phone her to tell her that I was buried, strange isn’t it? What do you think? Even funnier part they done my back and two weeks later I was back to work in the same place and I got buried again.  That’s a bit of luck, wouldn’t it in the same place. I’ve woken up here you go again. So that was first thing



Liz:  You didn’t get a bucket of water that time when you got home



Lyn: I didn’t get no no no I didn’t get it there but the trouble was that the management in them days



decided because I was buried and my friend he wouldn’t actually working, they actually deducted pay off us which was pretty good, isn’t it? That’s what they’ve done  I was down on full swift and I was buried till 12 o’clock



that is exactly what happened there and when I questioned the management they said you wasn't working when they were digging you out so they deducted my pay as well



Liz: And you were struck in the mine



Lyn: Yeah



Liz: So what effects has that actually had on your life now today



Lyn: Today, well today you are glad you got me today, today I went for an Industrial Board for my vibration white finger, I've had that since 1981 so through circumstances it actually opened up.



The DWP actually got in touch with my wife and said he should be claiming a pension for his disabilities and I said well I got paid out by the Coal Board   but I said no one mentioned the pension like but apparently I'd been losing thousands upon thousands upon thousands



But I had a medical board independent one by the Coal Board and they found at the time that I had so much on one arm so much on the other arm.   For today I’ve just confirmed it before I come here and they are going to determine whether I got it or I haven't got it.



I got paid by independent people that the Coal Board employed not us, not the union, the Coal Board employed and I don’ think I get anything because of all my other bad health but I’ ve just done it because I was asked to do it that you know what I mean that had affected greatly and especially when I finish here today you’re going to think I am robotic man because I got so much wrong with me, you won’t believe it. My hearing, I'm totally deaf and in that I am about three quarters deaf in that and I have got my hearing aid in now because the batteries are gone, so many batteries have gone, so that was another thing that affected our relationship, not our relationship but you just deteriorate slowly, if you know what I mean, you tried to keep working and working and worked all my life and you keep working and working but then you come to a point where you can’t work anymore (Liz: Yeah) and then all these other things come out, you know



I don’t perhaps these other people have been having pensions for the last forty years, I haven't, because no one told me, you know what I mean, because I was working it doesn’ t mean I'm not disabled…and the of course it's gone, it’s just redundant they are now my arm, that’s just all the power tools underground, you see so ironically we come here after that board today.



As to the result I would imagine it would be a no, because someone will say I don’t think so mate.



Liz: So all your hearing gone and your wife says things behind your back you are not going to hear.



Lyn: I tell you what they do



They’ll turn their face my children and all I can see is them whispering



I know what they are talking about me, and my son says if I was a horse I’d put down but that one other thing except I've got a lot of disabilities from pit yeah



Would I change anything? No I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish I could go back down today I really really do but when I worked down there, there is nothing like it, there is absolutely nothing like it at all.



Liz: I forgot what my last question was. If any of your children ever wanted to go down the mines



Lyn: Definitely not. And I tell you the reason



I remember I left school I was 1 4 actually it was the day of my birthday the 25 August……. so I finished at 14 then I started working for this...



Lorry driving that, I was youngster but I was allowed to drive on Colliery property



It was private so I learned to drive a big lorry, load with coal and take it from one end of the thing and as so



When they shut Waundy colliery most of the miners transferred  into Oakdale but our dad and about 40 others moved to Abertridwr. Right, for whatever reason



Which was a very old fashioned pit when you looked at it, it was very old, in the middle of the town you know, two pubs either side of the walk way going in



You'd see miners in the pub with their lamp off who come up early to have a pint before they went back to have a shower.  And it was that although Dad was working there before we joined with Nantgarrog and one day I got to the lorry I said I ain't doing tis anymore I'd come early it was freezing cold so I walked in and they had a training officer as they were always looking for men so I walked in and there he was and he said “What do you want” I said “are there any jobs here?” “where are you from?”



I said “Pontllanffraith” He said we have a couple of them. “Dad works underground here” I said and he said “what’s his name” I said “Fatty Westwood” “Oh right” he said, fatty westwood,  I said “Yeah”  He called him Fatty Westwood because he was so thin, that ‘s why they called him Fatty Westwood.



“so”he said “can you get up at 3 o’ clock in the morning, I said aye, right he said, Monday, he said next Monday I‘ll send you a letter and you’ll go straight to Britannia training he said you got two months training there and you’ll come back to us”.  I said “all right” and he said how much a week and he said how much do you want a week now boy and I said £5. 50p a week for six days and he said “Oh well you’ll be on 14 quid”



“That will do me I said.



Anyway I went home over see



….?



He said obviously Dad must have got wind that I was starting up there Monday and he said no you're not



I’ve got a message of the training officer and he said there no jobs there, he was mistaken, there are no jobs there. I went off….? But there was a job there but dad didn’t want me to go down so he made that up until he had the other letter and he’d seen the letter and said and I said I am going there dad but I think he was pleased in the end because I’ ve seen a different side of him that I never expected to see in my life, when I see my dad working you know what I mean, it was all private until then, wasn’t it and I think I had my respect went through the roof with him because not only he had to work in the mine, he had to work without saying too much of that, he was respected and worked hard an better than the fellow next to you to achieve that, as he used to say, if you are sweeping a road try to be the best, if you clean the window try to be the best what you do then next is try to be the best and that’s what I’ve done, So it was a very proud experience, that was for me and that’s how I got into the pit,



I would be proud to take someone down at the time of the working mine not like the pretend one up there, the real big deep mines, to show them the way I was



Like my brother-in-law he was from Norfolk he was in the RAF and he came down and our dad arranged for him to come down and see you know and I can remember he came in the house and our dad said you’ve got to come and do the shift it’s not going to be Saturday Sunday, just go down and work it so you actually have to come down with us and he arranged it and then I remember our dad he got in and he got lower and lower and then he said it was a dead end, the tunnel had ended ….? And he said where we are and then it all started, all the coal started the noise, the water, the dust and he just froze and he had fought in the wars but he got frightened and said he couldn’t handle it.



He said you’ve got to take me out and he said I can’t handle this, you know what I mean, it didn’t bother me one bit it would be nice for the kids if I could give them that experience, just to say well this is what dad done, you know and down proud of it as well as was..but as for the other kids no they wouldn’t do it



And I still think if they had the pits open some youngsters would like it whether is right for the health I can’t say this time possibly not but don't forget this country was made on coal so someone had to do it, unless you’ve had nothing, perhaps it’s going to be too deep in their way.



Liz: No, no, no not at all.



 


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