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to attend classes at the College one day a week when the new session started, to get his certificates.
The next few years passed in a blur as he progressed both at work and the College. He started at the pit bottom where full hutches were gathered prior to being raised to surface in the cages while the empties rolled off to disappear down the endless rope haulage to the working sections miles away. He progressed further away from the shafts to work on these same haulages, the arteries of the pit, where the flows of coal, supplies and men in never ending streams had to be maintained. He worked on the clipping, the creepers, the snibbling and the coupling. He learned about the subtle differences between direct and endless ropes and how the new main belt conveyors were revolutionising the transport of coal. He got to know the pit worthies by their nicknames, Raggy, Davie Doddle, Shagger, the Crab and Big Eddie who beat the drum in the Salvation Army Band. Getting even closer to the coal face he became one of the "wood laddies" taking the props and supplies right up to the men at the face. Though it was against the rules they crept fearfully into the face to watch the strippers manfully shovelling coal onto the belt and hear the thumps of the explosives as the shotfirer exploded another shot to break up the coal. These were the "real miners" at last, men he could admire, covered in sweat and black grime from the dust. Then there were also the elite, the mine drivers, who advanced the tunnels into new areas of the pit, men who proudly showed off their work in the roads named after them, Hastie's mine or Donald's drift.
So much to see, so much to learn both underground and at the College where he moved on to pass his first certificate in mining. He was on his way.
He served his time in every part of the underground world below the shores and waters of the Forth. He worked on the haulages in 12 east as a supplies workman in 12 west. He completed his face training in no 4 mine then finally became a faceman working the upper leaf of the great seam in 14 west. Experience in working at the face was essential for his future progress. He went through it all, from undercutting the coal with the machinemen on the night shift, boring the holes for blasting, filling the coal on to the moving belt and setting roof supports on the day shift and the brushing and advancing the gate roads on the back shift. At last he could call himself a miner.
Then there was the union. He learned a deep respect for the solidarity of working men against real or imagined grievances. About "them and us", and "unity and strength" and "scabs" and "blacklegs" and "how we had to stick together", all forged in the black days of the thirties amid hunger
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