Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, one of several readers and contributors without whom this blog would be nothing at all, has something to say, and I think we need to listen. Carefully.
There’s something disturbing him, and me, in the way some mining history is being presented. Pete, you’ll recall, has flagged up some discrepancies between events, as recorded by the press of the time, and the way those same events are related in modern day mining history books.
We all realise, I hope, that just as history is written by the victorious, historians can often spin, or love their chosen subject a little too much.
Both I and Peter would be interested in your thoughts.
Peter asks the following:
As readers of the Blog will no doubt realise, I have developed a somewhat obsessive interest in the Harrison Dynasty. To quote from one of the publications by the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society…
The Harrison family were once at the forefront of mining and colliery management and had participated strongly in the affairs of local justice and military life. Their mines not only changed the landscape of Brownhills Common, Wyrley Common, Landywood and South Cannock areas whilst the pits were working but also they gave employment to thousands, provided housing, a way of life and finance to the community from 1849 to 1947, some 98 years.
The questions arising from the above quote are many. For example what does ‘being at the forefront of mining and colliery management’ suggest? Certainly they knew a lot about mines as one became Chairman of the Coal Owners Association and had a residence in London, but did they really manage the Collieries or subcontract?
What kind of Justice did they mete out, and how local was it? They certainly were involved in the affairs of military life, but did they see action? How were the titles Captain and L Colonel gained?
Did they give employment? They certainly needed workers to fulfil their goals in life, but during the periods of economic ressession did they then ditch them?
Did they provide housing out of some benevolence, or for their own benefit?
Did they provide ‘a way of life and finance’ to the community?
These questions need to be addressed, not only in a search for the truth, but to suggest an alternative view for posterity. The Blog not only provides a way of doing this, but also a way for others to correct, modify and rubbish if they so wish. Over the comming months I will try to gather together information in stages to try to answer these questions.
There is one last and disturbing question arising from a school of thought that stated miners were often fatal victims of their own desire to cut corners in order to increase their wage. While shortcuts and complacency did lead to accidents, how true is this over all? Whilst the Grove Pit Disaster is recorded as being due to a naked light struck underground, how much can miners really be considered to be architects of their own fate?