Autobiography of a Nottingham miner born in 1918. Already a must for
social history students.
include accounts of family life between the wars and the so-called age
of affluence after 1945, the daily routine of a conscript soldier in the
Second World War and, especially, the work experience that dominated his
existence before retirement from the mines, the joiner’s shop and the
timber yard in the 1980s.” Midland History,
University of Birmingham
“Bill’s attention to detail
makes his book an entertaining read and a fascinating lesson in history.
It highlights the vast amount of changes that have occurred during just
one lifetime and reminds us that nobody’s life is ordinary.”
Nottingham Herald and Post
Here we stood on the brink of war
dressed in riding breeches, puttees wrapped from knee to boots, old
tunics with brass buttons, meant for horse artillery and we hadn’t got a
horse. We looked like ghosts of men who had fought in the First World
The Thames looked like it was on fire,
the tall cranes silhouetted, the firemen in the thick of it. As a fire
engine raced down the road, a bomb dropped in front of it blowing it
into the air.
After the greeting of homecoming, I
looked around. The old kitchen table was still set with medicine and
tinned milk. There was the old black grate with the coal fire, the black
kettle singing as the steam rose from the spout. In the scullery, pots
and pans in the sink as I went in for a wash. It was as if all this had
been mothballed for seven years.
What finally brought the wedding plans
forward was that someone knew the owner of a small terrace house coming
up to let . . . I was dressed in a pin-striped suit tailored at the
Co-op. But, when it was made, I only had coupons for three yards of
cloth. So it was a bit tight.
He shouted: “All in the bucket.” We
scrambled in as the platform tipped right up, then stopped. He hit the
plate twice as we were brought out. There were arguments and nearly
fights. The onsetter had been pressing the wrong button on the pit top.
There was an enquiry and he was sacked. We had nearly been killed . . . but I think the beer
had a lot to do with it.
The Council had put a Compulsory
Purchase Order on my allotment garden. I was to be off it in a month.
There was to be slum clearance of the area where I lived. I quickly had
to sell off the ducks and fowl. My garden was full of produce. It was a
We were still trying for a house with a
bathroom. In this year of 1968, we were still using the tin bath.
The Lord Mayor of
Nottingham gave Bill and his wife, Joan, a Civic Reception on the
occasion of the 2nd Edition launch which coincided with
Bill’s 80th birthday.
Among readers who wrote in has been one born after his father was killed
in an accident in the same shaft sinking at Calverton that Bill worked
on; one from a wife who was reading the book to her elderly ex-miner
husband whose photo of one shift on shaft sinking appears on the book’s
cover; and from a reader who was pleased to find the book in her local
library at Kingscote, South Australia, and who went on to complete My
History of Community Activity (see Current Projects). Bill's book quickly
established a readership who value this series.