Monday 16 May 2011

Old men remember

"Back at the bricked-up mine entrance I switched on that personalised memory-bank, fuelled by nostalgia, which has these computerised contraptions skint a mile. There was the fire-hole at the foot of the steps where we'd sit warm and dry on cauld weet days and admire the skill with which auld Jimmy Steel would deftly toss shovels o' coal into the orange inferno.

Abune was the injine hoose, forbidden territory, with the shining well-oiled machinery. At intervals it would whine into action and drag long lines of hutches from the black bowels of the earth heaped high with the fossilised residue of forests that had flourished and died long ere man had set foot in the valley.

Beyond, to the east, stretched a long row of low-roofed brick buildings. Here was the smiddy and workshop connected to the stables housing a half dozen pit-ponies.This was another fine retreat in inclement weather. We'd sit, feet dangling, on the corn kists, chewing on lumps of the toffee-like sweet tasting locust beans which supplemented the ponies' diet, and inhaling with relish the stable smell of hay and horse dung.

To return to the coal. It was timmed down a chute from the hutches into a rattling and banging system of sieves and sorting tables from whence the finished product gravitated into railway wagons on the sidings below. When the wagon train was sufficient in size the pug would arrive with a load of empties. The word pug means in one sense to pull or haul, and it was obvious that in the small, squat, square-built engine the niceties of aesthetic design had been neglected in favour of pulling power.

I could see it now, trundling across the Black Brig with it's retinue of coal-heaped trucks, their contents due to drive the many industries that in those pre-war days prolifererated in the county. it was little thought then that these same industries would in a relatively short time be as extinct as the long dead forests embodied in the fuel that drove them. "

The words of Richard Bernard who wrote about The Ochils and the Hillfoots. From "In the Quiet Places" published by Clackmannan District Libraries, 1991.
Richard was a council roadman, self-taught naturalist and prodigous walker.He began writing when he retired.
I was preparing this post when Blogger went down.


  1. thanks for the locust beans reference I'd forgotten all about them used to scrag them out of the local farm cow proven - like sweet, dried, black broad bean pods
    cheers Danny

  2. £1.89 a quarter in the health food shop ! Money to be made by buying a ton and getting a bunch of kids to put them in little packets for all they can eat.