10 August 2015

1992. The three coal heaps of Penallta Pit - a childhood memory

Most of my fathers side of my family lived in Ystrad Mynach, a mining village in the Rhymney Valley which served Penallta Pit. My grandfather was the pit foreman for many years and was much respected. Uncle Ken never left the village from his birth until 1984, when as an old man he went to London to march against the pit closures. He didn't think much of London and was glad to get back. The colliery finally closed in 1991 and is now Parc Penallta, a wildlife place to walk with way marked trails and a visitors centre.

'The three coal heaps of Penallta Pit - a childhood memory'
Commissioned Artwork, British Railtrack (coal) 1992

My family told how grandfather led a team of men to rescue my father who was caught under a pit fall. My father was then just fourteen years old, and never went down the mine again. My grandfather became foreman and retired after thirty years. He died of black lung.

In the kitchen a huge fire always burned in the range - blue gasses turning black coal red. I sat next to it and rolled cigarettes for uncle Tom.

In the frozen room where I slept, my breath looked like smoke. Through the window I could see the three coal heaps of Penalta.

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