My Yorkshire childhood - Trevor Massey

PUBLISHED: 16:38 15 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:22 20 February 2013

Trevor Massey

Trevor Massey

Former coal industry leader, now novelist, Trevor Massey from Barnsley, describes how the seeds for both mining and writing were sown in his childhood

I was born and bred in Barnsley and mining is in my veins. My mother managed the household income with Yorkshire thrift by dividing the weekly wages into a row of egg cups on a shelf in the kitchen cupboard.

Dad was a property repairer for colliery company houses in two pit villages, though he supplemented his meagre wage by doing a variety of other jobs.

During the war years I attended Barugh Green Junior Mixed & Infant School until passing the 11-plus exam. Winning a George Beaumont Scholarship allowed me to move to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield. Inspired teaching, especially by Bill Teasdale, the English teacher, and good friendships were the hallmarks of my time there, where contemporaries included Ronald Eyre, the renowned television producer and David Storey, the famous and much admired prolific author who wrote This Sporting Life about his experiences as a Rugby League player.

Wartime was for walking and we explored the woods around Cawthorne, Silkstone, Dodworth and Gawber. Early holidays were to the seaside towns of Scarborough and Bridlington, but I do particularly remember one holiday in Hornsea staying in a converted railway carriage.

My granddad had three greenhouses on his smallholding. One of them, known as the Little Greenhouse, was heated and it was a cosy place. Granddad often spent his last hours of the daylight there tending his plants or just sitting chatting. As you sat you could hear the hiss of the boiler and hot water circulating through the pipes and you could almost feel the plants growing.

I recall one night, when I was about 10, sitting with him as he reminisced about his time as a coal miner. He described the coal seams and how they had to drive roadways forward to open up the reserves.

He explained how they had to use their picks to undercut the seam and then use the cleat lines of the coal to break it down and fill it into the pit tubs and he talked about setting the wooden supports and coping with difficult roof conditions. The talk went on for a long time and in fact, a lot of the information was way over my head. But he presented his story with enthusiasm and pride.

It was dark by the time we packed up for the night. Grandma was not pleased that wed been so long and she was not impressed on learning what wed been talking about. You dont want to be filling his head with all that rubbish, she said. Hell never have to get involved with pits and mining.

However, the seed had been sown and several years later I chose to follow my forebears into coal mining. I am sad that my grandfather died before I could show him the modern coal mining methods and the equipment involved. I think he would have been impressed by the horsepower that mined the coal instead of the sweat and toil of the miners with picks and shovels.

One project since Ive retired has enabled me to combine my passions for coal mining and writing. My first novel, Digging Deep: the ups and downs of a 1960s Yorkshire coal mining community has just been published (

Keep your childhood memories coming in. They make fascinating reading. Just email the editor at to find out more and be ready to share some of your childhood photographs with us too.

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