Talking Point with Gazette chief reporter Ron Harris

Is oor Ron disappointed that his progeny didn't follow in his footsteps? Find out here!
Is oor Ron disappointed that his progeny didn't follow in his footsteps? Find out here!
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Find out what oor Ron has been discovering at the local library he calls his second hame.

THE auld miner ah was interviewing responded tae mah comment that it was remarkable that he and his Good Lady Wife had bred nae less than TEN weans.

“Weel son,” he patiently explained, wae a wee twinkle in his eye, “Back in yon days, there was nae telly and ye had tae make your ain entertainment.”

He was talking, mony years ago noo, in wan o’ the Lanarkshire former mining toons which was mah local newspaper ‘patch’ at the time.

Although the last pit in the area had, even then, closed a decade afore, some o’ the traditional trappings o’ the industry hung oan.

The Miners Welfare Club, a Brass Band and a local doctors surgery filled wae ageing men coughing their guts up thanks tae 30 years o’ breathing in coaldust.

Time has despatched all of these noo but, much like The Forth, Rigside, etc. there really isn’t any such thing as a ‘former’ mining toon; they always WILL be mining toons – only noo withoot ony mines and the jobs they brought.

Now, afore you say: ‘Oh naw! Here he goes oan wan o’ his Ah Wish Things Were The Way They Used Tae Be rants, let me state that there’s a lot o’ dewy-eyed romantic mince talked by folk today aboot the loss o’ yon mines.

Every single auld miner ah talked to – and there must have been hunners ower the years – HATED howking coal deep in the bowels o’ the earth wae the constant threat o’ explosions and being buried in a cave-in. A few meenutes chat wae an auld collier and you’d realise whaur the expression “This is the pits” came frae.

Just as an illustration, there wisnae wan o’ them ah chatted tae who wanted their son tae follow them doon the mineshaft tae make a living; ONYTHING but that would dae.

Ah’ve recently come across what that ‘onything’ was for mony o’ them. As ye weel ken, ah’m never happier than when ah’m guddling awa’ through auld files, up tae mah oxters in dusty copies o’ the Gazzy at Lanark Library, ably assisted by mah pals and henchmen there, Paul and Ian.

The forthcoming centenary o’ the coming o’ World War Wan has given me enormous opportunities tae indulge mahsel in this addiction tae the past, although whit ah’m finding is proving pretty harrowing.

Delving intae the backgroons o’ the 600-odd lads who marched aff frae Clydesdale between 1914 and 18 never tae return, ah’ve found a high proportion o’ them were miners.

Noo, back yon, mining was wan o’ yon industries where, even efter conscription came in, you could easily avoid army service by stating you were an ‘essential war worker’.

Mony, it appears, declined tae use this dodge and chose tae face German machine guns rather than anither day doon the pit.

It’s a bit like yon illegal immigrants UKIP and their ilk seem tae get a’ worked up aboot.

Mah reckoning is that folk risking life and limb tae come tae seek sanctuary in Britain, of a’ places, must be fleeing frae a pretty hellish existence and guid luck tae them ah say, so lang as they get a usefu’ job and dinnae mug me.

Memories o’ yon long-gone miners and whit they telt me aboot their hopes for a better life for their weans were stirred last week when a charming young local lassie came intae the Gazzy’s luxurious Wellgate bureau tae seek mah advice oan taking up a career in journalism.

An astute kid, she asked me: “Would you advise YOUR children to take up a newspaper career?”

Weel, that caused a wee pang o’ personal grief.

Yes, ah wance DID hope that both Sandy and Sam might follow faither intae the Dark Arts.

But did the the twa o’ them no’ go and blow their chances o’ a career in modern journalism ENTIRELY by passing their English O Levels with flying colours!