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Newspapers Derbyshire Life Parish Magazine

Newspapers - 1990s

The Secrets Of The Gardens

Ilkeston Advertiser 22, Sep, 1995

West Hallam and Mapperley Magazine Articles 1995.
Tim Merrin, Paul Hatfield, Jamie Camblell, Alec Hayes and Rosie Woodward

WHEN I was working at Coppice Colliery, near Heanor, I used to talk to many of the old men who had been miners working down the pits in their younger days and were finishing their working days on Coppice Colliery Screening Plant.

One old man said that he was working down Coppice Colliery when they were owned by Squire Miller Mundy, who was the owner of a few pits in this area. This old man also said that it was hard graft to get the coal out of the coal face by pick and shovel and they only wanted the lumps of coal, not the slack.

When the Squire died in the early 1920s he was buried not far from his home, Shipley Hall, in a private vault on Shipley Hill.

A few years after the death of the Squire, the Shipley Hall estates and the pits were sold by the Shipley Colliery Company and the company decided to save money and started cutting the trees on the estate down to make pit props for use in the collieries.

D.A. Mackie was a Scotsman who came to find work in the Derbyshire coal fields and found work at the Coppice Colliery as a miner. This was in the early 1920s. He was also very upset when he saw the damage to the wildlife and the trees that the Shipley Colliery Company were doing to the estate and especially when they started cutting the trees near to Shipley Hall.

Some time later D.A. Mackie started to write poems which were directed at the Shipley Colliery Company. After a while the company got so fed up with his poems they promptly gave him the sack, as you will see by the front page poem which goes "And for the truth my job I lost, so now the streets I roam".

However, after a while he had his poems printed by Barkers Printers of Heanor and started selling them to miners at one penny a copy. Many miners at that time were sympathetic and they too didn't like the damage the company were doing to the Shipley estate, so they bought the poems off him and this is how he lived after being sacked.

After a while the Shipley Colliery Company said that he had to be stopped, so they decided that any miner who worked at their Collieries who had any of these poems and were seen buying them would also face the sack. They also put the police onto him.

D.A. Mackie didn't want any of the miners sacked on his behalf because many of the men relied on the pits for work to get food for their families, so with the police after him he left the Heanor area and returned to Scotland.

You have got to realise that these poems were written over 70 years ago by D.A. Mackie and the damage was to trees on the Shipley Estate, near Heanor, and yet they could apply to the opencast coal sites in and around Heanor and many other areas in Derbyshire, especially this one poem which states:-

Begone, begone - the cruel hands
Which laid to waste these precious lands
Your actions have aroused inhumanity
On seeing this vast cruel calamity.
The beauty spot is now in vain
And all its natural state you've strewn.
For lust of money-worldly gain,
It makes one think that we 're not sane.
To let your evil hand destroy,
God's handiwork we'll enjoy.
The birds, the rabbits, flowers and bees
The splendid oak and elm trees
Have now deserted this estate
For scarcely one has missed their fate.
And in these grounds they laid to rest
The workers friend, they loved him best.
For when alive his joy was aye.
To give his workers decent pay

He's gone and hundreds feel the blow
For when in need to him they'd go
His pits which used to be the best
Have suffered also with the rest.
The gangers were but schoolboys then
But now it's changed – they need strong men.
The gates then were high and wide
But now the ponies tear their hide
And wagons then ran smooth and fine
But now they're seldom on the line.
The gaffers they have changed like-wise
Their brains they do not utilise
But deputies are like us lads –
They can't afford to buy knee pads.
For they have lost a lot of power
And just like us they're turning sour
Contractors too look sad and pale
And can't afford to buy good ale
So this Shipley "now" not "then"
And many thoughts I'd like to pen
But if there's something I've forgot
Please just remember I'm a Scot.

D A Mackie

I agree many times with open cast coal sites - where old pits and slag heaps have been. Places like Coppice, Woodside and Ormonde pits where the huge slag-heaps are transformed back into green fields and placed for wildlife to live in, but I cannot see the good of ripping up green fields, just as D.A. Mackie in his poems put it, 'For lust of money - worldly gain, It makes one think that we're not sane. To let your evil hand destroy, God's handiwork we all enjoy.'
How true it is in this day and age - when money comes before wildlife and the countryside.

(Also in History Section)

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