White Blankets


The comforts of snow were not lost on those who worked in the pits. Darkness, permeated only by the will-o’-the-wisp headlights of our workmates, filled our heads and hearts; several thousand tonnes of rock overhead would do that to you. In between breaths choked with shattered shale and coal dust, we would dig and pray, dig and pray, then pray some more.

The bell to signifying the changing shifts brought little in the way of relief; tiredness had broken us, we were nothing but jet-black ghosts. Seasons meant little down below, deep in the depths, but not so above.

When the lift breached the shaft entrance and flooded us with blinding white light, I for one thought we might have got off in heaven. I was wrong. I was always wrong, and glad to be. White blankets of peace and frigid air purged more than just ragged breaths, they purged our souls. Such was a miner’s lot in the Yorkshire coal fields, and the reason we valued our Christmases so greatly.


23 thoughts on “White Blankets”

  1. The blinding shift from pitch darkness to dazzling white light with cool comfort of a snowy blanket comes across very powerfully to bring home the travails of the Yorkshire Collier. Gripping read, Rich…

  2. A powerfully yet beautiful piece Richard. To be grateful for the bright white of the snow and the freezing air, it’s mindboggling. It’s not that I never heard of coal miners but your poem brought them to reality for me.
    No one in my family that I know of ever worked in a coal mine. Your poem awakened me to what kind of life and sacrifices those men and boys made for their families. Thank you.

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