Tales from down under - memories from Ray Isted, Bevin Boy collier.
Recollections by Raymond George Isted, Bevin Boy in Roseheyworth Colliery 1943—9
I was born in Herstmonceux in East Sussex; I left school at 14 and worked in a factory making automotive parts. When I reached 18, I was called up and sent to Brighton for a medical, I wanted to join the army although to be honest I would have been quite happy stopping at home!
"I was actually balloted to go into the mines and sent to Oakdale Training Centre. I lodged with a Mrs Jones in Risca along with Wyndham Jones, a cockney who had relations in Abertillery. We trained for six weeks at Oakdale (Wyndham proved to be 'like a woman' on the shovel) and then sent to Roseheyworth Colliery. We had to wear our own clothes at work, mine were supplied by my parents, and I used to send them back to Sussex every week by my mother for washing. She used to say 'I would rather my Raymond go to the army than the pit' — she thought it was all terrible, thought that Welsh people lived in caves.
"After a while I worked with Sid Fox on a heading where we were filling 13 or 14 drams a shift — Sid used to give me around £3 'knocking money'. When Sid went on the sick I worked the road with Gerald Williams.
"Gerald introduced me to Phyllis on a night out — I was shy and couldn't dance so that was the only way to do it in those days. But it ended up that she was the only girl I ever went out with and we've been married for 58 years this August (2005). We had a quiet wedding, both my parents were ill and couldn't come and there was no one else from my side of the family there. We went to Weston Super Mare for the honeymoon. My new wife didn't want to settle in Eastbourne so we stopped in Wales. It was always 'Hello Ray' every ten minutes in Wales - in Eastbourne you could walk around for six months and no one would talk to you!
"I worked for 6 years in the pits. I remember an overman pointing me out to someone and saying 'You see this boy here? A Bevin Boy and still working here — we can't get him from here!' I even picked up the accent a bit although that was to stop me getting ribbed about my Sussex accent. I feel more Welsh than my wife does now!"
This article forms part of the magazine 'Glo', produced by Big Pit National Coal Museum.
Article Date: 4 January 2008