My grandad, Roderick Nicholson, born in Parr,St Helens in 1914 is an inspiration to me. Yet I never knew him, he died at only 55, a year before I was born.
His memories were kept alive by my gran and my mother. I wish I had been able to meet him, his life story, is the story of our nation, our history and how miners transformed our society for the better.
At only 14, he started work at the local coal mine in his hometown of St Helens. He had no choice, he had to work to provide for his family.This would mean, that though intelligent and an avid reader, he could no longer stay at school. This was the case for majority of children in the 1920s Britain in the working classes.
After a year of working at the coal mine, he had a serious accident. At 15, in 1929 at Ashton Green pit, a chain lashed his head and he suffered a severe head injury. Yet, he returned to the mine. He carried on working in the mines, till the 1960’s until he died of cancer at only 55.He saw his friends die in accidents. Working down the mines was incredibly hard and especially at a time when health and safety was not a priority as private owners wanted to make as much profit as they could. It was a very hard life.
But it was miners like my grandad, who changed the society. To make it better for us. In coal mining communities there was an immense sense of solidarity.Mining communities supported each other and also stood up, stood against injustices. My grandad was one of many miners, who could not tolerate injustice. I know where I get my nature from. He did not want to see more of his friends die, or suffer. So he became involved in the Union movement.Miners had a great community spirit and knew if they stood together, they could achieve more. And they were backbone of the Labour Party. Their hard life and experiences, made them determined to create the changes. And they did, it’s with their resolve that they pushed for nationalisation of the mines, of industries and wanted a universal health care system that became the NHS.
My grandad was part of this push for change, as vice-President of Lancashire NUM, he was there, part of that movement to transform Britain for the better. And he did. The National Coal Board became a reality, a Labour Govt in 1945 became a reality, the NHS became a reality. And society benefitted from the building of Council houses, of a universal health care system. These had been dreams when he started working at the coal mines at 14.
Coal miners through their strong community spirit, their determination, resolve & persistent nature influenced our society and this should never forgotten. My grandad’s spirit lives on in my life and I’m still continuing his legacy to fight for a better society. Proud to be a coal miners granddaughter.