JOHN ANDERS Born 17th September 1932 died 9th June 2001
John Anders was born on September 17th 1932 at no. 53 Ward Street Hindley,Near Wigan the first child of Albert Anders and Elizabeth (nee Eccleston). He was baptised the following month on 16th October at All Saints Parish Church Hindley, which was the same church his parents had married at on July 2nd earlier that same year.(see picture)
He was born into a big and very close-knit family. His mother Elizabeth, who was always known as Lizzie,, was the youngest of five sisters, and all lived close by and helped each other out.
Lizzie is pictured here with her third child, daughter Mary. The picture was probably taken around 1941, as Mary was born in 1939. It was most likely taken to send to her husband Albert who was serving in the Second World War.
Lizzie and Albert actually lived with the eldest of Lizzie's four sisters, Nellie when John was born.He was a much adored baby (see picture below)and was an only child for almost three years until his brother Bill was born in May 1935.
Shortly after Bill was born the family moved down to Boreham Wood where Albert had taken a job as a labourer at the film studios there. The family shared a rented house with Lizzie's brother William and his wife Betty.
Third child Mary was born while they were still at Boreham Wood, but very soon after her birth war broke out and Albert went to serve his country.
Lizzie moved back up to Hindley with the children and once again lived with another of her sisters Emma, who also lived in Ward st Hindley, with her husband William and children Betty, Edna and John.
John went to All Saints Infants school and soon his mum had found a house for the family in Neville Street at Platt Bridge.
She enrolled John and Bill in St Nathaniel's school which was only around the corner from where they lived but after only a week or two she took him out of that school and sent him back to All Saints.
As a teenager John attended Argyle Street Secondary school even though there was a school in Moss Lane just a couple of minutes walk from the family home on Neville Street.
John was 14 in September 1946 and started work in the October.
He wanted to join the army when he left school but his mum decided she needed another wage coming into the house and so he was forced to stay at home.
The under manager of the Maypole Colliery John Dale lived in Neville Street and John went to the pit to see him and got the job through him.
Pictured are young miners with a tub of coalJohn and four other 14 yr old lads worked on the pit brow, sorting coal from dirt, with the women for the first six weeks. He said the women were generally considerate of the young lads and ranged in ages from 17 yr old girls to married women in their forties. They had an initiation ritual where they would catch the lads, remove their pants and grease their 'privates' although John says they never managed to catch him because he was too quick!!
Pit Brow Lasses at Wigan Junction CollieryHe then went to the mines training school at Low Hall Colliery for eight weeks underground training, this included classroom lessons on mine safety and trips to Wigan Junction, the Maypole's sister pit, for actual underground experience.
Although John was aware of the previous disaster at the Maypole, being a young lad, he wasn't unduly worried by this aspect of mining life.
Maypole Colliery, Abram, Near WiganHe first went down the No. 2 shaft at the Maypole and his job was to turn the tubs around after they had been emptied at the pit brow, so that they could be sent back for the miners to fill up.
There was a 'closeness', a sort of kinship amongst the miners underground that John says he hasn't experienced in any working environment since.
After three weeks on the tubs he was moved to the 'far end' of Pemberton 5ft mine, as a belt engine minder, his job was to stop and start the engine that drove the conveyor belt that the coal was loaded onto. For the first two or three days on this job he was 'shown the ropes' by Billy Roe who was two or three years older than John
John said "The overman,Enoch (Nucky) Bridge left us and before he went he told Billy to show me what to do. As soon as he was out of sight, Billy pointed to a wooden board on the floor at the side of the engine and told me to get down on that and have a sleep, while he slept on top of the engine. The overman came back and caught us both asleep. He woke me up and said, 'What do you think you are doing?' to which I replied 'Nothing', he then woke Billy and asked him the same question. Billy's reply was 'I'm learnin' him.' "
The lower age limit for work on the coal face was 18 and six months before his eighteenth birthday John started his 90 days coal face training.
Seventeen year-old John with his brother BillHe worked as a packer which meant taking dirt and coal dust from the roof of the mine and building a "pack". These 'packs' back filled where the mining had been done before the props were removed. He worked in No 1 pit doing this job.
No 1 pit was 968 yds underground and consequently was extremely hot. It was so hot in fact that the miners worked in just shorts, the cotton would sometimes perish on the miners shorts due to the sweat drying on them and so they would just tuck them into their belts and wear them like a loincloth. Due to the sweat pouring from their bodies the coal dust would stick to them but fortunately the Maypole colliery had Pit Head Baths (showers) in use at this time, although not all collieries had this facility.
Young miners at the Pit Head BathsThe packers were paid per pack constructed and therefore could make extra money by working very hard. The end effect was similar to dry stone walling.
At this time very few miners had cap lamps (lamps attached to the fromt of the pit helmet) It was generally only the bosses and officials who had these. The ordinary miners had to carry a bottle lamp which hooked on to the belt. These were necessary because there was limited lighting in the roadways further into the shaft. John says the lamps were fairly heavy but the miners just got used to carrying them and when they got to the point where they were working, they would hang all the lamps up from the roof to give them enough light to work with