This poem is in Frank Vernon’s book Pride and Poverty – Memories of a Mexborough Miner published by Doncaster Library Service in 1984.
It was written by his sister Mrs Hilda Jennings in memory of their brother Walter who died in October 1981 after only 5 months retirement at 61 years of age haing worked 40 years in the pits.
Tribute to the Miner
Of late a silent hero left our earth,
A gentleman of pure inestimable worth,
A member of your glorious brotherhood,
So selfless, brave – but rarely understood.
I knew the child – the child with lucid brain,
With intellect which never had full rein,
I knew the gentle heart which loved all things,
I knew the simple soul fed from eternal springs.
But not for him the cooling breeze of dustless air,
Nor where he toiled was natural swathe of sunlight there,
For him Society cast a hellish, blackened role,
Be damned to human cost – it wanted coal.
In dank-dark passages he sacrificed his health,
To grasping, greeding, heedless National Wealth,
Condemned by midget moguls in their silken togs,
To Satan’s caverns – dragging heavy clogs.
Nor for him champagne and caviar sap,
But print-wrapped, dull-tinned, rationed snap,
Mam’s eyes oft-told she knew this ill reward,
But under-paid, ’twas all she could afford.
Not for him the nine to five alarm,
But off to work before the world was warm,
No shining carriage – rather creaking bike,
Or buzzer – heralded pit bus – or weary hike.
Corroded lungs, harsh cough, the warning sound,
Inevitably told coal-fiend had found,
Its latest victim; regaedless of his worth,
He’d given more than wealth in bowels of the earth.
Oh Yes!! – Society wrapped him warm and made him better,
And came the normal bureaucratic letter,
Bearing news of work on Colliery pit-top,
Escape, at cost, to N.C.B. Workshop.
Health undermined he patiently toiled on some years,
Though never free of latent, shadowy fears,
True courage brought some measure of content,
Brave spirit ever masters detriment.
But not for him a span of later years,
Serene, content, relaxed and free of tears,
No sooner out of harness came the end,
Too swift I lost a brother, hero, friend.
My reverence for him had bid me say,
To all his like – to those who tread his way,
Go forth with pride – with head held high,
LET NO-ONE YOUR TRUE WORTH DENY.
Make the blind see, the faceless ones
Who trade your lives for their statistic tons,
Please take with warmth my own extended hand,
And know that we who’ve seen – do understand.