AT 5.45am yesterday morning the final production shift went down at Britain’s only remaining deep mine in order to cut coal for the last time.
In the canteen at Kellingley Colliery, Yorkshire, the kitchen staff had written a farewell message to the miners: “Gonna Miss Each and Every One of You. Stay Safe Gents.”
NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen was speaking to the media in the concourse of the pit and seemed to echo their thoughts.
“How can we compete with Colombian coal?”
Nearby NUM Lodge Officials busily dealt with final working pattern queries and complaints from members.
Then at 8.30am yesterday, the miners on the night shift came up to face the gathering collection of film crews, journalists and photographers keen to capture the historic last day.
“Horrible, heartbreaking, worst shift in my life,” was how Welsh contract miner Carwyn Donovan described his feelings as he left this morning.
“I’m just saying goodbye to all the Yorkshire guys who made me welcome here.”
His colleague Andrew Byron Thomas, from the Cynon Valley, was eager to leave the site such was the emotional nature of the day.
“After 33 years I’ve got to think what am I going to do. It’s finally struck me that I’m the last generation of miners in my family.”
A Yorkshire pit deputy carried his gleaming miner’s lamp out of the mine.
“This is still the only way to properly test for gas. Twenty five years I’ve had this lamp, since passing my exams.
“I’ve just done a 12-hour shift and it was in a state as you can imagine. But I’ve polished it up to go home.” Other colliers were carrying out final chunks of coal as momentos for the mantlepiece while berating the closure decision.
“We’re an island built on coal! Let’s take the Great out of Britain because we don’t manufacture anything anymore.”
As one Yorkshireman clocked — or rather swiped — off for the last time he shouted: “The end.”
The Kellingley miners will commemorate their pit with a march to the social club at Knottingley today.