Life in Rhyme by Dave Harvey
‘Life in Rhyme’ an evening with Dave Harvey
Meeting of 14th February 2013
Dave has lived all his life in the Forest and loves it, he began with songs he had written about the Forest and showed us photos of him posing for the miner statue in Cinderford.
Born in 1934, he went to Christchurch School at the same time as Dennis Potter (and with a group of friends threw Potter’s satchel onto a flat roof). He was the only one in his family to get into the grammar, heading to Bells Grammar School. He was a naughty boy, and was expelled after hitting a teacher who slapped him, so went to Five Acres Secondary Modern.
He remembers Joe Bradley bringing milk on the horse and trap, and pulling the sledge in thick snow down to Hawkins Mine (where his dad worked, near Christchurch School), to load up with coal and back to Cow Lane. They used to call in at the bake house (now House of Bread) for a fresh batch of bread on the way to the mine behind it; or sometimes get a lump of dough and cook it over the fire. They kept chickens and ducks and would exchange eggs for meat from other people’s pigs (pig trotters and bread being a great meal!). They would fish for eels down at the river, and sometimes spend the night in one of the railway huts there. Two shillings would get you to Monmouth on the bus, plus a show at the Picture House followed by cakes and a couple of coppers left over to buy fish hooks. Another memory is of villagers walking to Marions Well to collect water with a yoke and two buckets.
Straight after school he worked for the Forestry Commission for a short while before following Dad into the mines. Dad was a cutterman, he learnt how to use the cutting machines in Canada then went on to teach others in Cannop Mines. Dave trained at Cannop Mines where his life was saved by Big Phil Bennett who pulled him out from under a pile of stones as the rocks were still falling. He also worked at Big Pit and for North United Colliery who employed over 600 men. In 1965 he achieved his deputy certificate just as the last deep mine in the Forest was closing so he and Dad went into freemining. After a full shift at Cannop he would head to their Bigslade mine, opposite Cannop, and do another full shift there. Bigslade closed around 1978. A new mine is now working the Yorkley seam there, but the seam they were working was called ‘No Coal’!
To be a freeminer you must be born in the Hundred of St Briavels and have worked in the mines for a year and a day. Dave says he wouldn’t want to see kids going into mining, and he now has a black spot on his lung from the work. He still works in mining at Clearwell, as well as his rustic woodwork, singing, poetry and work at Dean Heritage Centre. Dave’s books and CDs were on sale, and he signed them for us.
The Local History Group now has a small library (thanks to Eric and Barbara Britton for their donations), if you have any donations please contact Eric.