COLUMN: Coal delivery day was a great event for local kids

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During the time of my childhood in the 1950s and early 60s, you could not help but be affected by local industries in one way or another.

Of course coal was king, and lots of other industry sprang up around that.

As a child we had two coal burning types of fire in our house — the open fireplace and a small Beeston boiler/stove in the kitchen.

My mother seemed to spend lots of time tending both during her busy day.

I’m sure many will remember with some amusement the lighting of an open coal fire with old newspaper, sticks and coal. Firelighters came later as I recall.

The fire would be lit and then dangerously, but commonly, a sheet of newspaper would be placed across the open fireplace to draw the draught through the fire.

Of course shortly the paper would start to scorch and sometimes ignite.

Mother would then hastily push the paper into the fire.

Luckily I’m here to tell the tale after some near misses.

Another great coal event for us kids was the coal delivery. For some reason sometimes it was a tipper lorry and sometimes in bags.

I still recall men who were very black with coaldust, running down paths with huge bags of coal on their backs.

Either way it meant work and getting dirty, much to my mother’s dismay.

If it was tipped, it was in a pile on the street.

This meant you had to get it into the coal house one way or another.

The other way in bags still seemed to involve work as they rarely tipped it straight in, and it would be all over the yard.

What amused me was when the coalmen had gone, if there was one lump of coal on the street someone would be out like an Olympic runner with a shovel and scoop it up.

Part of the equation of coal burning was the formation of soot and the ubiquitous chimney sweep. Another major coal event was the sweeping of the chimney.

Mother would be frantic trying to cover everything in the room. The sweep would arrive also, black with coaldust like the coalman.

He would then proceed to push his brush up the chimney, and all the kids outside would cheer when the brush popped out at the top. After sweeping, the sweep would leave the soot supposedly for the garden.

You would see black cats for ages after .