OLD KING COAL Composed by David Oakes, Mow Cop.

This was found copied in beautiful copperplate handwriting in an album made by someone in Butt Lane, perhaps in the 1920's or earlier. David Oakes had died in the 1890's, so it was probably copied from a printed version of the poem. As you can see, it's an attempt to describe the various processes or getting and using coal and coke, probably written in the 1860s - 1870s. I wish I knew exactly what he means by some of the terms - pump-trees, caps, stoops, sprags, jigs and rods. Perhaps some old miners would know. I don't think we'd write a line about the pit-boy flogging his pony on, nowadays! Anyway, the poem is all about a Mow Cop miner describing his own work, so it perhaps deserves keeping around.

Best wishes, Philip.

Old King Coal long since was found
Dug out of pits deep underground.
Some miners came to search his bed;
He looked so black they thought him dead.

They cut and carved him as he lay;
They worked shifts, both night and day
And in the shafts there are pump-trees,
Gas oozing out like humming bees.

They use both candle and Davy Lamp
To work in mines where there's fire damp.
The down cast winds many parts does pass
To take away the explosive gas.

The doors and furnace we must mind
And up the shaft goes the return wind.
The miners now both cut and hole,
They fire their shots and down comes coal.

Drive headings, levels, drifts and stalls,
Sides cut as true as most stone walls.
Use caps and stoops, or sprag, or prop
To secure the side, the face, the top.

Loaded in tubs with spade,box and rake
Which makes the loader's back to ache.
Then work for railways there is found,
Tubs running on them underground.

This is the way the work goes on,
Drawn by a horse, or pushed by mon.
To make the horses do their wack
They're flogged along by little Jack.

If I'm not under a great mistake
They lower their tubs by jig or brake.
The hooksman sometimes, in a rage
Runs the tubs right through a cage.

Bell-wire from bottom to the top
Tells engine-man when start or stop.
The pulley-wheels turn round like fun
And up the rods the cages run.

And when he reaches the pit bank
Attended there by Dick and Frank
They dash him down the screens in rucks
To be carried off in railway trucks.

When at the market he's been sold
He warms the hearth when it is cold.
Viewing the earth's crust particularly,
Horizontal beds and perpendicularly

There's broken strata here and there
Which causes Masters oft to fear.
Thrown above or down below
The leader shows the way to go.

He drives the factory strap and wheel;
He heats the blacksmith's iron and steel.
There's hidden treasures down below.
That this is true all miners know.

Now we have coal at our commend
Our commerce goes o'er sea and land,
And what affirms the words I've spoke -
Steam now is made by coal or coke.

They throw him in the fire so hot
To roast the beef or boil the pot,
Then some is taken to a stack
And wheeled away by filler Jack.

The stacks they are both round and high,
With flames ascending to the sky.
Now some is taken to a forge
And there consumed by puddler George.

When in the town there is a host
And here and there a tall lamp-post,
And on the top a brilliant light
To light us on dark Winter's night.

Critics may find fault with my rhyme.
Gas kills men by hundreds at a time,
And this is what I'm well aware;
The Christian fires by faith and prayer.