A RETIRED miner has told how he worked alongside one of the Pitman Painters filling the last tubs of coal to be mined from Craghead Colliery.

Ken Hutton, who is now 68, started work underground after leaving school aged 15, and met Tom Lamb, shortly afterwards.

After the pit closed, in 1969, he went on to work at Kibblesworth before moving to Nottinghamshire, while Tom Lamb, who would take his sketch book underground, became well-known for his artwork depicting life at the coal face.

Mr Hutton, who still lives in Craghead, said: “Tom used to drive the haulage and I remember him in one of the haulage houses and just with tub grease and stone dust he drew various things.

“He did a good one of Muhammed Ali just using his finger. He also did one of the side of the pit with a man testing for gas.”

Mr Lamb, who was from Pelton, was 40 when the pit closed, and died two years ago, aged 87.

Mr Hutton said: “I was with him on the last day of the pit.

“We went down noon and we just had to mop up what coal was left. There was no more than 20 or 30 tubs and on the last tub we wrote on “This is the very last tub”.

“We drew lots see which one of us would put that tub in the cage and Tommy Lamb won.

“He went to various parts of the colliery and took pictures. He was a good photographer. He was always a nice fella to work with, he was a gentleman.

“His underground drawings though were outstanding. He was a very clever man.”

Mr Hutton made the decision to devote his life to mining at the age of 13.

He was following a family tradition of working at Craghead Colliery, which started with his great grandfather decades earlier who had moved to the area from Wales to find work.

Hi brothers, father and grandfather before him had all followed the same path.

Mr Hutton said: “I knew from about 13 where I was destined to go.

“There was basically nothing else in the village so when my dad asked me what I was going to do when I left school and just said ‘the pit’ and he sorted it out from there.”

After leaving school at 15, Mr Hutton was taken as on as a ‘shaft lad’ and had to get tubs of coal to the bottom of the shaft before it was drawn up in the cage to the surface.

He said: “You would push them and then there was the ‘onsetter’ who would put them in the cage with a big ram.

“My job was coupling tubs and uncoupling tubs and sending empty tubs to different parts of the colliery. As you progressed you went on to handling full tubs.

“It was good because you knew everyone. No-one was a stranger so you just got on with the job. We worked well as a team and the village was thriving.”

In 1968, when the Busty seam finished, his father was made redundant aged 62.

The following year the pit was closed 1,600 men and boys were forced to find work elsewhere or face unemployment.

Mr Hutton said: “My mam cried because we all worked there, her dad and grandad had all worked there, and she thought coal would come out of the ground at Craghead forever and a day. It was hard on her.

“It took some getting used to travelling by bus to get to work at the new colliery.

“Previously I went out the front door and was at the pit yard in two minutes

“The village started to decline a little bit then.”

Mr Hutton is now part of the group organising activities for the community fun day, which will be on Saturday, April 6.

He said: “It will give the kids a bit of insight and history of the village and it is good for people to remember why the village is here.”