Jack Dorgan

Jack Dorgan was born into a poor mining family in Choppington on 12 July 1893. After being educated at the local school he moved to Ashington. He worked at the Ashington Colliery from 1907 to 1914. First a trapper boy sitting alone opening the doors on the roadway to the coalface, then as a pony driver, leading the ponies, until he became a pony 'putter' at the age of 16.

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Life was hard for Jack in June 1914. He had been working as a pony driver and then ‘putter’. As he later explained, coal mining was a tough, dirty and dangerous business...

"In the coal mine you had the coal miner – the ‘hewer’, they called him. He filled the coal into an iron tub, it travelled along a roadway, short length rails, to a landing. The bigger lads, 16, 17, 18 up to 20 years old were called ‘putters’ – they pulled with their pony the tub out to a landing. Then the younger boys, pony drivers, would take four full tubs of coal with their ponies several hundred yards to the endless rope-haulage in the big high roadways.

The coal-tub was the size of an ordinary kitchen table, four wheels – everything iron. Your pony had a wooden and leather harness and you could attach the limbers of the harness to the tub.

You got quite attached to your pony you know! We putters sat behind the pony, between the pony and the tub. You had to bend your back down so that it didn’t scrape the roof, because in the roadways in the far workings where the man was filling his coal tub there was just enough room for the tub to travel.

If you didn’t keep your back down it scraped the roof. The whole time I was a putter- lad, my spine was just a succession of scars and scabs." 

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Life was hard for Jack in June 1914. He had been working as a pony driver and then ‘putter’. As he later explained, coal mining was a tough, dirty and dangerous business...

"In the coal mine you had the coal miner – the ‘hewer’, they called him. He filled the coal into an iron tub, it travelled along a roadway, short length rails, to a landing. The bigger lads, 16, 17, 18 up to 20 years old were called ‘putters’ – they pulled with their pony the tub out to a landing. Then the younger boys, pony drivers, would take four full tubs of coal with their ponies several hundred yards to the endless rope-haulage in the big high roadways.

The coal-tub was the size of an ordinary kitchen table, four wheels – everything iron. Your pony had a wooden and leather harness and you could attach the limbers of the harness to the tub.

You got quite attached to your pony you know! We putters sat behind the pony, between the pony and the tub. You had to bend your back down so that it didn’t scrape the roof, because in the roadways in the far workings where the man was filling his coal tub there was just enough room for the tub to travel.

If you didn’t keep your back down it scraped the roof. The whole time I was a putter- lad, my spine was just a succession of scars and scabs." 

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