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Name that tune! Plea over song for Shropshire miners

By Toby Neal | Bridgnorth | Nostalgia | Published:

A group which has been marking the 50th anniversary of the closure of one of Shropshire’s last coal mines has hit a snag as it plans to round off its year-long programme by singing an old song which pays tribute to local miners of yesteryear.

Miners at Alveley Colliery. Picture: David Poyner/Robert Evans.

Called “Highley Coal,” the chorus goes: “Highley coal, best in all the country, Highley coal, best in all the land.”

But while the Alveley Mining Heritage group has managed to dig out the lyrics, nobody knows the tune, nor anything about the origins of the song, nor can anybody identify the miners name-checked by their nicknames, such as “Chicker,” “Dick the Devil,” “Mumble,” “Ross,” and “Rabbit.”

The group’s final commemorative event is on December 1 at the Severn Centre at Highley where Highley Colliery Band has offered to play “Highley Coal” and the group is inviting people to come along to sing it. Alveley Colliery – for historical reasons many called it Highley Colliery – closed in 1969.

Andrea Edwards, who chairs the heritage group, says the lyric sheet for “Highley Coal” was donated to the group by Tony and Carol Jones of Highley.

“The lyrics have been posted on local social media sites and AMH are grateful for the interest generated but so far no one has indicated that they recall the song or identify names of miners from the nicknames within the lyrics, when it was written and who by, the tune, or if it was ever performed,” she said.

Pride

“The song tells us that the miners crossed from Highley over to the Alveley side. Perhaps someone out there can help with any information.

“Whoever wrote it reveals the pride and comradeship of the miners, the names they knew each other by, how they relied on each other, the dangers of the work, paints a picture of the choking environment and the quality of the coal.

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“Hopefully someone can come up with the tune as this is an anthem to the mining heritage of the area.”

She said the lyric sheet donated by Tony and Carol Jones seemed to be a copy of a typed sheet with some handwritten corrections.

“It was among items which belonged to Tony’s father Frank Jones, or ‘Conk,’ who was an attendant at the pithead baths and also a ‘First Aid attendant at Alveley Colliery in the principles and practice of the usage of morphis (sic) in mines,’ dated December 6, 1949.”

The Highley Mining Company already had a colliery at Highley when it sunk a new shaft at Alveley in the 1930s. The Highley mine subsequently closed. The old mine was linked underground to the new colliery at Alveley, which despite its location was routinely known as Highley Colliery.

After the closure in 1969 the colliery site at Alveley lay derelict until 1986 when a project was launched to create Severn Valley Country Park.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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