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Coal Smoke


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hilldweller

Thinking about that pile of coal in the cellar, took my mind back to all the times when I was instructed to climb down the coal hole because my dotty mother had once more slammed the door and neglected to check the Yale key was in her purse.

I was as slim as a whippet in those days and the 12" square cellar grate was no problem.

The trick was to free-fall onto the pile of coal without twisting an ankle in the pitch dark.

Of course my expertise in breaking and entering soon got around and my mother was soon hiring me out to neighbours on a regular basis.

Of course in an alien celler there was no way of knowing where all the obstacles were located and I went flying on more than one occasion.

I gave up my life of crime when I was about twelve when other smaller (and dafter) lads became available.

Nowadays I have trouble getting through a door !

HD

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Sorry, I was going for an obvious play on the song title as a line was quoted rather than a more obscure line hidden away in the lyrics.

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I can always remember walking home from school and if lumps of coal had been dropped while the Coalman was delivering, I would always pick up the pieces and take them home for the fire. Newspapers rolled up and tied into a knot and used as firelighters, sugar thrown on to help the flames get hold, then when Hair Lacquer became the new way of holding women's hair in place, I used my sisters squeezable plastic spray bottle and sprayed that on the fire too! Everything and anything that would burn was saved for the fire, I sometimes think that when central heating came in marked the increase of the throw away society, old furniture, old shoes, packaging and such, normally these were used for the fire to heat the home and boil the water.

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Newspapers rolled up and tied into a knot and used as firelighters,

Crikey!

“Newspapers rolled up and tied into a knot”

I still do that to start a garden fire.

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Unitedite Returns

In the late 70's, when I was still at secondary school, I used to supplement my "income" by working Friday nights and Saturday mornings for a coal dealer, whose business was focused around Handsworth, Woodhouse, Canklow, Brinsworth and such areas. My father did so, as well.

At that time, the prices were:-

Coal: £0.60 per bag [cwt]

Coke: £0.75 per bag [cwt]

Smokeless £1.11 per bag [cwt] - this being "Room heat" briquettes, made at the Coalite Works at Bozer.

What amazes me now is that I could actually work out people’s bills in my head, without the assistance of a calculator back then and give them the right change.

We collected most monies on a Friday night. Regular bad payers were “rewarded” by receiving extra quantities of fines [“Slack” we called it], in their deliveries. There always seemed to be plenty of “slack” in the coal received in railway wagons.

I still love the sight and smells of an open coal fire and the shapes made by the flames always seemed to be very therapeutic. Many a time, I fell asleep watching the fire, when I was young.

My grandparents, who lived in the centre of Woodhouse, retained their coal fire in the “living room” and their “range” in the kitchen until 1976, or thereabouts, when the property was modernised.

I must admit, that I greatly miss “a proper coal fire”, although, perhaps not the shivering wait for the thing to regain its strength, on cold, winter mornings, in the days before central heating.

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  • 2 months later...

I still have an open fire. It uses smokeless fuel these days. It's a pain to make (I have to bring fuel up from the cellar), it's dirty and needs cleaning out everyday, and it's expensive to run BUT I would not part with it for the world! In winter time it is beautiful! There is quite simply nothing like a real fire.

It reminds me of when I was little and had a fire at home. I used to get a match and wrap a aluminium milk bottle top tightly round the red end then put the red end in the fire with the other end pointing into the room. After a short time the red end exploded sending the match flying out into the air. Great fun!!!

Anyone else do this?

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I remember that. We used to do something similar but not in the fire. Just holding a lighted match to the wrapped end until it exploded.

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Clean air acts were introduced in 1956 and 1968 to counteract the effects of smog in London caused by the burning of coal in factories

and domestic dwellings, believed to be the cause of hundreds of early deaths throughout the UK. The acts gave local authorities powers to control emissions of

Dark Smoke,Grit, Dust and fumes from industrial premises and to introduce smoke control areas in which emissions of smoke from domestic properties are banned. These acts and other associated acts were repealed and consolidated in 1993. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building or a furnace or

any fixed boiler if it is located within a designated smoke control area.

The smell of coal smoke brings back many memories and steam rally's are an attraction for me!

Its ironic that J.D.Leaders quote of 1891 appears below the topic of discussion.

Regards

KEN.

One of my ancestors, George Ryalls, was an engine tenter at the Portobello Works, and appeared as a witness in 1855 testifying that their smoke emissions were under control. It took another hundred years to truly start to control smoke in Sheffield!

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There's a small book by Bill Tidy called (I think) "The Great Eric Ackroyd Disaster", about an orphan in a northern town who becomes an apprentice at Gridley's Smoke Works, and rises to become a Master Smoke Blender, until the fateful day when he accidentally switches on the filters, just as the company's champion coughing choir are starting their practice, for which he is banished to London. Although it was written many years before, the ending has strong echoes of the end of 'Brassed Off'. But then I'm a great fan of Bill Tidy!

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of my ancestors, George Ryalls, was an engine tenter at the Portobello Works, and appeared as a witness in 1855 testifying that their smoke emissions were under control. It took another hundred years to truly start to control smoke in Sheffield!

attachicon.gifGeorge Ryalls 1855 - Smoke.png

Dear Edmond, I have just read your report from the Independent 1855, although all the evidence seemed to be that the emissions were under control,

and could well be,I would like to point out that the bench ,the said messrs W Jeffcock , T Dunn, and Mr Gainsford, were all Colliery owners and would probably be supplying coal to the Portobello Works at the time, and therefor it would be in their interests to ensure that their coal was classed as relatively clean burn?

Regards ,

KEN.

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Ken - thanks, I hadn't considered that! An interesting line of thought....

Bayleaf - Yes, the Tidy book also hits nails on heads! :

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