Silverwood Logo by John Doxey background photo Mick Carver1900 - 1994

Dedicated to the Miners of Silverwood

History of the Mine

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Silverwood Mine

Hollings Lane

Thrybergh

South Yorkshire England

Webmaster John Doxey

Main Photos Jonathan Dabs.

Additional content Mick Carver

 

 
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Ralph Law  pg2
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Dalton

RALPH LAW

BLACKSMITH

 

 

The big strapping fellow on the right of the photo is Ralph Law born 5th June 1921 who started work at Silverwood in 1935 and took early retirement in 1981.  He was a Blacksmith at the colliery. One of the first men Ralph was to work with  was  a foreman blacksmith  by the name of Tommy Thompson.

Photo courtesy of John LawThe craft of the blacksmith takes many years to learn, and the standard of a blacksmith was there to see in the finished result of his art. Learning that Ralph was at Silverwood for 47 years leaves no doubt that his employers were more than a little impressed with the results of his craftsmanship.

The great thing about having tools, metal fencing or similar items created by a Blacksmith was that the blacksmith used wrought iron as opposed to cast iron, the difference being that wrought iron could be reworked and welded conventionally, thus saving on the cost of maintaining equipment.  Amongst the many things a blacksmith had to learn was the choice of coal to use, bituminous type coal was the ideal fuel as it was high in carbon  55 to 65%, low in ash 3 to 8%, had a low moisture content of 2,5 to 3.00%, Sulphur present was only 1 to 2%, a high Volatility as much as 30 to 40%, and a rating of 13. 500 to 14. 500 BTU. 

 

We may all just picture a Blacksmith as wielding his hammer over a hot piece of metal, but the tools of the trade were many, and often would depend on the type of work, and the choice of the smith. It is of course well known by all that the trade of blacksmith has been dominant in the history of man, and despite a decline in the numbers of  blacksmiths during the 20th century there has been a resurgence in recent years [ 2006] due to a renewed interest in the artistry of the trade.

The work itself requires  a considerable amount of knowledge and indeed many Smithies  became inventors and engineers, a very high degree of concentration is also required whilst actually handling hot metals.

 

 

Blacksmiths at a coalmine were also titled "Mechanic of the mine" as shown in the Ropemans handbook given to Ralph in March 1966. The book was a manual set out to British Standard practice regarding the procedures and materials to be used for jobs carried out by a mining blacksmith.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A blacksmith like Ralph  would be a very busy individual in a workplace the size of Silverwood, and I have no doubt he would have been called upon to make many a home item for his mates. He recalls a funny moment when making a set of car tyre levers for the No 2 Mechanical Engineer at that time, when he had finished making them he left them in the engineers office. Later the No 1 Mechanical Engineer by the name of Crossley came into the office and spotted the tyre levers and was so impressed as to how well they had been made he too then demanded that Ralph should make him a pair also.
He was actually offered the job of foreman but declined, Paul Mold was then hired to fill the position, Paul had previously worked at Firbeck colliery until its closure.

 

The photos of Ralph on this page also contain a couple of his work colleges [ Top photo. On the left is Jack Kemp, Centre is Paul Mold the foreman] when they were rope capping outside the East pit shaft. This particular job involved cleaning the lock coiled rope wires individually before capping the rope into the caple [ this was the pot that after the wires were cleaned they were drawn back into when the temperature was right and then the molten white metal would be poured.] end with molten white metal. Ralph explains that they used to use a special chalk to mark the caple after it was heated with propane torches to check that the caple temperature was correct before pouring the molten white metal. When the chalk changed colour they knew that the caple was at the correct temperature. 

Apparently the last man who was  Ralph's striker was a guy called Derek Massey who it is believed at the time of writing

[ 2006 ] still lives in Dalton, the two men were very good friends in their time together .

At the time of writing [ 2006 ] Ralph is 85 years old and his proud son John tells me  he is doing quite well. He worked as a Blacksmith for 47 years at Silverwood. He is now 85 years old and still in not too bad health although he has had a couple of strokes.

 

 

Ralph Law  pg2

 

 

Many thanks to Ralph and son John for their contribution to this site.

Anyone who would like to add a memory of Ralph, or simply wish him well, he can be contacted at

johnjolaw@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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