Washington County Durham


Mining Memories

Pitmatic  (1 of 4)


PITMATIC  -  The Language of Usworth & Washington Coal Miners


Afterdamp is the dangerous mixture of gases found in a mine after an explosion or fire.   (Damp from the German dampf - steam/vapour.)

Amain   (pron: 'a-main')

Out of control; travelling at great speed etc.   "The tub's amain doon the tailgate!"


A piece of chewing tobacco.


Anywhere other than the coal face.   "Am a hewer but oor Harry works backbye."

BACM   (acronym pron: 'back-um')

British Association of Colliery Management - for senior colliery & area staff, including The Manager, Undermanager, Engineers & Surveyor.


A miner's packed meal.   Bait-box: a container for holding bait - usually sarnies.   "Div-ent fuh-get yer bait, young'un!"

Bait Stand

The time when worked stopped for miners to eat their bait - officially 20 minutes in a 7¼ hour shift.


Miners' name for the surface of a colliery.


The man in charge of a pit cage when it's at the surface of the mine.


The agreement between pieceworkers and management for payment per ton of coal mined, yards advanced in a new roadway etc. etc.


A semi-skilled worker in the Electrical Department, authorised by the Manager to maintain and repair U/G phones and signalling systems.


Dangerous oxygen deficient atmosphere in which a flame lamp will not burn - usually due to an excess of carbon dioxide.

Blogged Up

Something, a pipe for example, was said to be blogged up when it was blocked with dirt or other deposits.


aka Bone Shaker: a tram used for transporting timber (pit props etc.)

Bord & Pillar Mining

Coal is won by driving 'bords' (roadways) through the coal seam to form an OXO-style lattice.  The remaining square 'pillars' support the roof.
Used at Ellington Colliery because some workings were only 600ft below the North Sea and allowing a goaf to fall in was not an option.
The main drawback of Bord & Pillar is the very high percentage of coal that has to be left in place to keep the roof up.  [ Half a loaf  etc. etc.]


A tarpaulin-type sheet used to deflect air into relatively small (otherwise unventilated) places.  Also temporary protection against water drops.


A Brick: (of a person) solid, dependable, can always be relied upon.


aka Drop-Warwick.   A safety device comprising two girders attached to the roof several yards apart and connected by a heavy wire rope.
When one girder is raised the other is automatically lowered.  Used to prevent tubs and mine-cars running amain.  Nothing gets past a bull!

Bullits / Ket

Sweets, especially boiled sweets.


A lift for transporting men and materials into and out of the mine. Also used to lower chummins and to raise coal-filled mine-cars to 'bank'.

Cable   (pron: 'k-yebel')

An allocated work place, possibly after pieceworkers have drawn lots for the best positions along the face - mebeez tuh avoid drippin watter.


When a seam of coal is removed it can expose small to large pieces of roof that are held precariously in place by a thin layer of coal - between that piece and the main slab of roof.  If its thin coal perimeter isn't noticed and it's not knocked out, it can fall unexpectedly and injure a miner.

Caunch   (pron: 'kansh')

Top/bottom caunch: stone above and below the coal seam.  Must be removed to make a roadway for men, materials, conveyor belts etc.


Any kind of table


Some miners were paid by the tonnage of coal they mined rather than the time they spent at work.  These miners often elected a fellow miner (usually a union official) to check weights on their behalf.


Piece of timber (2ft x 6in x 6in).  Commonly stacked in pairs (at right-angles) to form small towers, they were used as temporary roof supports.


A chow - a chew of 'baccy'.


An empty tub or mine-car.   Also an empty beer glass!   "Gerr'em in, Marra. The chummins uh stackin up."   [Opposite: Fullen]




Claggy mud


Turn - as in, "If yer coin roond that corner ower there, yer'll finned the fitter hevin e's bait."

COSA   (acronym pron: 'koh-za')

Colliery Officials and Staff Area - a branch of the NUM for colliery assistant engineers, also clerical staff at collieries and area offices.


A metal rod attached to the back of a tub.   If the tub started to run backwards the cow would dig into the sleepers and derail the tub.