Ambassador’s Visit – Popular Visitor – Warm Welcome by Miners & Wives (picture)

May 1947

South Yorkshire Times May 24, 1947

US Ambassador’s Visit
Spend 45 Minutes Down Pit
A Popular Visitor
Warm Welcome by Miners and Wives

Mr Lewis Douglas, former Arizona copper miner now American ambassador, who spent 45 minutes 800 yards underground at Denaby Main Colliery on Monday on his first visit to a British mine found the Denaby miners “very pleasant, very friendly fellows.”

He chatted with a number of them down the pit and on the surface, with a number miners wives, one of whom, 66 years old Mrs Elizabeth Griffin, flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. “He is a fine gentleman and a fine sport,” she told me.

Overall clad American ambassador, Mr Lewis Douglas (centre), with Mr JA Hall, Yorkshire area Miner’s President (left) and Major General Sir Noel G Holmes, North East Divisional Coal Board Chairman (right) during his South Yorkshire coalfield visit on Monday.

Came and Conquered

Mr Griffin, 30 Doncaster Road, Denaby, whose husband, Mr William Griffin, was a collier at Cadeby Main for 30 years before his retirement two years ago.

Tall, bronzed, soft-spoken, Mr Douglas, a man of great personal charm, came to Denaby and conquered. Clad in the overall and safety helmet he had worn down the pit, he went across the road from the colliery offices to talk to a group of women and young children in Doncaster Road.

He spoke to, to Mrs Edna Mead, residing in the cottage beside the pit yard and shook hands with 10 years old Samuel Croydon, Denaby miner’s son. Mrs Mead had a right leg in a plaster cast. “Have you a call on the assistance of the infirmary?” He inquired and Mrs Mead paid tribute to the service you receive from Denaby and Cadeby Miner’s own Fullerton hospital. “I hope you will soon be better,” Mr Douglas smiled, “I wish you all the best of luck.”

The Colliery bore a brave appearance, the British and American flags flew from the headstock, the blue-and-white National Coal Board flag flew from a flagpole alongside the colliery offices. Cars filled a specially prepared car park, miners hung over the office walls to watch the distinguished visitors, and the whole pit head proceedings were filmed by a news cameraman. A BBC observer stood nearby.

In 1944 the colliery manager, Mr J Halford, spent three months in America examining Pennsylvania method, and mining developments and it was fitting tribute to Mr Halford’s membership of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and that of three other North-Eastern Divisional Coal Board executives, Mr J Le Brun, H S Haslam and GC Payne, intimately connected with the direction of the pit, that Denaby Main should be chosen for the American ambassador’s visit.

The “Party”

The visitors were welcomed at the colliery offices by Major General Sir Noel G Holmes, North-East Divisional Coal Board Chairman, and the party who went with Mr Douglas down the pit included Lord Hyndley, National coal Board chairman, Mr R Koenig, coal mining engineer.

From Mr AG Guillford, head Store man at Denaby and Cadeby colliery, the visitors drew their miner’s lamps. They visited the bottom of the north-west district of the Parkgate seam, where they saw tubs been loaded from the conveyors and Mr Douglas, a trained mineral mining engineer, talked to some of the employees engaged on the conveyors, and examined work at the pit bottom.

Chatted With Men

On ascending the shaft, he also visited the screens, where he was introduced by Major General Holmes to Mr Alfred Smith, 60 Melton View, Denaby screen hand. “How long have you worked at the pit?” The ambassador asked. “40 years down the pit and three years on the pit top” was the reply. “That’s a jolly long time to work down the pit. I shouldn’t like to do that for 40 years,” Mr Douglas commented.

In a reply to another question Mr Smith told the ambassador that he started work at the colliery at the age of 13.

Mr Douglas passed the time of day with Mr Walter Fairham, 34, Maltby Road, Denaby, surface engineman. General Holmes asked Mr Fareham afterwards if he knew who the visitor was. Mr Fareham replied “No,” general Holmes said: “you cannot ‘kid’ him at all about mining, he is a mining engineer.

With Mr Reginald Taylor, 51, March Street, Conisbrough, another surface worker, the Ambassador shook hands and asked him how long he had been employed at the colliery. When told 30 years, Mr Douglas rejoined: “Very good. Keep it up boy. You are doing fine. You are looking well on the job.”

Mr Douglas won all these men with his charm.

“I am very grateful to the miners and the organisers of the trip for their kindness,” Mr Douglas told me on his return to the surface. “I did not visit the coalface – I shall do that at Yorkshire Main this afternoon – but I am no stranger to a mine. I started work at the long end of a mud stick (an American term for a shovel) and worked for two years underground in a copper mine in Arizona.”

Conditions here were obviously different from those in America, in some respects it was, therefore, not easy to compare conditions in Britain with conditions in America. He expected that the war made it difficult, if not impossible, to rehabilitate the mines, but he was very interested in the plans for the improvement of the mines, particularly with regard to mechanisation.

“The idea behind my tour,” Mr Douglas added, “is that I recognise that coal is one of the principal problems of the United Kingdom. Almost all your economic problems can be traced back to coal.”

Mr Koenig said that what struck him most was a number of surface workers engaged at the pit: about 454 for a pit producing 11,000 tons a week. That was much more than would be employed at a similar pit in America. One long-term objectives therefore he thought, should be for the British coal industry to plan a more economic use of manpower. With more mechanisation he expected that that would be achieved.

The proceedings at Denaby concluded with a lunch in the treatment room above the colliery pithead Bath.

The visitors were joined by Mr Arthur Horner, NUM secretary, whose attendance from the underground visit was prevented by car breakdown at Burnley.