Where Mineworkers get 1s 6d (7 1/2p) a day

February 1939

Mexborough and Swinton Times, February 3.

Where Mineworkers get 1s 6d a day.

Conisborough Man’s Experiences in West Africa.

Mining where the men’s wages are equal to 1s 6d a day and the cost of living is equivalent of 1d a day!

These are the facts disclose this week to a “times” reported by a former Conisborough resident, Mr Eric Hadfield, with is over in South Yorkshire again on furlough after a nine-month spell at Konongo, a goldmining township on the Gold Coast of Africa. Mr Hadfield, whose father, the late Mr Benjamin Hadfield, this was for some years a popular assistant under manager at Cadeby Main Colliery, Conisborough, has been on African service for just over two years and has a fund of interesting stories of his experiences.

Bronzed and Fit.

Mr Hadfield, who looks particularly sun bronzed and fit, was born in Denaby, educated at Doncaster Grammar School, and studied mine surveying at the Mexborough Technical School. Upon becoming qualified, he was for 11 years at Cadeby Colliery, and later went to Gresford Colliery immediately after the terrible disaster. He was engaged in the sealing off operations, but with taste for travel, he decided to try his hand on the Gold Coast and is now a shift boss at the Konongo Goal Mine.

Mr Hadfield told the “times”:

“there are three eight-hour shifts at the mine and the shift boss is wondering about 200 native “boys”. They work very hard for the English equivalent of 1s 6d (7 ½ p) a day, but there is no art ship when you consider that they can live sumptuously on a penny a day. Their chief food is cornmeal with liberal quantities of fruit and vegetables, and they live in the native compounds within the 2 mi.² of territory taken up by the camp and its immediate workings. If the workers belong to the local tribes. They live in the tribal villagers, and if they come from a distance they are accommodated in the camp.”

“They still keep up many of their ancient ceremonies and when they get `primed´ with palm wine and gin it is usually wise to leave them alone until they get over it. One of their quaint cussedness takes place at certain times of the year when the prospective brides of the tribal villages saunter down the main street loaded with the family jewels and gold ornaments, some of which are very valuable and be handed down from generation to generation.”

Much too Old at 40

“Very few of the natives live to be more than 40 years of age, the climate and prevalence of disease not being conducive to good health, but they are mature men and women at nine years of age. The social stated is calculated upon how many wives. They possess, and they are not citizens until they can read and write.

“Their hopes of mode and palm leaves, and they have no fear of the tax collector if they have any chickens, goats about the hours. They pay their taxes in produce or animals, unless, of course, they work at the mine, and in that case they pay for it in gold. The young men are very vain. They powder up and oil their bodies with palm oil until they shine like black, silver. They managed to find use for old razorblades – they are very much in demand for obtaining a clean parting in the hair!”

Mr Hadfield spoke of football in West Africa and showed that the game can beas thrillingin the settlement as an English cup tie, and when a handsome Gold cup brim full of gin is the trophy, the native players can be particularly enthusiastic – despite the fact that they play in their bare feet! Mr Hadfield explained that they can kick a hardball farther than he can with his football boots on.

Fixing the Boss.

Mr Hadfield reach for a pile of papers by his side and mention that when the natives have done something they know is wrong and they want to “fix” it with the white “boss” they sent him a letter written in the most ornate phraseology imaginable.

The following is a quotation from a letter addressed to Mr Hatfield from Toikya Mushim of Oudamisi Akim quote.

“Dear Sir,

I have the honour to most respectfully submit before you this, my humble petition, in order to gain my usual employment. I very frequently pray for your masterly and sympathetic benevolence on my behalf and I do earnestly crave for your kind and merciful redemption. I do really ascertain my own folly, and I do faithfully make a promise to abide by your instructions. So far as this employment and elsewhere. During my financial depression I have had no way to drag myself and I therefore approach you with grateful submission to seek your kind favour as regards my immediate determination.”

Very few of the “boys” can read or write, Mr Hadfield said, and consequently they explain their difficulties to one of their number who can do so, and he extracts a fee of a shilling for the service. The past to reinstatement is usually paved a short time before the apology arrives with a plump chicken.

“The climate is very humid, and a topee (son helmet) must be worn at least between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM,” Mr Hatfield proceeded. “The atmosphere is particularly friendly to deadly snakes which abound in covering Bush country. A black mamba is a very nasty specimen to meet on a dark night. It is bad enough when you’re wearing leather boots, but it must be infinitely worse to step on one with your bare feet.

“There are two kinds of common fever, malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes, and Blackwater fever. I have never contracted either of these. Fortunately, but is mainly owing to swallowing a dose of five grains of quinine every day. Local doctors say it just can’t be done, but it has got to be done on the Gold Coast If you want to keep your peace of mind.”

Vertical Gold Veins.

The veins of gold in the mine run almost vertically instead of horizontally as a coal mine, and the gold is conveyed in small trucks to the mine head where it is milled. The nearest big town to the mining, reached by railroad on the train is in Kamassi, about 37 miles away. This place is the headquarters of King Prembi, of the Ashanti, who attended the coronation of King John six with his retinue.

At the camp, Mr Hadfield said, they had a fine golf course, a cricket pitch, tennis court and a European club. Five or six of the 60 white men at the camp and their wives with, the children were not allowed, and a very strict medical examination must be passed to obtain permission for the wife to be at the camp.”

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