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Collier Boy at the Welsh Mining Experience


Posted: 30/01/2020

Collier Boy at the Welsh Mining Experience


The Black Gold Experience Underground Tour at the Welsh Mining Experience in Rhondda Heritage Park has a fascinating new feature.

Meet 12-year-old Joe as he completes this first day as a coal miner.

Whether you visit the Welsh Mining Experience as an individual, as part of a group tour or with your school class, you are sure to be moved by Joe’s story.

Even more so when you discover he is not a fictional character, but Mountain Ash-born Joseph Keating, who went on to write an acclaimed novel about his life in the harsh underground world of coal mining.

At an age where children today are still settling into secondary school and their GCSEs seem a far-off milestone, Joseph joined the men working to search for Black Gold.

Here’s more information you need to know about the lives of children – girls and boys – working in industrial Britain.

John Davies
John Davies of Ferndale was a child miner like Joseph Keating


At one time, there were reportedly boys and girls aged as young as four working alongside men and women in the dark, dangerous conditions. They worked to operate the doors that kept the mine shafts ventilated, pulled the carts to and from the coal face and also helped the adult miners cut the coal. Read more


They had some pretty moving – and shocking – stories to tell about their time in the mines.


That all changed in 1843 when an Act of Parliament made it against the law for females and boys aged 10 and under to work in the coal mines.



The investigations that took place into children working in the UK mining industry were so harrowing, they promoted Charles Dickens to visit a mine to see the conditions for himself.

great report M00003 68


What he discovered during his time in the mines began as a written essay and report but soon turned into the classic A Christmas Carol.

dickens charles first B20150-35


Joseph Keating was born in Mountain Ash in 1871 to Irish Catholic Immigrant parents.

In the tradition of the times, the house he lived in was in Nixons Row, not the official name of the road, but the name given by occupants in honour of the man who built the row of homes – he later moved to Cardiff Street into one of the big, boxy houses that were known as The Barracks.

nixons row


His time as a child in the colliery was described in his 1916 novel My Struggle for Life, in which he also described his varied working life which included work as a pit boy, a gardener, a clerk and a travelling salesman.

He settled on journalism and writing and his biggest success was the stage adaptation of his 1913 novel A Perfect Wife, which was adapted into the 1914 West End play Peggy And Her Husband.

The violence of World War One turned Keating’s attention to politics and he strived to become an Aberdare MP but never achieved this. He did become a local councillor. He died in 1934.

My Struggle for Life has been compared to its contemporary novel – James Joyce’s A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man which was published in the same year – as both follow the same literary pattern of a memoir.

Book your Black Gold Experience Underground Tour and meet Collier Boy online now.

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