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Tom "Stiffy" Roberts (1910-) - Mine worker, Abermain Collieries. Recorded 23 August 1983. Part 1/3.
Recorded 23 August 1983
Part 1 of 3
Tom was born at Fishery Creek in 1910. He thinks his father worked for South Maitland Railways at that time, his name was ‘William’ Henry Joseph Roberts. Tom’s grandmother on his father’s side was born at East Maitland, and his grandfather Harry Thomas Blanchard emigrated from England around 1870. Tom believes his mother was born at Fishery Creek on Regent Street. Charlie Blanchard is Harold’s father who married Mabel Dorn, and Herman Dorn who was the eldest of the Dorn’s married Tom’s father’s sister Grace Roberts. Roy Dorn was a builder. Grace is Perce Dorn’s sister in Law.
Tom went to Kurri Kurri Public School. Near the Regent Street bridge was the railway gates and it was always called “The Gates”. They lived at the house right there and it got flooded out there in 1913. He remembers the boat his dad made from a door, they then went to Violet Hill and a dray took them to where his grandmother lived. Tom’s father worked at Pelaw Main Colliery, he was a driver, the big engines, about six of them, he brought up in around 1918 or 19. They moved to Abermain in 1919. They got the engines just at the end of the War - he brought them up from Newcastle.
Tom lived at Telarah in 1914 at the beginning of the war. His father was working at South Maitland driving the engines, and then he went to Dubbo to work on the Werris Creek line doing construction. Talk of pay. Tom went to school at Kurri when he was six in September 1916, then they left when the flu was on in 1919. At that point they put two shifts on at Abermain. Shift work set up, Main Two had started collecting the coal in 1911 they started sinking it in 1909, Main three started in 1925.
The residence at Abermain and where it was located. Bill Keating was the station master, he died on the railway. Tom’s sister is Maisie Roberts. Reg Fielding is related to the Keating’s somehow, and Reg and Tom’s mother were second or third cousins though in no way related to the Keating’s herself. Reg was early on the railway and was respected both by the workers and the bosses, which may have had something to do with Bill Keating, as he thinks they were cousins. In the 1917 strike, Tom thinks Saint Vincent Hayes was the superintendent, at the time Tom’s father was a “boss cocky” there as a driver, he refused to do a job and was fired from there, and never worked there again. He then went to Pelaw Main, then to Abermain, and worked at Abermain down in the Number 2 Pit. Talk of the work he did there, and the trouble that lead to a Strike. He got tired of waiting to get back to work so he left to get work at the steelworks, in about 1925, B.H.P., Newcastle.
Tom finished his schooling at Abermain then went back Kurri Public School in third class. There were eight classes in the infants, it was a co-ed school then. "Cracker" Moody was in Tom’s class. Tom started work at Abermain at the age of 14. He did wagon building, then "cabled out" during lockout in 1932, just before the lockout about a six month period he was down in the pit working with a guy named Jock who was a fitter and he helped with that. After the lock out they built the dry blower, and got rid of the wagons. Explaining the location of the blower. The "sore eye" pit, at Hebburn also had a dry blower. Where “Mayfield" was located at Abermain. Billy Goat Hill or Old School Hill had a lot of Billy Goats that had a habit of getting into the school, Charlie James used to have a great big angora one that he used in the mayday sports, every year he would be there driving his goat, as did Charlie Hicks had the best goat cart.
The problems with leaving lunches unattended at the school in the coat room and at the pit, the goats would eat it. Tom worked in the wagon repair shop at Abermain, some took them to Hexham, at the time they could put a ten ton hopper for about 210 pound, but at Hexham it was 250. Type of equipment they had to work with - they had a template for the boards. They could make the wheels but couldn’t do the tyres. They sent them to Glen Innes. They did hot boxes that used either wick or grease, the best wagons they had were built in 1921 from Glen Innes, they were 10 ton, 8ft 9 ½ doors, while the others were 7ft 6 and 7ft 2 doors. Pelton had the best wagons, Bellbird had the worst. But the very best wagons were the ones at Muswellbrook, they were all big wagons, built from 1926-7 on. Talk of details of the wagons.
Abe Hawkins and Bob Richardson were on the loco’s in 1919, though the first to be on the loco’s at Abermain was Tom’s uncle Bill Blanchard, Harold Blanchard’s uncle, started in 1907, he worked on the Government railway at Rixon's Creek. They had half a dozen wagons of coal every day. Tom thinks he was stationed at Maitland, and would go from Maitland up to get the trains of coal, and would do the shunting, then came to Abermain to be a shunter in 1907. South Maitland obtained an engine in 1909, when Abermain No. 2 started. The engine was called "Little Old Greenie", Tom’s uncle didn’t want to be a driver. Talk of the varied shift times for the workers.
Father worked on wagons in 1919, building them and repairing them. He also worked up at Martins Creek looking after the boilers for six months, around 1910, talk of taking the train to Dungog as that was the last stop on the line. They moved from Currie to the area in 1919, during the Flu epidemic. They put the shunter on in 1925 when Abermain No. 3 opened. Tom Scott worked with Tom’s father. Talk of the old carriages. The "box type" wagons came from the Pelaw Main, Richie run.
Tom only ever worked at Abermain in the coal industry. Jack Jeffries was the Manager then. John Cobley was the chief clerk in 1924. When he quit he opened an estate agency at Katoomba, his son Johnny finished up being a doctor. Other chief clerks at Aberdare were Frank Lovett, Harry Roddenby, Hughie Thompson, Les Boardman and Alec Lawson. John Brown and Tom used to have a few fights, they went to night school together. John Brown started at Abermain No. 1 in the office.
J. & A. Brown merged with Abermain during the lockout. Abermain-Seaham Collieries was what it was called when Tom started work. Ernie Smith came from Seaham, he was a clerk. Harry Parker came to Abermain No. 2 for a while early on he had worked with Alec Deitz. Stanford Main, Stanford No.1, merged with Pelaw Main and Paxton and then they merged with the Abermain-Seaham, a lot of the couplings and other pieces were stamped with “J.A.B”. Origins of Jeffries’ pit, Tom was still in school, around 1922, Tom remembers Henry Fullicks driving a horse and Dray, carting the coal from up at the pit and shovelling it into an es truck. The little railway track was put in just before the lock out when Tom was working. Jeffries pit had a couple of people working there including "Eisteddfod" Charlie James, along with all the James’, Mick O'Brien and Bill Hyles.
Tom remembers starting at Abermain No. 1. Jim Ryan, from Maitland, worked on the horse and dray all his life, remembers him carting things up from the pit, and taking a little extra so as to get the pit going. The depth of Jeffries pit was about 15 feet. Location of the Jeffries pit entrance was in the paddock near the old Murray dog track.
End (Tape 234/Side A) Part 1 of 3.
SubjectRoberts, Thomas William, 1910-Fishery Creek (N.S.W.)Kurri Kurri Public SchoolPelaw Main Colliery (N.S.W.)Abermain Colliery Company -- EmployeesAbermain No. 1 Colliery (N.S.W.)Abermain No. 2 Colliery (N.S.W.)Millfield Colliery (N.S.W.)Mine workerSouth Maitland RailwayRailroads -- New South Wales -- Hunter ValleyPersonJack DelaneyDepicts or Relates ToJack MoodyHarry ParkerAleck DeitzJohn BrownCreatorRoberts, Thomas William, 1910-Delaney, Jack, 1919-2010CollectionVoices of the HunterDate Created23rd August 1983Location Abermain No. 2 Colliery, NSW Abermain No. 1 Colliery, NSW Millfield Greta Colliery, NSW Pelaw Main Colliery, NSWIdentifier234A