Photographer Jim LoScalzo toured lost ghost towns in the Appalachians, once thriving mining towns which became deserted when those mines closed down, leaving the decaying, abandoned structures as ghosts of the past, crumbling monuments to the everyday life of the many men who toiled beneath the ground and their families who they toiled so hard for (and often lost their lives for, deep below, away from the light of the sun and the caress of the wind). Link from Selectism, via Jonathan Carroll.
Reminded me a little of a day wandering around Prestongrange mining and industrial museum, early in spring, not another soul around, just me and rusting rail tracks, the long-disused winding wheel and old machinery. Not quite the same as his piece with the abandoned homes but still that feeling of ghosts of people, of a whole way of life gone forever, although at least here people can still come and explore that part of their industrial heritage.
I was also struck by another of his works, this time a more modern yet no less haunted ghost town, empty areas of New Orleans, street lights still working but few people returned or some neighbourhoods even devoid of those who once lived there...
Only a few days ago I was out with my dad and took some photographs of the new statue that was part of an upgraded memorial to the miners who lost their lives in the old Auchengeigh pit. The site commemorates two disasters, from the 30s and the 50s, the latter being especially bad with a large loss of life, men lost in the cold and dark deep beneath the earth. A bloody horrible, dirty, hard, dangerous job at the best of times. The statue of the miner with his head bowed was unveiled only in September to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 disaster. And then the other day it was stolen. Yes, stolen. Some utter lowlife scumball bastards stole a memorial to the dead, presumably for the value of the metal.
There are still people today who remember lost loved one who were victims of that disaster, but that won’t matter to these evil bastards. They must have been planning it, they would have needed heavy equipment to remove it. It was there when folks left the nearby Miner’s Welfare the night before and was gone when a local drove past early next morning. I hope they catch the bastards and get the statue back, but more than likely they have some git as unscrupulous and evil as them who is prepared to melt it down for the scrap value.
It had been raining just before I took this picture and I thought the effect in the close-up was quite good, like a cross between the sweat of hard labour and tears. Its hard not to look at the miner, head bowed and not think of my own papa whose body was broken from work in the mines.
When I was off earlier this month I went down the coast a little outside Edinburgh to the Scottish Mining Museum, which I’ve been meaning to go to for ages (the 26 bus right from the city centre takes you to right to the entrance). Annoyingly the visitor centre and inside attractions and tours weren’t up and running, even though I had checked the website before going down and it indicated everything was, but I did get to wander around all the surface remains and had the place largely to myself at the time too, quite atmospheric, so quiet now but once teeming with hundreds and hundreds of men working in the mine, the mighty boilers of the power house and the nearby brick kilns. Shot quite a lot of photos and only now uploading them – the first batch are on my Flickr page, with more to follow, and also a short video 360 panorama:
I noticed in the news that the Bevin Boys have been belatedly honoured for their efforts during the Second World War. Some were volunteers, some drafted, but instead of the army, air force or navy they were drafted into a service just as dangerous (although a lot of folk simply don’t realise how dangerous) and even dirtier – they were the guys who had to man the coal mines to keep the home fires burning (literally). And it reminded me of my papa on my mother’s side, who was a miner and who trained many of those boys. A couple of years ago I bought a book on the history of mining which covered the region back home for my mum and dad; we were surprised to find inside a bunch of grinning Bevin Boys with the senior miners who trained them, one tall, broad, strongly built man standing out.
He looked like the Comrade, who we lost the other year, but it couldn’t be him back then… Papa, his dad. I only new him as an old man, semi-crippled from the work in the pits and missing fingers, speech damaged (of course he never got any compensation – slip on a wet towel and sprain an ankle today and you sue for ten grand, crippled in mining accidents then, tough) and we just don’t have a lot of photographs of him when he was in his prime. How like the Comrade in his prime he looked, grinning for the camera, strong, confident, young, smiling out at us in this book from across six decades. These men took the ‘dig for victory’ slogan literally, tearing out fuel for the war effort from deep under the bedrock of our islands, its a bloody disgrace they had to wait sixty years for even this tiny amount of recognition.