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Glossary of Mining Terms and Pitmatic

The following list of words gives an explanation of some common terms used by the mining communities in the North East of England. Please click on a letter below to jump directly to that section:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M

N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Bait - A packed meal.
Bank - The surface or above ground.
Brattice - Screens used to direct currents of air in the mine.
Buzzer - Electrical signalling or warning device.

Cage - Lift in which men travelled down the mine-shaft.
Canch - Stone that is above or below a seam of coal that has to be removed to get at the coal.
Cavil - A working area which has been drawn for by lots.
Chummins - An empty tub.
Clarts - Sticky mud.
Cracket - Small stool used by miners to rest on when hewing coal.

Dad - To beat the coal dust and dirt from work clothes.
Deputy - An underground official responsible for the management and safety of a district in the pit.
Dreg - A wooden or metal stick put between the spokes of a wheel to act as a brake.

Femmer - Very delicate.

Galloway or Gallower - A small horse or pit pony.

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Hand Putter - A man who puts or pushes the full tubs from the hewer to the onsetter.
Hewer - A miner who actually cuts the coal.
Hoggers - Shorts worn by miners underground.
Horse-keeper - A man who looks after the pit ponies underground.
Hoy - To throw.
Hunkers or hunkering - Sitting on the backs of your legs and heels.

In-bye - Travelling from the shaft bottom into the mine workings

Keps - A rest or block on which the cage is held to prevent it moving.
Kist - A chest or the Deputies' office underground often used as an assembly point for men to find out where they will be working.

Limmers - Wooden shafts which could be attached to a coal tub and to the pit pony's harness.

Marra - A work colleague; an equal.

Onsetter - A man who works at the bottom of the shaft taking the empty tubs out and putting the full tubs of coal in the cage travelling back from the mine workings to the shaft bottom.
Out-bye - Travelling back from the mine workings to the shaft bottom.

Pitmatic - Language used by miners both above and below ground.
Pony Putter - A man who uses a pony to pull the tubs to coal to the onsetter.

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Screens - A noisy dirty job on the surface where young boys, usually straight from school, had to sort out the stone from the coal.
Scumfished - To feel suffocated.
Shaft - Vertical access to the mine.

Token - A miners identity disc or a tally.
Trapper Boy - In the 19th century very young children were employed to open and shut ventilation doors underground. Often they had to sit in the dark for many hours.
Tub - A container for carrying coals

Winding Men - Men who raised and lowered the cages down the shaft.

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Coal Mining Oral History
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund   Durham County Council