The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the sixth of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.
Colliery histories, sports, science and technology all have their places in the Ocean and National Magazines. Literature also features, with poems and other literary contributions. In 1933 the Ocean and National Magazine started printing a series of articles entitled ‘Philosophy from the mine’, by a writer referred to as ‘Maindy’. These articles consider mining terms and describe their literal and philosophical meanings.
Maindy’s first article, in the January 1933 edition discusses clean coal, explaining the importance of pit-head notices telling workers that …clean coal only must be filled. After explaining the economic reasons for workmen to fill clean coal only, Maindy then takes the term as an analogy of life in general, wondering whether people’s contributions to life (their actions, speech and thoughts) were ‘Filling Clean’. Maindy returns to the subject of clean coal again in the November edition, with the picking belt used as the metaphor.
In the next article, Maindy describes pointers and partings, as used on the mine’s rails, and how if they were used correctly and kept clean they would save time and unnecessary labour. Maindy again turns this into an analogy about life, suggesting that people have their own pointers in life and that if influenced properly these three pointers or judgments (judgments of the heart, judgements of conscience and judgements of intellect/reason), will lead people safely across the parting of moral challenges.
The pattern of using analogies continues in Maindy’s subsequent articles, with the March 1933 edition likening the props and rings used to support the work area to moral props and …rings of friendship. May’s issue compared the laws of construction to the laws of society in general, whilst in June the subject was …the boss, with Maindy posing the question, Are you ‘boss’ of yourself?
In July the ‘demon’ of gas in mines drew parallels to the ‘demon’ of war, while in August finding the correct balance in Weighing Machines was likened to maintaining the correct balance of forces governing one’s life. In October the ventilating fan was compared to some people who …don’t make a lot of noise, but their very presence exhilarates us.
Finally the December article looks at the sprag, a piece of timber pushed between the spokes of tram wheels as a simple method of braking. Here the sprag is likened to the control of the human mind, with Maindy writing, Like a good haulier or rider, always keep the idea of control in mind, and see, before you set out upon any of life’s roadways, that you are equipped to meet any temptation to moral ‘speeding’.
Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer