Pit pony procession brings traffic to a halt: Country diary, 6 February 1970 | World news


Northumberland
The A1 north of Newcastle is at present undergoing an extensive operation so as to convert it into a high speed modern motorway. The City and County of Newcastle upon Tyne has now spread its urban tentacles up to the old pit village of Seaton Burn where the county takes over. Driving towards the city on a cold, wet winter day the view is hardly inspiring. Early one morning on the way to Newcastle upon Tyne, in the near darkness of a late winter dawn, the traffic was brought to a halt by a uniformed figure within the limits of Seaton Burn RDC. Through the quick flicker of the windscreen wipers, the man who had brought the cars to a standstill looked like a sort of moonman only he was pitch black instead of white. His skull hat was shining in the steady sleet, his face was coal stained with great white orbs around the eyes. His clothes were dark in colour while his feet were shod in a pair of massive steel-tipped boots.

The procession the pitman was guarding now began to the across the A1. Each animal had a man at its head all dressed exactly like the traffic controller. The creatures they led were a quite astonishing sight. Little fat dwarf quadrupeds each shaven to the skin, their manes hogged and their tails shorn so that they looked like the trunks of miniature elephants The pit ponies were all harnessed and their eyes blinkered against the dangers of debris and sudden daylight. The file of men and ponies drifted steadily across the road from pit-head to pit-head. There were sixteen of them, strange, queer creatures from the earth’s bowels spewed out across the modern motorised highway like some undulating, mythical dragon. Pit ponies are still employed in some of the North eastern coal mines. They are always fat, fine, sturdy little beasts in the pink of condition. The NCB sees to that, for an unfit animal can never give of its best.

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