Pit Pony "Bob" arrived at the Centre on Tuesday 17th July 2001 It has taken us since he was sold from the Carn Cornel Colliery in 1997 until now. Here is what we know of his life in the coalfields. He is 27 years old and was apparently sold to Carn Cornel from another colliery in 1996.
Carn Cornel Colliery opened in 1983. It worked the upper Pinchin seam of an average 2'6" of coal. Originally owned by Howard Morgan, Louth Evans and Gwyn Bowen it was sold to the Nant Fach Mining Company. Included in the sale was Pit Pony Bob.
When we first met Bob in 1997 he was already well past his best. He hauled coal hewn from the two working coal faces in turn about a 450 yard pull over very rough ground between the 2'9" gauge tracks. He hauled the coal out to the surface where he was unhitched whilst the full drams were tipped over a 15' drop into a heap, ready to be picked over for lump coal which was bagged for doorstep sale to local houses and the "smalls" was loaded into lorries for Aberthaw Power Station. He would then go into the pitch dark adit to return underground with the empty drams. The journey these ponies took was incredible. They had no lamp and pulled the two tons of coal & dram over a winding pair of tracks. The space between sleepers was erratic in the extreme and the constant work of their hooves would wear deep holes between the sleepers. Lumps of coal & rock would constantly fall on the track making it almost unimagingly difficult to negotiate. We watched Bob pull dram after dram of coal. The Colliery produced & sold over 150 tons each week. A dram carried about 2 tons. Thus Bob hauled 75 full and 75 empty drams of coal each week. The seam of coal was an average 2'9". The roadway was 7' high & 9' wide. Rock was cut from above the coal to drive the roadway onwards following the coal. Therefore Bob hauled an equal or larger amount of waste each week. The journey to the coalface from the coal trip was 450 yards Therefore Bob hauled a full dram over 38 miles each week and an empty an equal distance. Over 76 miles each week in the pitch black over holes lumps of rock & coal and sleepers unequally distanced. Its an incredible feat of endurance for a small Welsh Pony. He was fed about 1lb of hard food for breakfast each day and some hay if he was lucky. Pit Ponies like Bob were a very cheap was of getting coal.
I first met Bob on 19th February 1997 after rumors reached us of this mine hidden deep in the Forestry . I was disturbed by what I saw and noticed his labored breathing. I asked the Mine Manager about it and was told "he's got a cold, he'll be alright tomorrow. On my return I write to the Health & Safety Executive and voiced my concerns and asked some questions. I visited again on 12th March he was still the same. This time I was told "he's was having anti biotic from the vet and would be ok in a day or two" I suggested perhaps they should rest him and was brushed aside with "he's ok". I visited again on 9th April and then on 23rd April this time when the mine was closed and took Angela to listen to his breathing. She confirmed it wasn't right and on our return I contacted the mines Inspectorate. The reply we received on 29th April said the Inspector had visited the mine and spoken to the Mine Manager and reminded him of their responsibility for the horses there. They also said that "Bob" would undergo a vets inspection during the next week. Bob failed the examination and was certified unfit for work. The Colliery refused to retire him with us and sold Bob to a scrap dealer. The Colliery owners and men were very difficult to deal with after this and it was some time before we were able to find the name & details of the new owner. We were told in confidence by a very frightened ex miner of the Colliery. The letter from the Mines Inspectorate said "Bob was leaving the mine at the end of the week for a Sanctuary in Merthyr"
There was no Sanctuary in Merthyr. Bob had been sold to a scrap dealer.