When senior lecturer in sculpture Colin Rose was asked to create a work of art to commemorate the miners of Ushaw Moor, Durham, Colin struck a rich seem of artistic inspiration.
Colin (pictured left) created a coal-shaped sculpture called 'The Roundy' from a series of casts made at UK Coal's mine at Morpeth.
Roundy' is a miner's term, describing a large
'Gateshead has its Angel, we have our Roundy'
by Mike Amos
THOUGH it began in the Catholic Club, involved the priest and the Methodist minister and included an invocation - perhaps for the first time in all His great creation - that Almighty God might bless a roundy, this wasn't strictly a service at all.
It should forthwith be explained, at any rate, that to a Durham miner a roundy was a large lump of coal, and that whilst it chucked out some heat it also tended to chuck out bits of stone, so that the wife and bairns had to take refuge behind the sofa.
It should not be confused with a clemmy, which is smaller and stonier, nor with the Roundel, which is a pub in Thornaby. In Ushaw Moor, a recovering pit village west of Durham, they now have the biggest roundy in the world. It weighs six tons, cost £10,000, and is a sculpture which - they hope - will not just acknowledge the community's heritage but symbolise its regeneration.
Cast from coal and built around steel and concrete, it had been hoisted into place last Friday and was officially unveiled the following morning. A solitary domestic chimney straight smoked against the glorious Deerness Valley, a reminder of how Ushaw Moor had lived, and died.
Old lads on their morning doorsteps asked how their neighbours were mekkin' oot and were told, perhaps for the first time in 24 hours, that they were just chewin' on. Around the shops they enquired earnestly of the previous evening's digit numbers and in the Catholic Club they were contemplating the first of the day. "You can't have a pint at ten o'clock."
"It's twenty past." "Aye, why."
The club is next to St Joseph's church. A notice beneath a large crucifix "requests that intemperate language is not used in this club". It's what the non-conformists call "nee swearing". Another notice advises that gambling is not allowed on the premises, a third that bingo is for Over 18s only. Pinned to the outside door there was an ode to the roundy, signed "Retired miner" but written by former Hartlepools United footballer Jackie O'Connor, known universally thereabouts as the Little Black Rat. "This rounds reminds us of days gone by,
When pulley wheels looked up to the sky..."
Even at such an hour, when the pipe band had barely had first wind, there were affectionate jokes about the new landmark. "Must have come from a canny seam," they say, and "That'll burn for a few days, mind" and "Tek a fair sized shovel to get that on the fire back".
Others lamented that the bairns didn't even know what a roundy was, nor probably a cundy, either. (A cundy, it will at once be recalled, was what wor Geordie lost his penker down.)
The idea came from Ushaw Moor First, a group formed in 1998 - 24 years after the pit closed - to spark new life into the old village. "It was deteriorating, becoming derelict, suffering from unemployment," said Lil Sowerby, the leader. "When the pit closed people started moving out to find work and so the shops became a bit downtrodden, too. "We want it to be a pretty village. Others have models of pit wheels or pit ponies, we wanted something different. Gateshead has the Angel of the North and now we have the Roundy of Ushaw Moor. It's lovely to have days like this." Lil, a retired district nurse, was awarded the MBE for services to the community. Her husband Brian carried it before the ceremony. "I've no pockets," she said.
Paula Nixon, Ushaw Moor First's secretary, said that they'd wanted to have a personal touch. "It hadn't just to be a question of people coming in with money, telling us what the village wanted."
The colliery banner, featuring miners' leader Jack Joyce, had again been lifted from the church, the pipers led the procession, the St John Ambulance lady again proved that organisation's versatility by acting as traffic polliss as well. There was the MP, the mayor, the great, the good and the sculptor, a former miner called Colin Rose who had taken the opportunity to make a statement of intent. He had wanted, he said, to create a physical mass that people could relate their bodies to - "a single boulder that would have the simple honesty of its material and yet have an enigmatic quality by being incongruous to its surroundings".
They talk of nothing else down Ushaw Moor Workmen's Club. Margaret Rowe, the Methodist minister, prayed for those had given their lives for coal and for those who are still suffering because of it; Fr Martin Morris, the Catholic priest, prayed that the symbolism "might enliven our hope and be an inspiration for the future of the village."
A minute's silence was ended, not by The Last Post but with a single piper's sonorous lament, after which - and a few speeches - everyone went back to the Catholic Club.
There was a huge spread, the chance (at last) to have a pint and a rumour running riot that there was free beer down the cricket club. Barely 12 o'clock, and it was going to be a very good day for Ushaw Moor. Theatre in the roundy.
When University of Sunderland sculptor Colin Rose was asked to create a work of art to commemorate the miners of Ushaw Moor in County Durham, he struck a rich seam of artistic inspiration and created a piece of coal - weighing in at 14.5 tons.
'Roundy' is a miner's term for a large lump of coal, and at over twelve feet high and 14.5 tons, the sculpture certainly fits the description. The piece was made from concrete, poured into a fibreglass cast created by Colin together with specialist mould makers North East Composites.
Colin says: "The inspiration for the work came out of workshop sessions with ex-miners from Ushaw Moor. I explained my idea and they liked it very much. It was they who then began to tell me stories of 'Roundies' which on occasions fell out of the roof of the mine."
The award-winning sculptor has several pieces of work in the North-East, as well as other parts of the UK. His most notable piece is the Rolling Moon, a 25 metre steel arch which sits on the Gateshead side of the River Tyne, near the Swing Bridge. His work can also been seen at Kielder, Northumberland, Beamish, County Durham, the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle and Bensham Bank, Gateshead.
The 'Roundy' project was supported by City of Durham SRB5, The Northern Rock Foundation, Brandon & Byshottles Parish Council, Greggs Trust, Durham Rural Community Council, Small Projects Fund (Durham County), County Durham Environmental Trust, Durham Aged Mineworkers Association, Durham City Arts, UK Coal Ltd, Crouch Mining and North East Composites.