were all on the pop! Well, he wasn't [father], he never used to drink, but my uncle Thomas and them were. There was my aunt Katie, she was my dad's sister, well I think they were half brother and sister. That's all there was in the family I think.'

And all the lads worked at the pit?

'Oh aye. My grandfather used to work in the quarry. It's still going, that's the one where you hear the hooter going. Still there, Gormand's Way.'

But you never knew him?

'No. He'd work in the quarry, but my uncle Thomas and uncle John--the one that got killed--they worked in the pit at Kelloe.'

And your father started there, too?

'Umm. Aye, he was 12 years old. John, his older brother, was only 16 when he was killed.'

But your father was at Thornley when you were little?

'Oh, why aye. We used to see him going to work. He used to go to work with his pit clothes on--there was no pit baths then. There was First Shift, Night Shift and Back Shift. First Shift was at two or three or four o'clock in the morning. Back shift they used to go in about eight or nine and night shift they used to go in about three or four o'clock in the afternoon.'

And you could switch?

'Oh aye. People used to swap out of them. Some of them didn't like Back Shift, they liked to work during the night and others liked First Shift.'

And your father?

'Oh, he was on First Shift all the time, that I can remember, because he used to have to go to these meetings and that. He was always involved in the Union and the Council, the Parish Council.'

And he educated himself?

'I think he did a bit of studying in the house. I remember when I was a young 'un, he used to have some books in there, some method or other, like "Educating Yourself"--eeh, it had a name. In fact I think they're still going.'

The Teach Yourself series?

'I forget the name.'

The Modern Home University?

'Oh, before that. Eeeh what was it? This bloke set himself up and he used to send these books out every so often--he started with them.'

Where were you born?

'I was born in High Street, 6 High Street, just below the Ritz.'

The Ritz Cinema, built in the Thirties. On that side of the road?

'Umm. Just below the Ritz. Well, there was no Ritz there, then. Where the Ritz was. Pit Street and then Dyke Street. It was a two storey house, brick. There was a big front room and a big back end. There was steps down at the back, there was about a dozen steps. Used to go down to the back door and then go down and the coal house was at the bottom and you used to go over the road. The


Bill Tunney of Thornley, WW1 Irish Guardsman
High St from the Pit Heap, Thornley (Small)

The big building at the centre of the picture above is the Ritz cinema, opened in 1938. The street running up to it is High Street, where my father was born in 1920. This photograph probably dates from the early Sixties. Click on it to enlarge.

My grandfather’s younger brother Bill Tunney, pictured during his World War One service with the Irish Guards. As recounted opposite, Bill emigrated to the USA during the General Strike. Click on the photograph to enlarge it. Courtesy of Bill Tunney Jr.