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PREFACE.

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PHILE it is unnecessary to offer any apology for

appearing before the public in the capacity of author, as my friends are now in the habit of looking for me in varied and strange characters, a word or two of explanation as to why I have undertaken this work may perhaps be regarded as necessary. Coal, which has moved nations, and enabled capitalists to amass princely fortunes, has recently formed the subject of much speculation and debate; and the miners, who endanger their lives to produce this useful commodity, have now come to be regarded as objects of universal interest. The character of the miners—individual and general-has been discussed in public and private assemblies, and columns of flowery nonsense have been printed in newspapers about them. Many writers have endeavoured-some of them in a supercilious and patronising fashion-to give the public a notion of the peculiar traits and habits of the miners, and whilst many of them have been successful in this respect, none of them have yet, to my knowledge, attempted to give any account of their doings, their sufferings, and their struggles, in the assertion of their social and political independence.

With the view of supplying this deficiency, I have set myself to work, feeling in some measure qualified for the task in consequence of having spent all, except the last few years, of my life in the pits. I have passed through all the grades of mining work, from being a trapper boy behind a door to a hewer at the face, and have therefore had many opportunities of witnessing the dangers, the hardships, and the drudgery of a miner’s life ; whilst I have also seen, or heard, or read of the glorious deeds done by men who are now well nigh forgotten.

Though the passing events of the present day are of more importance to living Englishmen, as having more influence on their happiness, than events which occurred in periods now long passed away, yet authentic information concerning the lives of our predecessors is not only interesting but necessary, in order that we may profit by their experience, follow the good example they have set us, and eschew the errors by which they fell. My sole aim in undertaking the compilation of a history of the miners of Northumberland and Durham has been to furnish correct information concerning this useful body of men, and to what extent I have succeeded I will leave the public to judge. For myself I may say I have spared neither time nor trouble in collecting the materials necessary for such an undertaking, and whilst I have searched records of every description I have been careful to use nothing but what has been proved to be strictly accurate when put to the test. In order to avoid giving my book the least tinge of fiction, my wish, above every other thing, has been throughout to supply accurate data which may be quoted with confidence by my readers, and generally to produce an unvarnished history of the miners of those two large coal-producing counties of Northumberland and Durham, together with brief notices of those great reformers, the result of whose

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intelligent, zealous, and patriotic labours the miners of the present day are enjoying. I have likewise been desirous of steering clear of all exaggeration in relating some of the stirring events which are recorded, and wherever such has been possible, I have made the actors in those scenes tell their own tales by quoting largely from the speeches made by them at the various meetings held in the district. As a faithful historian I have felt it to be my duty to introduce unpleasant matters, which have occupied attention from time to time, but in doing this I have had no wish to stir up latent animosities.

Though I have done my best in all these respects, I am yet conscious of many short comings, and for these I claim the indulgence of my readers.

RICHARD FYNES.

Blyth, November, 1873.

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