Terry Greaves

Designed at the N.C.B.’s research and development centre at Bretby near Burton-on-Trent this coal cutting test rig was installed at Water Haigh in October 1963. Its seen working on a 60 yard long face in a seam 4 feet 6 inches deep. Various sizes of pick were tried out and after three months it was completely redesigned to improve its hauling, steerage, loading and cutting mechanisms.

Terry Greaves started work as an apprentice fitter at Water Haigh shortly after he left school in 1953 and, apart from a two year period when he moved to workshops in Wakefield, stayed until 1969, a year before the colliery closed.

He was born in 1938 in Castleford and spent his childhood in a terraced house in Duke Street just off Wheldon Road near the centre of town. Terry’s father, Richard Greaves, worked at pits close to his home around Castleford but at some point in the 1940s moved to Water Haigh where he rose up the ranks to become a shot firer and then a deputy and overman. In his younger days he played football for Huddersfield Town.

When he left school in 1953 Terry Greaves applied for an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer with the National Coal Board, rebelling against his father, who like many a miner of his generation didn’t want his son to go underground. After a few weeks at the N.C.B. training centre at Whitwood Terry joined Jack Carrington’s team of underground fitters at Water Haigh.

Their main work was to maintain the cutting machines and conveyor belts which carried the coal from faces in the Yard, Flockton and West Bord seams. Into the 1960s the machines, from companies such as Wakefield based British Jeffrey Diamond and the American Meko Mining Corporation, became more sophisticated and were able to cut and self-load the coal with fewer miners involved in their operation.

Skilled in the hydraulics of the new machines Terry Greaves was much in demand as a Grade 1 fitter and for a two year period around 1960 he worked at the central workshops of the No. 7 Area of the North Eastern Division of the N.C.B. at Newton Bar near Wakefield. They repaired machines for a number of pits including Rothwell colliery but not Water Haigh which was in No. 8 Area.

When he started work Terry’s family were still living in Castleford but a couple of years later they were given a house on the newly built Coal Board estate at Oulton and he distinctly remembers leaving 52 Duke Street one morning for work and going home to the new house at 31 Shelley Crescent.

Like his father Terry was a keen semi-professional  footballer. In the 1958/59 season he played at Swillington and then moved with two other Water Haigh lads, Derek and George Gater, to Ossett Albion where they won the Yorkshire League Division Two title and were runners up in the Yorkshire League cup final. After three seasons he moved to the Frickley colliery side and then followed the Gater brothers to Selby Town where Derek was player coach. Later he was invited to join the Glasshoughton colliery side where in one season they won seven different trophies. After his playing days were over Terry coached the under 14s at Oulton Athletic and then the senior second team.

In 1969, unaware that Water Haigh was about to be closed, Terry decided to leave and went to work as a fitter for Webster Machine Development Ltd. which made machinery for the coal and tunnelling industries. Later he became a salesman and area manager for Stahlgruber, a German firm making a wide range of industrial rubber products that were used in mining and power stations.

Click on the link below to listen to Terry Greaves talk about his life and work at Water Haigh.

If a machine broke down we had to do the repairs

Another view of the Bretby coal cutter.