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Back in the early nineteen fifties, my father Walter (Mucca-Welsh for mate) Williams (pictured below) was employed as a horse keeper at the stables of the state mine. His duties were to harness the pit ponies (Clydesdales) and send them off down to number one tunnel, where the disaster was later to occur. Some would go past the mine managers house and over the hill to the new tunnel were the horses would stay underground until their shift is over. Then once sent back to the surface they would walk back to the stables unaided where they would be unharnessed and put through the shower and out into the yard where they would dry off, once dried they would be fed.

One horse in particular would stop off at the manager’s house to eat the mangoes that had fallen on the ground outside the fence then spit the seed out. The horses feed consisted of oaten chaff, corn and molasses. The bags off feed where kept in the store room at the eastern end of the building. The feed was put onto a trolley which ran on the rails and pushed down between two rows of stall and tipped into their bins. Workplace health and safety being non-existent in those days saw me being able to help dad with the feeding of the horses, which I enjoyed.

I would ride my horse over to the stables and if any of the horses where late coming back, dad would tell me to go look for them. Other men worked at the horse stables including Charlie Groocock, who was also a horse keeper and Walter (Wattie) Callaghan who was the blacksmith. I would watch him make horse shoes from a bar of iron, heated in the forge until red hot, then hammered into shape on the anvil. He would then punch the nail holes while the shoe was hot and hold it on the hoof to burn the hoof flat. After fitting the shoe he would trim the shoe with a raspe, all the time he was working he would be humming a tune. Then there was big Jack Dickson who worked in the leather room where he would make all manner of harness to fit each horse. I remember sitting out the back of the building near the leather room with the men to have smoko or lunch and feeding the magpies with crust of bread.

John-Williams