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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Tributes to Violet, one of last screen lasses

VIOLET Wilson, one of Whitehaven’s last few screen lasses, the women who once worked on the coal screens at local pits, has died.

ceVIOLET Wilson
Violet Wilson

Mrs Wilson, who lived at Queen Street, was 92 years of age and the eldest of the screen girls that remain.

In 2004, Violet was among a handful of women in their 70s and 80s happy to join in an oral history project and tell of their experiences as young women working in the coal industry, later celebrated in a book, a play, a film and a commemorative sculpture.

It was an extremely proud moment for Violet when she was chosen by her fellow screen girls to unveil the ‘coal’ statue on the harbourside in 2005.

She had been one of those who had toiled as hard as men, without equal pay, in the cold, dirty environment of the screens, a pit top conveyor where coal was sorted and pieces of stone removed. “It was hard work but you had a good clique of lasses and I really enjoyed it,’’ she’d said.

Born Violet Pearce in 1920 at a house in Queen Street, she was one of nine children. Her mother Margaret before her had worked on the screens while grandma Bessie Nichol looked after Violet and her siblings.

Violet started working life with a paper-round for half-a-crown a week. When she was 17 she began work on the screens at Haig Pit, paid about 16 shillings a week, threepence of which went to the union and the rest given to Mam. Nights out were only on Saturdays, to dances at the Drill Hall or the Pottery Hall at the top of Coach Road.

Violet stayed working on the screens for around six years till she met and married her husband John Wilson of Parton, a Haig miner who died in 1982, aged just 62. They had met while Violet was coal-picking on the beach, coal which was sold to buy flour and yeast for her mother to bake bread.

Once her three children, daughters Joan, Lily and Carol were all at school, Violet returned to a job on the screens, this time at Lowca Pit where she worked for five years. In later years she’d worked for a time as a school cleaner at St Begh’s.

The Wilson family lived at homes at Cambridge Road, Hensingham and Grisedale Close, Mirehouse before John and Violet moved into a flat in lower Queen Street in 1976.

Daughter Joan said: “Mam loved taking part in the screen lasses project. I used to take her to the workshops and it was so interesting to hear all the women’s memories. She enjoyed it immensely, and joked that as a result she had become famous !’’

Gerald McGlennon, who ran the screen lasses project under the auspices of the Whitehaven Miners Social Welfare, said Violet was a remarkable and intelligent lady and he felt privileged to have known her. “She loved talking about the times when she was young and she had a wicked sense of humour.

“She was very excited to be selected as the one to unveil the sculpture. Her name is inscribed on the commemorative stone there; she will always be remembered, never forgotten.’’

A funeral service is being held tomorrow (Friday) at 11am at St James’ Church, Whitehaven followed by interment at Whitehaven cemetery. Mrs Wilson is survived by her daughters, five grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her daughter Lily Charlton who lives in Queensland, Australia has flown home to be present.

Have your say

So very sad to hear the news..we got to know Violet when she used to come into the Catholic Mens Club; wicked sense of humour is true, we heard some really funny stories about the old days and her life growing up. God Bless Violet.

Posted by Kathleen on 23 November 2012 at 12:06

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