Other Memorials to Workers

Empty shoes

No more footsteps on the path as you come home,
I just sit here with my grief, so all alone
No key is turned by you in our front door,
No sound of walking to me across our floor,
I’ve cried so much my eyes are red and sore,
Empty shoes, no more you – just empty shoes.

When the kids cry out “I want my Dad”
We cuddle up for comfort when we’re sad,
And we whisper that we miss you,
Want to hear your voice, be with you
We want and need to kiss you,
Left with memories – and empty shoes.

The boss sent you alone, to mend the roof
No harness, no mate – you fell with a “whoosh”
No safety there to guard your health
Your life forfeit to bring others wealth,
Now I’m without your dearest self
My empty arms – your empty shoes.

Your broken body lay in the dirt
Your lifeblood drained amidst your hurt,
To honour your great sacrifice
I hope your workmates unionise
And do it soon before another dies,
In remembrance of you – no more empty shoes.

by Wendy Lawrence, GMB Apex member and health & safety activist

Painting by Shay Boyle

To commemorate International Workers Memorial Day 2009, The Trade Union Safety Team (TRUST) commissioned a painting depicting many local industries where former workers have been injured or killed.

The painting depicts 10 industries that were once found around Chesterfield.

Photo courtesy of Shay Boyle

The building at the back is the old Staveley Iron works that used to make pipes for the Water Industry. The huge steel crane belonged to Markham Works, a mining engineering company. Markhams built the huge drill that was used to drill the Channel Tunnel. Apparently it is still in the tunnel – all parked up and closed in a hole!

The buildings in front are Markham old offices. The workshops area is now an estate housing flats. The crane was once used by Houdini, the famous escapologist. He once hung himself from the crane in a straight jacket. Set fire to the rope and escaped before it broke. Houdini did the stunt to advertise his appearance in the Hippadrome Theatre!

Bolsover Colliery – depicted on the coal wagons was part of a thriving coal mining area. The building in the foreground was Chesterfield Cylinders who made cylinders for the health service and chemical industry. They once made a syringe as small as they could and sent it to an American company. The USA company sent a narrower one back. So Cylinders, produced an even thinner syringe, placed it inside the American one and sent it back. It was never returned.

Bryan Donkins was a steel and tin factory and is famous for making the tin cans that held the food that fed the solders during the Napoleon wars. And part of the company used to make cannon balls. The Cannon House is still standing.

Dema glass made beer glasses. Trebor was Chesterfield’s only Sweet Factory and was a big employer. It was taken over by Cadbury some years ago and then closed down. Severn Trent Water was Shay’s employer for 25 years. They still provide the water for the whole of the East Midlands (and parts of south Sheffield) and moved out Chesterfield about 7 or 8 years ago to Mansfield. The commemorative archway was built as a memory of Robinsons cardboard box company. A major employer in the town – part of it has moved out of town. The building on the top right was to be Avenue Coking plant but I didn’t have time to finish it.

Photo courtesy of Shay Boyle

Shay says, “I’m no artist and the painting is no-way a good piece of art – it is just representative. We commissioned an artist but 6 weeks before the 28th April 2009, his wife became ill and he could not do it. Joanne, my coordinator knew I attended an art class in my village. So I was asked to do it. I have had loads of fun going around the different venues and people have been so willing to help show it. That’s what I’m proud of most.”

The Painting was unveiled in the Chesterfield Museum on 28th April 2009 by an ex-miner Cllr John Burrows.

So far the painting has been on display for two weeks each in the Chesterfield Museum, the Pomegranate Theatre Chesterfield, the Chesterfield Library, the Chesterfield & North Derbyshire District Royal Hospital, the Winding Wheel Conference Centre the North East Derbyshire District Council office on Saltergate, the Chesterfield Art Club in the Market Hall Chesterfield.

It survived two weeks in the entrance foyer of Chesterfield Police! After Two weeks in The Volunteer Centre on Rosehill Chesterfield it was moved into the Bolsover area. It spent two weeks in the Bolsover District Council state-of-the art foyer, then two weeks in the Assembly Rooms Bolsover, Bolsover Library, Shirebrook Town Council office, Burnbridge Hall Community Centre Carr Vale, Staveley Library, Brimington Library and Staveley Healthy Living Centre and the Queens Park Leisure Centre, Chesterfield. It is on show in the newly furbished Shirebrook Library where it will remain until April the 28th 2010.

That is 21 venues in 12 months and Shay achieved his ambition to have the painting on display at different venues right up until April 28th this year.