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I took this picture in June 2011, underground at Aberpergwm Mine near Resolven. In the picture are three mineworkers who were showing me around the workings. The lady in the middle, Katherine Voyle, was the mine geologist. It was her job to study the coal seam and decide which direction to take the head of the mine to maximise the coal output.

I went to the mine to record a video interview with Katherine about her life and how she ended up in this job. Part of my work is to collect ‘real’ people’s history so that future generations can get the true picture of life now. I asked her if it was strange being the only female amongst 300 men. She told me that it was at first but she soon got used to it. The men also accepted her as ‘one of the boys’ now, especially when she was wearing overalls, but they had a real shock if they went into her office after she had changed back into ‘office wear’!

Aberpergwm is a drift mine, in other words it cuts into the side of a valley rather than a deep shaft. The mine actually dipped steeply as we walked over a mile to the face. There, a huge cutting machine was busy and the noise was deafening. After my tour and conducting an interview we walked back up to the daylight. Even though I hadn’t done any physical work my legs were aching just walking in and out!

Katherine, originally from Swansea, told me that before coming to Aberpergwm she had worked on oil rigs in the North Sea and also in Holland. Her real love was the environment and nature and she was busy setting up a nature trail on the land above the mine.

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

An article by Ceri Thompson, Curator (Coal) about Katherine Voyle for Glo Magazine:

https://museum.wales/media/24679/GLO-Magazine-2012-web.pdf

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