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Poem – The Welsh Miner’s Wife

Updated Wednesday, 7 July 2021

The Welsh Miner’s Wife is a poem by Katharine Marquis, written in a creative writing workshop run by the Blaenau Gwent REACH project at Aberbeeg Community Centre in spring 2020.

The Welsh Miner’s Wife

By Katharine Marquis

It’s raining again
Sheets clean and bare
Pegged on a washing line
Billowing fair
The Atlantic is wayward
Coal dust in the air
The steelworks nearby
Means orange to share
The miner’s wife
Need wash them again
Come tomorrow morn.

About this poem

A powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution, Wales was famous for its coal mining in the Rhondda Valley, south Wales Valleys and throughout the south Wales Coalfield.

In this short lyric poem from Katharine, the opening line has a remarkably familiar ring! There is a glimpse of freedom here, and adventure, compounded by the wonderful metaphor of the ‘billowing’ sheets as a sailing ship crossing the Atlantic. As the miner’s wife struggles with coal dust, she imagines a better life in western skies.

This is a poignant sketch of a proud, working Welsh woman who sees and tastes a different life in polluted air but it is also another expression of hope and community spirit and a nice accompaniment to ‘Silver Girl’ with its female perspective. By 1913 the seaside town of Barry in south Wales had become the largest coal exporting port in the world, with Cardiff second, as coal was transported by rail. The last deep mine in Wales, Tower Colliery near Aberdare, closed in 2008 after 13 years as a co-operative owned by its miners.

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This page is part of the Blaenau Gwent REACH online exhibition.

Film and audio | Creative writing | Visual art

Digital stories | The history of Blaenau Gwent | About this project


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