1st Jul, 2022

Former Coventry miner releases novel inspired by his experience at Keresley mine face

A FORMER miner who spent his younger years working in soaring temperatures and confined spaces under the Foleshill Road has documented his career in his new book.

Robert MacNeil Wilson first started working in the mining industry when aged 22, and within two years he had worked his way up to take charge of a the Keresley mine face.

Raised in Bishops Tachbrook, Robert has now swapped his hard hat and torch for a computer and keyboard as his book ‘The Enemy Within’ was released on Monday (November 28).

Robert's book 'The Enemy Within' was released on Monday (November 28). s

Robert’s book ‘The Enemy Within’ was released on Monday (November 28). s

Set in a fictional colliery and pit village in north Warwickshire, the book’s story takes place around the time of the 1980s miners’ strike and ends in an underground adventure in the aftermath of the strike.

It follows lead characters Jim Greaves and Paul Wood, who both work hard to keep their pit profitable – though they encounter regular problems, like many miners did decades ago.

In addition, Robert highlights the role women played during his time underground, stating many families were often emotionally torn apart due to the hard nature of the job.

Speaking to The Observer, Robert said his fictional story contains frequent elements of truth about what it was like to work in the mining industry.

He said: “The idea to write a book about the industry came about when my daughter was listening to the radio at home.

“The presenter was interviewing someone involved in the miners’ strike and she told me I must listen to the interview.

“References to some of the mining industry’s toughest men getting upset and crying were made and the whole thing inspired me to write something – so I have my daughter to thank in a way.

“Mining meant so much to me, it defined me and I soon realised there are no books that give an indication of what it was like to work underground.

Robert's book makes regular references to his time working in the mining industry.

Robert’s book makes regular references to his time working in the mining industry.

“The sense of community and team spirit was unbelievable – something some of our vibrant communities lack nowadays.”

The former Royal Regiment of Fusiliers servant continues to keep himself active though as he plays in Warwick-based rock band Bacchus.

His book’s release comes amid the airing of BBC documentary The Last Miners, which follows the lives of pitmen who were put out of work by the closure of the last deep colliery on December 18, 2015.

With further books planned, Robert recalled his average day working in the mines.

“The book is highly factual, I remember I’d have to get to the pit by 5.30am and I’d be working at 7am,” he said.

“One pit I worked on required me to crawl through small gaps and when we eventually reached the pit I’d manage the coal production for seven hours in 33 degree temperatures in 100 per cent humidity.

“I used to wear a pair of old rugby shorts but some of the men wore nothing it was that hot.

“I think people reading the book will be interested to find out more about the tension the mining industry caused between families and friends.

“The book is heavily drawn from my experiences throughout what was a period of incredible change.”

The Enemy Within will be available in shops, directly from its publishers – Matador – Amazon in hard copy and Ebook forms.

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