We all know Britain has a rich history of coal mining and many of us may have family and friends who used to spend their days down the pit. But what you might not know is that down in our country's underground network, helping the men who worked there, hundreds of clever, canny animals also did their bit, from pit ponies to canary birds.
And now the last of the pit pets, four feral cats from Yorkshire, have finally come out from the soot to enjoy a well-deserved retirement from their life's work.
The four-legged quartet, Florence, Betty, Leia and Solo, had all been kept at Kellingley Colliery, the UK's last deep coal pit, where they spent their days carrying out essential vermin control duties in exchange for bed and board.
But when the colliery at last shut its doors last month, ending a chapter in Britain's coalmining heritage, concerned miners contacted Cats Protection’s York Adoption Centre to ask for help in rehoming their fellow felines.
And now one month on from the pit closure, all four are settling into their new homes – and jobs - after being moved in pairs to nearby farms.
Florence and Betty – named after miners’ wives Florence Anderson and Betty Cook, who took a prominent role in the 1984 strikes – were rehomed to Karen Scholey at her family's farm near Green Hammerton, Yorkshire. Meanwhile, Leia and Solo have now settled in to their new home at Amanda Beal’s livery farm in Beverley, Yorkshire.
Cats Protection’s York Adoption Centre Manager James Hodgkison said “The four cats at the Kellingley Colliery were very much valued by workers for keeping rodents in check. They had been well cared for by the miners who had provided food, water and shelter, and they were in great condition.”
“We can’t tell exactly how old they all are, but they had lived for a few years at the pit. We have no doubt they will continue to work their socks off in their new homes, and we’re just pleased we were able to help.”
Karen Scholey, who's now the owner of Florence and Betty, said: “We’ve had feral cats on our farm for years as they are the best form of pest control you can get and we were on the lookout for a couple more when we heard about the colliery cats.
“It is a true privilege for us to give them a home as they represent so much about the important mining history in the area. It was a very sad day for Yorkshire when the pit closed, and I’m just happy we’ve been able to at least help these two cats.
Amanda Beal, who named the two cats she adopted Leia and Solo, said both are settling in well. “Solo is most definitely very feral and we don’t see much of her – she’s busy keeping the mice under control. But Leia very quickly decided that she likes some creature comforts and moved into the house. She is very nervous but enjoys human company so she must have been well looked after during her time at the pit.”
We couldn't be happier that these courageous kitties have found themselves a new home and hope they'll enjoy every bit of their new lives!
- For more animal antics, pick up the latest copy of Yours