In fine form
Monday, 16th March, 2015
By Michael Murphy
He’s been a miner, a boxer, a horse trainer and a snooker champion, but it was his skills with the written word and his sense of flair that put him ahead of the pack last week.
George Cole picked up an unusual double: he won the Broken Hill Fringe Festival poetry competition and, a week later, he was crowned Paddy of the Course at the 50th Annual St Patrick’s Race Meeting.
George has been going to St Pat’s since its inception. As a trainer, he had a couple of runners over the years - no silverware to speak of - but he has had good form in the fashion stakes.
It was his sixth win as Paddy of the Course on Saturday, a meeting which George rates as one of the best.
“Best I’ve seen crowd-wise,” George said. “It was a terrific day, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves,” he said, though he added a few more barmen would have helped quench the thirst of punters.
George was a miner at the NBHC for many years, and took up writing after he retired, publishing short stories and a novella, and he has a few novels “sitting in his drawers”.
He decided to write his poem Hard Times, Hard Men after reading about the competition in the BDT.
“My mind went back to the old days,” George said. “The era I was talking about in the poem was the late 30s, early 40s era, when things were really tough.”
Back then, most men wouldn’t take a drink of water after their shift underground.
“They were saving up their thirst, and they would go straight to the pub, and stay there until tea time.
“It was pretty traumatic working underground, your life could be in danger every day, (drinking) was for relaxation.
“Nearly all the miners went for a drink, especially the ones that worked hard.”
The hard-drinking lifestyle took its toll, which George depicts in his poem, but not many now would know how tough it was back then.
“Young people would have no idea in the world what it was like.
“You tell them stories like that and they would disbelieve you.”
George’s award-winning poem, Hard Times, Hard Men appears below.