Coal was delivered to the Gasworks by horse and cart. The carts were filled from a collier at Albert Basin. Up Chapel Street they were backed into any one of three gates that would open up to them.
Residents of the area were always on the alert for just this occasion. And it came two or three times a month! The reason was the guile and generosity of the coal cart drivers. Rounding the 90˚ turn where Quay Street meets Chapel Street, they’d give the reins a bit of a shake and trot the horse around the corner. The result of course was a considerable spill of coal on to the road where it was immediately collected by youngsters with shovels, buckets and indeed any handy implement to help collect it and bring it home.
It was better still if there were many coal carts lining up to disgorge in The Gasworks. Then they would form a neat line on the north side of the street, just beneath the High Walk. The wily coal-collectors of the area then went up High Walk, from which vantage point they could easily reach the tops of the coal-carts below them. A few coal carters obliged by turning a blind eye. The scavengers filled their buckets and withdrew home with their ill-gotten gains.
Strangely no one looked upon this as thieving. I could safely say that when the coal arrived at any front door, it was gratefully and thankfully received. Didn’t yer man in charge turn the blind eye? We treated him as the owner rather than the carter of this coal!
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