Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 06

WITH the noise of a tractor right next to her, Evie didn’t hear the wail of the alarm at first. Then, just as a lorry pulled up by the gate to the field, the tractor stopped. A man got out of the lorry – young, on the bulky side, and with a limp. Not someone who’d find running easy. But he came loping determinedly over at impressive speed.

“Are you Evie? I was delivering to Tom Rigg and he’s sent me to say there’s been an explosion at the pit. I’m to take you to the farm, or straight to the pit, as you wish.”

By now she’d recognised the noise and as shock hit she swayed and started to fall. But again the newcomer moved with an unexpected agility and caught her.

“Come on, lass, which?”

“I’d better get to me mam,” she whispered.

“Give me directions.” He helped her into the lorry. “Tom said your dad works there,” he said as they drove along.

“Yes. When . . .?”

“It just happened, I think.”

“It would be on his shift, then!”

He took her to her parents’ cottage, which was empty.

“Likely your ma will have gone to the pit.”

“Yes. I can walk there.”

“I’ll come with you.”

*  *  *  *

For a moment, Evie thought she saw both Grace and Francesca amongst the sea of anxious faces, but in another moment they were gone as her companion forced a way through the crowd.

He helped her find her mother and younger brother and sister among the frantic bystanders.

“Are you all right here?” He nodded towards the activity at the pit head. “I’ll go up and see if I can help.”

“Thank you.” She paused. “What do they call you?”


“Thank you, Alan.”

On an impulse, Evie reached out and took his large hand. He squeezed hers and then he was gone.

If, recently, Evie had felt nothing was happening in her life, now there seemed to be too much – people pushing and pulling and machinery rattling and clanking.

The workers kept telling the wives to go home, but they remained even as daylight faded, dark statues in the night.

Rescuers had come by then, and other miners from neighbouring collieries with them, though many were already exhausted from their own shifts.

A tall woman bound up one man’s crushed fingers. Evie had noticed her earlier, out at the front, with the men.

No-one had yet been brought up from the face and everyone feared the worst.

“It’ll be a miracle if anyone gets out,” the wounded man said quietly to the woman.

Evie had not been meant to hear, but did. Later she wondered if she’d inadvertently let out a cry, for the woman turned and looked at her.

When the man had returned to the pit head, the woman came over.

“Look at the stars,” she ordered Evie.

Baffled, Evie glanced up, and noticed for the first time that it was a beautiful starlit night.

“They know that miracles do happen,” the woman went on gently. “In my job, so do I.” She put a comforting hand on Evie’s shoulder, who up till now had been the comforter, reassuring her distraught mother and siblings. Now she gratefully took the hand offered to her and as she did so, she remembered the feel of another hand, larger and rougher, that had held hers only briefly.

“Are you one of the rescue team?” she asked, impressed at the assurance of this older, thin and greying woman amongst all the men.

“I’m a nurse,” she said as though that explained everything. “I’m visiting my brother in the next village. We both came over. My name is Sylvia.”

She broke off as a cry went up from the crowd. Someone had been brought up – alive!

“Remember, miracles happen all the time.” Sylvia squeezed Evie’s arm before hurrying off back to the front line of the recovery operation.

Evie tried to follow, but she was turned away. She rejoined her mother and they waited. And waited.


In the ghost light of dawn, Evie ran, uncaring, through the barrier. Her dad was alive! Shocked, and pale as a ghost himself, she could tell, despite the grime of the caked coal dust and blood. His arm hung oddly and he needed help to walk. But he was alive!

She knew not to touch him for fear of hurting him more, so she and her mam cried instead, big tears of joy. And when she looked, she saw her dad was weeping, too.

In fact, only two men lost their lives that day, both believed to have died instantaneously in the explosion. Suddenly the word “miracle” was on everyone’s lips.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.