Video: Bevin Boy who prefered the paintbrush to the pickaxe

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MARTIN HILL was just 18-years-old when he was plucked from his home in a picturesque village in the south of England.

Arriving in Yorkshire by train, the son of a sculptor was struck by the contrast between life in Ditchling and the industrial landscape of the north.

Former miner Stephen Oxley reading one of the diaries.

Former miner Stephen Oxley reading one of the diaries.

But as one of the thousands of young men conscripted to work in the coalfields during the Second World War it was to become his home and inspiration for the next three years.

And it is thanks to Martin’s legacy that a unique insight into the life of the Bevin Boys has been preserved for generations to come.

The letters, diaries and artwork of the late miner, who emigrated to New Zealand where he died in 2005, will feature in a new exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield later this year.

Martin, who trained at Birley Colliery in Sheffield before moving to Monk Bretton Colliery in Barnsley, wrote: “It’s a fine light to see men’s faces by, such deep shadows showing up the features well and of course their character. The pit shows a man’s character well – how he works, how well he does it. The pride he takes, what he talks about – how patient he is – how he treats strangers and his mates.”

The museum is looking for stories of miners conscripted to Yorkshire to feature in the exhibition entitled, ‘A Bevin Boy in Yorkshire.’

Contact Sally-Ann Burley on 01924 848806 or e-mail

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