Coal mining

When I came home I soon decided that my best option to begin with was to join an agricultural school from the next November and think about a nine month course rather than a five month course. This could provide the testing ground for ones abilities. It was also possible to obtain exams in dairy and pig recording. However if I were to study I needed funds as little funds were provided except fees could be paid from outside. While I had saved a substantial amount of money towards my farm I needed more so instead of concentrating on more learning in practical farming I went for money. It so happened that an open cast coal mine had just been opened and my father had sold 6 ha for excavating of brown coal to supply fuel for power stations. The coal was from 6 to 10 metres down and at 3 to 4 metres depth. I went to the foreman and got a job for the 5 months so I became a coal miners albeit for a short

period. The salary was paid per hour and therefore one could work many hours. The regular day was 12 hours but could be 24. I once did 36 hours without a break. It was not physically very hard work. It was mainly concerning servicing the large diggers and guiding the large shovels close to the layers of coal or close to the bottom of the layers so as to get as pure coal as possible onto lorries directly loaded.

I stayed at home and sometimes worked on the farm if the 12 hour was a nightshift. It was quite boring work but good money. Many of the workers used their good pay for beer or playing poker but I did not. I saved as much as possible.

Sometimes at night there could be an hour or more with nothing to do. I sometimes sat in the noisy digger with the light on and read a chemistry book for beginners. I think I may be one of the few coal miners who did strange things like that.

I enrolled at Ladelund Landbohojskole for nine months instead of a 6 months course. The last 4 months could be used to take an examination in milk recording that qualifies one to take a job in recording milk yield in milk control associations and write out pedigrees etc. together with collecting data on pigs recording pig performance and breeding details. Here I was joined again by Ove Thusgard, my old friend from Gudum. I knew, as I suppose he did, that we would compete like mad. I knew also that I may find it easier to compete with him in mental work more than on physical work but I would never take this for granted. It was incredibly hard work with very little spare time. I shared a room with Jens Oluf Maegaard from Bornholm a person I still keep contact with. He was also going for a 9 months course but not doing the additional courses for milk and pig recording.

My first exams of an academic character was therefore in milk and pig recording. Both Ove and I were at the top. I cannot remember who was first but we passed with flying colours. I think these exams took place in the sixth month then it was farm management but 5 of us including Ove decided to go in for an additional course to prepare for University with courses in English, German and some simple maths such as logarithms.

In retrospect it seemed rather odd, that it was possible for a country boy with very little schooling and no academic qualifications to enter University. It would not possible now- at that time to enter the agricultural university you had to have three years of practical farm work under your belt. I think on the whole that this limited the number of agricultural graduates so not enough were produced and it was decided that it should be possible to enter through an entrance examination. Whatever the reason both Ove and I went for it. I had the advantage that English was not a problem. I had to read some German and translate German writing and we had to do some very simple maths.

Another event which also affected the course of my life was that during the summer months most of the agricultural school was empty as only about 20% of the pupils stayed on for 9 months. As a result sometimes there were travelling parties staying over night. It so happened that members of a Scottish Young Farmers Club were staying over night on their way to Copenhagen and also taking the opportunity to learn a little about Danish agriculture whilst at the school. Since I had no problems with English I was asked to join with them and it was on this occasion I met an agricultural journalist from “The Scottish Farmer” and Andrew Smith a Scottish farmer from Glasgow. We seemed to get on fine and in the end Andrew invited me to come to work on his farm for a couple of weeks during my holidays if I wanted. The holidays would be in the month of September 1957 as the University term would start in October 1957 if I passed the exams. Well the exams went OK. I was asked by the rector, Dons Christensen to come for a conversation. We were 5 people who had entered, two of them had secondary education. The rector gave green lights for them. Then Ove and I – well he said with hard work we could pass but he suggested to the the fifth that he did not think he would pass. He did persist but sadly did fail.

At the end of that I really was tired and was ready for the Scottish holiday. I travelled as soon as possible by ship to Newcastle from Esbjerg and then by train to Glasgow, bound for Broompark Farm, Pollockshaws.