John Quinn, who was traveling with his 3 boys, Otis, Eli and Leo, fed me coffee and I fled. I drove up the west coast to Inverness and stopped intending to go to the beach. Instead, I opened the windows and napped for an hour or so until the heat became unbearable.
Instead of going to the beach alone, I backtracked to the Inverness Miners’ Museum. It took some doing as there was only a small sign on the building identifying it as the museum and that was on the far side. All the other signs were part of the museum! I was the only one to go in, but the docent was a lovely young girl who was a history major in college in Antigonish. She was quite knowledgeable and I spent about an hour. There were a few quirky facts that stuck with me. First, the people knew there was coal there because it kept washing up on the beach, but they couldn’t get any investors to come see the place. Finally they painted the cliffs with black paint and took photos of it and that caught some investors’ attention.
Another fact that gave one pause was that many times the miners spent their whole day on their backs in tunnels as low as 30” or so. When I asked why, she said that sometimes the coal seams were only that tall.
When I asked her what she found most interesting she answered immediately, “The children.” Kids as young as 8 or 10 worked in the mine, but what was interesting to her was that they were given a job based on their father’s position in the mine. They didn’t work in the seams until they were 14 but they often started by taking care of the “pit ponies.” The ponies were used to haul the coal out of the mine and the kids were responsible for never letting them see the outside. Being kept underground, they developed sensitive eyes that could see in the very low light of the mine, but they would be blinded if they saw the light of day.
The rest of the day was a leisurely drive up the coast—punctuated by stops to take in the beautiful views of the coast, read a little, and take frequent naps. I drove almost to Meat Cove at the tip of the island, but stopped at a point where I could see the idyllic little village, but figured there were enough tourists gawking at them at close range, and returned to Pleasant Bay Hostel for the night.