“I understand this may be a strange and impossible request,” she wrote. “My father Wilf Stiff is 78 this year and used to be a coal miner at Bickershaw – a huge part of his life and something he loved dearly. On that sign post there are a few pictures, including the face of a miner – my dad Wilf! I know it’s a long shot, but we’re wondering if you could provide us with a copy of the picture?”
The story of Wilf, whose mining career took him through the glory days of the Lancashire coalfield, touched the team at the council’s Sign Shop. Paul, Craig and Michael are normally responsible for manufacturing the borough’s traffic signage and vehicle livery and were delighted to create a small replica especially for Wilf.
Their manager Alan Ashton said: “It’s a privilege to remember miners like Wilf whose work in demanding conditions fuelled the economy of our area for generations.”
Wilf Stiff as he looks today.
Wilf was thrilled to receive the gift. “I used to go to the colliery to collect my dad’s wages in a little tin box,” he recalled. “He was a miner too and would wash in a tin bath in front of the fire.” Son followed father and young Wilf reported to the manager to start his apprenticeship as a joiner, maintaining the shafts.
Over the decades, Wilf led a team of fixers who would ensure the area’s pits were kept safe and open. His career drew to a close capping pits as the industry went into decline.
Bickershaw’s renaissance with its marina and new industry and eco-housing to come fascinates Wilf. Daughter Helen married this summer and Wilf celebrated his 78th birthday at the same time. Helen said: “Thank you so much. We’re overwhelmed and dad is thrilled that he’s a part of how the heritage of Leigh and the coal industry are celebrated.”