Memories of the Coal Queens takes forgotten world to the National Coal Mining Museum

By Richard Moss | 30 July 2010
a photograph of a group of women on a podium in bikinis and holding bouquets

(Above) The Last Coal Queen: Lyn Tomlinson being crowned as National Coal Queen in 1983 by the 1982 National Coal Queen, Susan Brown. Image © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO, 2010, and with kind permission from Lyn Tomlinson

Exhibition: Memories of the Coal Queens, National Coal Mining Museum, Yorkshire, until September 26 2010

It may seem like a distant memory, but once upon a time there was a thriving coal industry that was the lifeblood of communities right across the Midlands and the north of England.

Now a sadly vanished world, the National Coal Mining Museum in Yorkshire is revisiting one of the coal community's lost traditions with an exhibition exploring the phenomena of the Coal Queens.

Memories of the Coal Queens lifts the lid on the coal industry's beauty contests, which began as local colliery competitions for miner's wives and developed into a National competition promoted by the National Coal Board.

Between 1969 and 1983 the NCB's Coal Queen of Britain competition, sponsored by Coal News, saw regional winners compete for the national title and a range of prizes including holidays, clothes and money. Winners also represented the NCB at a variety of events during their reign.

The exhibition uses oral history interviews with former winners. "I started up and down the country, doing little jobs for the Coal Board," recalls Margaret Dominiak, who was the Yorkshire and National Coal Queen in 1972. "It strengthened my ability to promote the coal industry, and also gave me more confidence."

Together with photographs, clothing, accessories and a specially recorded film, Memories of Coal Queens is a fascinating social history which uncovers a different side to the mining industry.

Family activities, including coal king and queen dressing-up activities for children, are held at the National Coal Mining Museum throughout the summer holidays. Contact the Museum on 01924 848806 or follow the venue details below for more details.

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