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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

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Western Australia

Sailor, Brownie, Captain, Red: remembering Collie’s pit ponies

March 28, 2021

Joe Hetherington, Raffael Pinneri and Alf Sanford worked with the pit ponies at Collie

A fantastic new statue unveiled in Collie honours the role of some special workers – pit ponies.

Our latest podcast hears from some Collie coal mining veterans about their memories working with the horses.

Hear retired members Alf Sanford and Laurie Old talk about Sailor, Captain, Junior, Red – who caused a three-week strike  – and Brownie, who found a special place in Laurie’s heart.

Laurie describes how well the horses could find their way around underground:

“At knock off time we’d grab either my horse or me mate’s horse’s tail and we’d just let them go. They knew their way out, we used to just hang onto their tail and they’d drag you up through the old workings, open the doors for them and just take them home out of the mine. It was great, we used to love it.”


Pit ponies were used in the Collie mines from the 1920s to 1960, when Amalgamated Collieries closed.

The stories about the clever horses and the remarkable bond they developed with their handlers are entertaining and a part of mining history that deserves to be remembered.

Collie coal mining has a rich history that is now being told through an underground coal mine replica, virtual reality shovel diggers and a newly unveiled statue of a pit pony.

The 1000kg bronze sculpture in the workshop

Collie’s new statue, unveiled on Australia Day, is the work of sculptor Robert Hitchcock.

The project was commissioned by the Collie Retired Mineworkers’ Association with the assistance of our WA District Office, with funding from the WA Department of Primary Industries, Collie Futures Small Grants Program, Coal Miners Welfare Board and much support from local business.

The statue sits underneath the structure of the last remaining underground mine entrance on the Collie coal field, relocated in 1999 – a previous project of the Retired Mineworkers’ Association.

Well done to all involved in keeping Collie’s proud coal mining history alive.

Pit horses were used in underground mines around Australia – pictured here at Richmond Main, NSW, 1920s

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