For reasons lost in the smog of time, there was once a competition to find the Queen of Coal. Miners wives were encouraged to get dolled up and a panel of three men and three women voted on who would represent each coal mining region, with a national event being held in Skegness, Blackpool, and other British seaside towns. Responsibilities of the Queen would include such things as escorting a trainload of coal to the Drax power station. I am not making this up.

There were prizes which included clothes, holidays, and (in 1977) your own weight in Babycham. In 1973, it seems that the Coal Queen ended up with a Marine Coupe (above). The regional events were very popular, and the national event ran from 1969 to 1996. As the Grandson of a miner I am surprised to have only learned about the coal Queens fairly recently – perhaps it’s because I never subscribed to the publication ‘Coal News’. There’s a snippet from that, below somewhere.

Other industries had Queens, too. At one event in 1936, in Blackpool, the Queens present included: the Cotton Queen, Salt Queen, Fish Queen, Potteries Queen, Wool Queen, and Silk Queen. Audrey Mosson was crowned Railway Queen in front of 70,000 people, and was sent to meet Stalin. I assume that was a prize, not punishment. Some say the Queens were a distraction from the often horrendous working conditions in these traditional industries, but there’s no doubting that many loved it. Perhaps it’s the most un-PC competition in history but I am glad it existed.

A snippet from Coal News here, courtesy of the National Coal Mining Museum.

Pic credits – unknown, Northumbria archive, National Coal Mining Museum

About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich's drivel regularly appears in Practical Performance Car and GT Porsche magazines. He has also written for Classic & Sportscar, MogMag, Classic Performance and Retro, Banzai, Evo, and Modern Mini. He also did a book no-one bought. His hungover fizzog also often appears on CBS’s Carfection channel enthusing about historic motoring. Le Mans winner Derek Bell once refused to get in Rich's Morgan Three Wheeler with him at the wheel. Currently amongst the detritus in his garage is a 1972 Fiat 500 Abarth, a fat BMW and a Lotus Elise. Previous machinery includes a Porsche 968, an Alfa GTV V6 and a dreadful Sinclair C5. He also owns a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike.

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