Spell-binding excerpt from an interview with Richard Burton where he talks about mining. Some wonderful lines. It's a reminder of why coal miners were held in such esteem - not to say awe - back in the day.
I'm sure he's being straight when he talks about the attractions mining had to his family and his schoolboy peers - appealing to an idea of machismo.
My family, however, were rather more circumspect. 'Being sent down the mine' was held out as a horrible fate, one that was made flesh when we used to visit my Uncle Horace whose silicosis - a lung disease caused by rock dust inhaled down the mine - meant he couldn't move far from his armchair and oxygen cylinders. I can still hear his awful, rattling wheeze. And I suppose the familial desire to 'get on', to avoid any chance of ending up down the mine, eventually resulted in my growing up in Gloucestershire rather than the Taff Valley.
The film is also a reminder of what a wonderful talker Richard Burton was, what terrific charisma he possessed. His death in 1984, four years after this interview, was the only one outside the family to have traumatised our household. He really was a hero to my Dad's generation. Perhaps though not so much to the one before: Taid and his brother, my Uncle Elis, thought him a self-romanticising show-off. Of course, both views were correct.
In any event, he seems pretty stupendous to me. He had everything. People are aware of his voice, his acting, his sexual success. But Neville Coghill, the don who was his Oxford tutor, reckoned he'd taught only two students of genius: WH Auden and Burton. He also played first class rugby for Aberavon when not much older than a schoolboy and was reckoned by some - including Bleddyn Williams, reputedly - to have been good enough to have one day played for Wales.
So much for the good fairies. Unfortunately, the bad fairy also gave him a susceptibility to alcoholism, like his father. Burton was only 58 when he died: we might have expected much more from him. His O'Brien in 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' could have been the start of a brilliant late-flowering.
I've discovered the full interview here (it's inset a little over half way down the article). Also the Melvyn Bragg biography 'Rich' is a good, romantic read. It's for sale for 1p on Amazon - plus p&p of £2.75!