The Miners’ Way

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, Sunday 3rd May 2020; repeated Saturday 9th May 2020.

Re-broadcast BBC Radio 4 Extra Sunday 14th January 2024.

Available to listen back online 14th January 2024 to 13th February 2024:

Irish poet Jane Clarke lives in Glenmalure, a remote and rugged valley in County Wicklow, Ireland. The valley marks the start of the Miners’ Way, a long-distance path developed by a local community group, traversing three Wicklow valleys, Glenmalure, Glendalough and Glendasan, and taking in six old, disused mine sites.

The Miners’ Way has inspired Jane to write a sequence of poems responding to this rich natural and cultural heritage.

As she walks the Miners’ Way, Jane meets some of her neighbours – local historian Carmel O’Toole who shows her one of the old mining buildings, farmer Pat Dunne who tells her how sheep farming in the valleys has changed over the years, and mountain leader Charles O’Byrne who knows the area like the back of his hand.

She also visits Robbie Carter, one of the few people who can talk first-hand about working in these valleys in the mining industry, which came to an end in 1957. Now in his 80s, Robbie became a miner at the age of 16. He describes his life as a miner in the mid-20th century and the story of a fatal mining accident in January 1957 in which his cousin and workmate  died. Robbie was seriously injured and never worked in a mine again.

The poems in the programme by Jane Clarke include Birthing the Lamb from her 2019 collection When the Tree Falls, published by Bloodaxe Books. All other poems are new works inspired by the landscape, heritage and stories of the Miners’ Way.

Producer: Claire Cunningham
Executive Producer: Julien Clancy

A Rockfinch production for BBC Radio 4