Coal Dust In My Blood

Bill Johnstone


The men who worked British Columbia’s mines have passed into history. Coal Dust In My Blood is a moving account of a coal miner’s life, in plain, evocative language, but it is much more than an autobiography. Bill Johnstone’s expriences in immigration, farming, the Depression years and life in the mines were shared by many Canadians, who could take a chapter from this book and call it their own.

2002, paperback, 192 pages

b/w photographs

ISBN 978-0-7726-4689-7

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Bill Johnstone (1908-2009) spent most of his working years as a coal miner, first in the UK, then in Alberta and finally on Vancouver Island. He began working in the “pits” as a hand miner at age 13 in Northumberland, England. When his family immigrated to Alberta, he alternated between working as a farm hand and a miner. He found that his miner’s certificate help him manage during the Great Depression.

Johnstone married Dorothy Riddoch in 1936. “The day following our marriage was a day the mine worked, but this was one shift I stayed at home. Dorothy and I have called this day our honeymoon. It was spent hanging curtains, gluing together kitchen chairs we had bought unassembled and making other alterations that are the delight of the homemaker.”

Before long, the couple moved to Cumberland on Vancouver Island.  Years of hard work and study followed. Johnstone mastered nearly every phase of of coal mining, from working on the picking tables to shooting explosive charges. Not long before his retirement, after 52 years in the industry, he became district superintendent of the Canadian Collieries mines near Cumberland.


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