Ard mhacha , In the tunnels they used to also have it as 'twenty years a leading miner and never sacked a man ' . Am I right in thinking that a leading miner would be the equivalent to a ganger ? I've had little first hand acquaintance with the shovel myself , and am happy to be corrected by anyone with direct hands-on experience of it .I'm just recalling some of the things recounted to me by my father who was a leading miner ,but by no means a thug or a fascist.
Not all gangers or leading miners were mindless gorillas . To work as a leading miner for instance you had to know the job - how to follow a line underground and make cuttings in the timber . That required a certain degree of training . The majority of the workers in a gang would be unskilled ; the leading miner an ex coal miner or perhaps somebody who had experience in digging wells in Ireland. It was no good just being a hard man with your fists ,although you couldn't afford to be a wimp of course.