The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

December 14, 2005

Dec. 14, 2005 – The Liars Bench

Here is an article which first appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald on December 7, 1954 . COLLIERY GHOSTS “WALK” AGAIN AT LIARS BENCH

By Roland H. Sherwood

Ever hear of the coal miner who sold himself to the devil? Or of the ghosts that walk the passageways in the coal mines of Nova Scotia ? Chances are you have, if you ever stopped at “The Liars Bench” in Springhill, a summer gathering place for the pensioners from the coal mines, who sit in the sun and spin their yarns.

The bench is easily seen as one passes out of the town on Route 2, for it sits beside the highway and the large black letters along the back boards catch the eye.


This bench was put together from scrap lumber by some of the older men of the town, such as Percy (Pa) Tabor, Danny Ross, Hubert Guthro and Billy Brown – men who spent years together in the black depths of the Springhill coal mines and had retired from the working face. Here on the bright days of summer they gather, talk of old times, compare notes on coal mining, swap the gossip of the town and throw in the odd tall tale, just for the laughs.

Naturally, wherever old timers are gathered, there you will find the youngsters, listening to strange tales of other days. Given an audience of eager listeners it was a natural thing for the tall story tellers to go to bat, rocking the old timers with the fun of the yarn, and leaving the kids bug-eyed and wondering if such a tale could be true.

After months of seeing the old timers yarning on the bench, some teenagers got a bright idea. At night, when the oldsters had gone home, the kids got busy with paint and brush. When the bench gang arrived the next day, staring them in the face were the bright, black letters along the back of their favorite seat. It said “The Liars Bench.” Resentment ran high at the time among the pensioners, but soon they saw the humor of the thing, accepted it as a tribute to their story telling ability, and continued daily with yarns to outdo each other.

When the youngsters painted the sign on the bench they did it in a spirit of fun, never knowing how much wide spread interest their simple act would create, for this bench, in the town of Springhill , has become one of the most photographed, talked about and laughed over the things in the coal town. Tourist hear about it and stop to see, to talk to the ex-coal miners who line on the bench, to hear all sorts of humorous tales, to photograph the scene, and go away with a chuckle and a remembrance of the talkative, but kindly men of Springhill who spent their youth digging the black diamonds from the great coal seam of the town.

See World Go By

On this bench the old timers can watch the kids at the nearby school, look to the mine buildings on the left, hear the rumble of the hoist, meet miners coming home from work and talk over everything of interest in a small town.

While sunny days draws the greatest number of seat-warmers, evening always has a good number watching the kids play ball, and miners coming home from the late shifts often stop, to sit and yarn away into the early morning hour.

What kind of yarns do they tell? Well, mostly ones of the coal mining flavor, and few can outdo Miner Gilbert, a story teller among the yarn spinners. No one can outdo him. If a coal miner tells of working in a coal mine with a low roof. Miner Gilbert worked in one with a lower roof, such as one that was so low all the coal miners had to carry drinking water in saucers. The same if someone comments on a high roofed mine. Miner Gilbert worked in a higher one, one where the roof was so high that in order to test the roof, the miner had to carry a ladder.

In a town like Springhill, where the slope of No. 2 mine goes down 1300 feet, and the tunnels run off in all directions under the town, there is much scope for the story tellers to yarn about the ghost that have been seen in the dark tunnels under the earth.

Ghostly Lights

With a group of open-mouthed youngsters for listeners, perhaps in the early dusk of the evening, they tell of ghostly lights that have been seen going back and forth in the darkness of the pit, of ghostly forms that haunt the narrow ways, of departed horses and miners that have returned from the dead to travel again the familiar ways they knew in life.

No one but an ex-coal miner can bring to a ghost story of the coal mines, the authentic flavor of one who had been there and had seen a ghostly figure as it hurried along on the way to the working face. And those old timers of Springhill, released now from the long years and strenuous work of the coal mines, are masters of this sort of thing. All their yarns are for pure entertainment and knowing of the famous “Liars Club” of other places, they have accepted their “Liars Bench”, as a place of honor among men of humor and integrity.