Franklin Colliery

The Franklin coal mine produced a lot of coal – and quite a few bad jokes!

The Franklin (sometimes spelled Franklyn) was in Florence, Cape Breton County. It was opened in 1938 by the Bras d’Or Coal Company and was a steady producer until 1957.

After the mine closed, its bankhead, washing and sizing facilities were kept onsite to handle coal from the nearby Colonial No. 1 and Atlantic mines.

In the 1960s, the Franklin’s infrastructure was transferred to the Four Star mine in Broughton. All Franklin equipment was removed from Florence by 1968.

The Franklin mine site was reclaimed around 2008-10 by the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, part of an effort to remediate various historical coal mine sites in Cape Breton.

Waste rock material from ten properties was consolidated at the west end of the Franklin mine site. To prevent acid rock drainage, the waste rock was covered with an engineered high density polyethylene liner, geo-web drainage layer and 60 centimetres of soil so it would not interact with oxygen and rain. The waste rock pile was built above the high groundwater level to prevent it interacting with groundwater. The site continues to be monitored to ensure there are no issues and data is made available to local groups to further research into engineered covers. The 2010 and 2020 aerial images below show how the waste rock pile and surrounding area have grown vegetation post-reclamation.

The sites from which waste rock was cleared were revegetated and contoured to control drainage and mirror local landforms.

The Franklyn mine site also contains a mine water discharge from the Prospect #5 mine. The water is treated and monitored prior to discharging into Sullivan’s Pond.

No industry took proper care of the environment in the historical era and mining was not an exception. However, the modern mining industry is totally different. Today, Nova Scotia mining companies must get government approval of reclamation plans and post reclamation bonds (money in escrow, basically) before mining starts. This ensures sites are properly reclaimed at no cost to taxpayers.

The Bras d’Or Coal Company published a monthly bulletin called the Duckbill “in the interests of Franklin mine employees.” It contained things like jokes, news about people who worked at the mine and updates on hockey and bowling leagues. The Duckbill was named for the Duckbill Loader, the mine’s underground coal loading machine.

The December 1952 edition had an article about First Aid that highlighted how the training could open up job advancement opportunities. It featured William Dennis Marsh, a “First Aid man.” Din, as he was called, started working at the Franklin mine at the age of 17 and was “One of our most eligible bachelors” in his early 20s. He drove “a ‘51 Ford and makes him home with his parents at Mill Creek. When not keeping his car in tip-top shape he spends his spare time in hunting, fishing and bowling and is one of the leading scorers in the Franklin Bowling League.”

Din, who turned 91 in 2022, said he did not stay an “eligible bachelor” for long. He met his late wife, Mary, shortly the Duckbill article was written. They raised seven kids in Mill Creek, where Din still lives.

After leaving the mine, he drove a taxi for a while, mostly shuttling miners to and from the mine. He went on to own and operate the Texaco Lakeview Restaurant in Bras d’Or and CB Hoare Auto Parts in North Sydney.

Din’s father was hurt in a 1939 explosion at the Toronto Mine, which was also owned by the Bras d’Or Coal Company. His grandfather was also hurt in a mining accident. He broke his back and was paralyzed at the Number 4 mine.

Historical accidents like these are a key reason why the modern mining industry is so safety-focussed. Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry has reduced its injury rate by 90% since the Westray inquiry report was released in 1997. We believe the most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner, and our modern safety record reflects this.

Din’s grandson, who also works in mining, took Din on a tour of a modern mine about 15 years ago and Din was, according to his grandson, “blown away with the amount of safety in place, and how big, open, and bright the underground openings were. Things like seeing the massive workshops underground were just amazing to him. Taking him underground after all those years is still my favourite memory in the industry. It was just amazing to see his reaction to how much things had changed.”

The December 1952 edition of the Duckbill also included this note about the birth of an employee’s daughter: “Mr. and Mrs. Frank Jessome are receiving congratulations on the birth of a daughter at Hamilton Memorial Hospital. Weight 7 lbs. 3 oz. Nice going, Frank!” (Mrs. Jessome arguably deserved the kudos for the delivery, but it is true that Frank played a role!)

Looking for Cuddles? “$10.00 reward! For information leading to the return of George White’s cat. Last seen in Geordie’s truck at the mine. Answers to the name of ‘Cuddles….’”

After the mine’s hockey team was charged with “ungentlemanly conduct” in a game, the company wrote, “we certainly do not want to see any roughneck tactics employed by our players. On the other hand, if some of the other Clubs elect to go in for this brand of hockey then we have no choice but to reply in kind. And, by the way, we feel our Club us very capable of doing just this.”

The edition also included a dozen cheesy jokes (i.e. “I’ve been engaged to this man for seven months. Just yesterday I found out he has a wooden leg. Should I break it off?”).

However, one of the jokes actually contained a thought that is worth sharing: “If television had come before printing, no one would know how to read.” We wonder what the Duckbill would say about the Internet.