The Miners’ Club incident

Ghostly dancers © Tim Samoff

Skegness. The very word sounds harsh, guttural and uninviting. Apparently it offers a National Nature Reserve, is a major centre for bowls and entertains the world’s premier Meccano exhibition. Having no interest in these things, it holds no appeal for me.

So what took me to ‘Bracing Skegness? It came about when my sister had taken our elderly mother for a brief break there, and my husband and I decided that we would pop along for the weekend, stay somewhere local and visit with them.

Travelling through the flat, depressing fen country, so popular with Daphne du Maurier, I did begin to wonder if it was such a good idea. For some unknown reason, the town was over-run with tourists, forcing my sister to book us into a chalet type room at a resort called The Derbyshire Miners Club.

I have learned since, that the place was set up, sometime in the early thirties, with funds donated by the Miners Welfare Committee. It’s purpose: to offer miners and their families an escape from the dark, satanic mills and mountains of the north and the daily drudge of work.

We arrived early evening to find that the place consisted of row upon row of square, dull buildings with dreary, concrete roads running between each block. It was surrounded by a huge, metal fence that rattled in the cold breeze. Our room was a cramped space with two narrow single beds, each one standing against a wall decorated with nicotine-stained paint.

When my husband sank down on his bed in despair, he found that the blankets were damp and held the faint, but nauseating stench of stale urine. It was too late to return home. Tired, and with little choice but to make do, we decided to cheer ourselves up by visiting the on-site bar for a drink, or ten!

The bar comprised of a tiny, rather dark room, with a few old neon signs flashing intermittently around the walls, advertising drinks that I believe are, and were even then, no longer in existence.

We chatted in whispers, it was that kind of place, and pondered on what we could do for the few remaining hours of the evening, when we noticed a sign advertising a disco in the main hall.

On locating the building, we found it silent and dimly lit. It consisted of a foyer with corridors leading off in various directions, each one entered through large, plastic-like swing doors similar to the ones once found in hospitals. Each door swung back with a satisfying thud and our footsteps slurped on the dark linoleum flooring and echoed across the dull, brickwork walls, decorated with flaking paint.

Finally, on the brink of turning back, we heard a rustling noise to our left and eagerly we peered through the dim, cracked portholes of yet another set of doors. We had hoped to see a room filled with the jolly, bright colours of youth, to view the dancing crowd of our imaginings, to hear the thud of gleeful stamping feet, the deep bass, boom of popular music.

Instead, we saw a host of ghostly, shadow figures.

They appeared to drift, aimlessly, then gather together momentarily before separating again, moving without visible legs or feet, their long, draping garments swishing and swaying this way and that as they moved in some sort of eerie dance macabre.

We stared at each other in horror and, clutching hands, we raced back along the nightmare halls, desperate to reach light and normality. Eventually we reached the foyer, and not daring to slow down we pushed frantically at the metal door handles, and fell out exhausted, into the night air.

Had we really seen what we thought we saw? Was it merely our imagination, inspired by our tiredness and disillusionment with the facilities? We will never know, but over the years we have remembered, speaking now and then of that time, and we have laughed, thinking ourselves silly and over-imaginative. One thing we agree on, is that we will never again visit ‘Bracing Skegness.’

Written by - Edited by Charlotte Amelines - Photo by Tim Samoff

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