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Lost jobs: coal lumpers

Content provided by our friends at the Old Treasury Building, Melbourne.

Pictured is a man wearing the distinctive cap of the ‘humper’ or ‘lumper’, which protected coal lumpers’ necks and shoulders from the heavy hessian bags they would carry as part of their trade. Until recently these strong men would carry up to 80 kilograms of any number of materials, from wheat to coal. It was hard, back-breaking work, and dangerous, too! Coal lumpers working in a ship’s hold shovelling coal worked in clouds of dust, while standing on loose piles of coal. If the coal moved they could be pulled down into shutes, or buried under the coal. Hours were long and inhaling coal dust could lead to short-term dizziness. In the long-term it caused serious lung disease. It was said that only the strongest and fittest men could survive.

Discover more about the careers of our ancestors in ‘Lost Jobs: The Changing World of Work’ now on display at the Old Treasury Building, Melbourne. Click here to find out more.

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