The small mining village of Urgeiriça, and my first years spent there all came to life a couple of weeks ago. The mine has been closed since 1992 but has a history of 80 years during which thousands of workers got out some 1.6 million tons of usable mineral (mainly Uranium) and left behind another 2.5 million tons radioactive residuals.
My few years in Urgeiriça go back to the early fifties when my father João Manuel Pinheiro after completing his engineering studies in England got employment in the mine. It meant my mother Pamela Ineichen and I spent our first years in this northern village in the Viseu district. It was also during this time my brother Pedro came to us.
The pictures in my album from this period showed me playing around the house or out on outings and on the beach. I rode a tricycle, I recall the existence of small chicks and not an awful much more in those days when I was nothing else but Titi. The beach, I have now learnt, was Ericeira where the mothers and their children spent time on a rented apartment with their husbands coming down at weekends.
Responsible for this memory revival is film producer Ramsay Cameron. He has made a most interesting film about the history of the mine where the viewer discovers the economic and strategic importance of it. Many interesting aspects touching big world politics during and after the war, dictator Salazar’s involvement in this real “gold mine”. The Marie Curie, radium connection…The importance of the hotel Urgeiriça.
The mine’s large quantities of Uranium, needed for the nuclear weapon project, put a focus on this small and otherwise forgotten area. The film is available both in English as in Portuguese on https://vimeo.com/158161181. Watch it!
Ramsay’s father James Cameron was a chief engineer at the mines during the period that my family were there. I now know that it is Ramsay’s sister Cairine we can see on the photo shown above. I also learnt from Ramsay that the other girl is Dorothy Bennett. The Bennets were another family that my parents knew and spent time with.
The importance of writing a blog has been proven again.