Workers stories: Roy Gamble - Bricklayer
Linda's dad Roy died in 2005 from lung cancer. He had also developed silicosis after working as a bricklayer for 30 years in the coal mining pits of West Yorkshire. "He was my dad and I loved him dearly. He was taken away from me too soon. You try to go on day to day but it's always there."
Roy was in his twenties when he started work, initially on salvage and later as a bricklayer, often sealing in underground gas pockets.
Linda believes that her dad was exposed to silica dust as soon as he started work in 1957, until he retired aged 55 in 1988. She believes that her father was unaware of what he was breathing in. "Nobody made them aware I don't think. It wasn't spoken about. They went down there, they did their job. They came home, they got paid at the end of the week", she explains. "There were masks available, but if you were working in the heat and humidity they were very uncomfortable and they'd get wet straight away, so they didn't wear them."
Roy first noticed something was wrong in 2003 when a tickly cough would not clear up and his sleep became affected. He went to the doctors and was sent for an x-ray, which highlighted some areas of concern in his lungs. Within a matter of weeks, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Following an operation to remove one lobe of his lung, he received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to his bones, his oesophagus and other lung. Finally, following further analysis, silicosis was diagnosed.
Linda recalls how her father felt when he realised his illness was due to his work. "That's when his strength started to come back. He wasn't going to let it lie. He said people shouldn't suffer like this just to earn a wage. It made him angry", she says. "He became passionate about it and I think, to be honest, that passion kept him going a bit longer. That's when he really started to feel that something's got to be done - people can't be dying from this."
Roy had radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment for his cancer, but nothing worked. It advanced very quickly and he grew weaker and weaker. "He went from seeming 20 years younger than his actual age to 20 years older", explains Linda. Soon after, Roy died in the Prince of Wales hospice, with his daughter by his side. "Two or three days before he died he just turned round to me and said, Linda whatever you do, you mustn't let this go on. This shouldn't be happening to anybody", she recalls.
Roy felt that workers needed to be more aware of the risks to their health from exposure to dust. Linda is sure that if Roy had known of the potential risk of silicosis, he would have worn protection and made sure that the message got through to the youngsters who came to work with him.
Linda feels that it is up to the employer to ensure safety measures are in place and that all workers should have these vital health messages taught as part of their training. She feels passionately about carrying out her father's wishes to raise awareness. "My dad didn't look a day over fifty and he was as strong as a horse even at seventy. It was so painful to watch him go from that to a human skeleton."