HAIG PIT DISASTER - 5TH SEPTEMBER 1922

Home Page   Family History    Vaughan Family Start   20 June 2012

 

The page below is a copy of  http://www.haig1.freeserve.co.uk/page27.html 

It was 5 am on any normal day when William Weightman, the Deputy in Charge of the Six Quarters Seam, was working overtime to cover for another man on holiday. The report book showed that gas had been detected in the North District, and three areas were fenced off, but when Weightman went down, earlier that evening, the areas were reported to be clear. Fourteen men entered the South-west District including the Deputy Daniel McKenzie & thirty-eight men went to the Six Quarters North District. A further nineteen went to the drifts and eleven to the main haulage road and shaft bottom. At 7 am, Carl Brewster, a Shotfirer, descended & went to the North District, Also in the mine was Under Manager, Alexander Millar.

A cross section of Moore's Place where the shot being fired by Weightman had released a pocket of gas (a blower) which had ignited causing the explosion. The Chief Inspector of Mines stated in his report to Parliament "Weightman should certainly have the benefit of the doubt in the absence of direct evidence, that it was his fault.".

Just before nine, the Banksman, Alexander Pitblade, noticed a cloud of dust coming up the downcast shaft {No.4 shaft}. The agent, Robert Steel, was informed at William Pit, and after calling the Mines Rescue, set off for Haig along with Mr Brodie, William Pit Manager, and Mr Cook, the Inspector of Mines.

When the explosion struck, Millar, the Under Manager and Trevaskis, a Rope splicer, were standing underground near the Compressor House, when they were knocked off their feet by a blast coming from the North District, Six Quarter Seam. Trevaskis suffered broken ribs but Millar, more or less unhurt, moved in bye until he came across the first dead body, a young man called Thomas Telford, aged 19. He had been thrown with great force and was lying between some tubs and the side wall. In the South-west District, the men knew there had been an explosion and were making their way out. By the time Steel, Brodie, Cook and Thompson arrived, they could hear Millar calling for help, and found him, near unconscious, 120 yards down the drift. They dragged him back to the junction with the help of John Rothery and Mr Kilpatrick, who had made their way to the scene. The search resumed and a Hewer, named William Carter, was found dying under empty tubs, de-railed at No.1 crossing.

Cook and Steel managed to reach the Six Quarters Junction, and after deciding there was no risk of fire, started the fan at 10.30 am. The air was full of afterdamp (mainly Carbon Monoxide) and a white vapour, and they decided all must be dead in the area of the explosion. Steel, Brodie and Millar were all taken to the surface suffering from the effects of gas and were taken to the local hospital. A halt in the rescue attempts was called until repairs could be carried out to improve the atmosphere.

By early afternoon, the repairs were completed and the air was making its normal course. The Rescue party moved in, recovering dead bodies and making further repairs as they went. Afterdamp was still causing problems, with many rescuers having to be helped back to the shaft top, some unconscious, but things were improving with the erection of further brattices (planks or a wooden frame with a canvas cover to control air circulation). By 3 am on the 6th, 22 hours after the shift had entered the mine, the bodies of 25 men had been recovered. The remainder had been buried by roof falls and their bodies were not recovered until the 10th September.

A diagram of the area at the source of the explosion. The cross section above (top right) is marked M on this drawing

The force of such an explosion, contained within the small tunnel, must have been tremendous

No pen picture can ever hope to bring home to those who have not experienced it, what real warfare means, and no pen picture can visualise the scenes at the pit head following a big disaster. The latter is infinitely worse than warfare. Women with children in their arms and little hands clinging to their skirts, wait with steadfast patience for possible news of the bread winner, and those around, who realise that all are doomed, dare not tell. Possibly the worst scenes of all, ensue during the identification of the bodies of the deceased. On Tuesday night, in some instances, men were not available for this purpose and women were ushered into the outbuilding of the pit, where the bodies were being made as presentable as possible, to pronounce the dreaded "yes" or "no". Twice within a decade has Whitehaven experienced pit disasters on a large scale, and the stoicism of it's colliery workers & their families, has been brought into bold relief.

Whitehaven News, 6th September 1922

The inquest was formally opened in the Power House (the room next to No.4 engine hall), with the bodies being kept in the cellars below. Eight were in handsome coffins with brass mountings, but the majority were covered up with the exception of their bandaged faces, which were exposed. The dead were then identified as :-

Thomas Parker Telford

19

Shifthand

7, Low Harras Moor

Violence of the Explosion

Identified by father John James Telford

Robert Routledge McCreadie

19

Hewer

4, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Violence of the Explosion

Identified by brother Joseph McCreadie

Gordon McCreadie

17

Hewer

4, Thwaite Ville, Kells

CO Poisoning

Identified by brother Joseph McCreadie

George McCreadie

47

Hewer

4, Thwaite Ville, Kells

CO Poisoning

Identified by son Joseph McCreadie

Robert Denwood

21

Hewer

13, Quay Street

Violence of the Explosion

Identified by mother Elizabeth Denwood

Joseph Moore

29

Shifthand

22, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Violence, CO Poisoning

Identified by father James Moore

Albert Powe

19

Shifthand

Low Harras Moor

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by father Philip Powe

James Graves

46

Shifthand

Goosebutts

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by son James Graves

Moses Huddleston Tyson

24

Hewer

3, Thwaite Ville, Kells

CO Poisoning

Identified by father Moses Huddleston Tyson

Thomas Corlett

58

Shifthand

Birley Court, Duke St

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by nephew Thomas Corlett Robson ***

John Kirkpatrick

32

Hewer

1, Hill's Place, Church St

CO Poisoning

Identified by father Robert Kirkpatrick

William Hope

25

Hewer

10, School House Lane

CO Poisoning

Identified by brother Thomas Hope

John Moore

25

Hewer

10, Bransty Road

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by father in law John High

Thomas Gilhooley

39

Hewer

40, Keekle Terrace

CO Poisoning

Identified by father Thomas Gilhooley

Leonard Ixon Hellon

27

Hewer

3, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Burns, Shock

Identified by Moses Huddleston Tyson

Bernard Murphy

24

Hewer

56, Bowthorn Road

Burns, Shock

Identified by father Bernard Murphy

Sylvester McAvoy

34

Hewer

29, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by uncle James Harvey

Thomas Haig

37

Hewer

2, Cook's Court, Scotch St

Burns, Shock

Identified by widow Mary Elizabeth Haig

Albert Shepard

39

Hewer

135, Main St, Parton

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by Ernest Shepard

William Weightman

32

Deputy

16, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Burns, Shock

Identified by father in law Thomas McKenzie

Samuel Coulter

28

Hewer

52, Main St, Hensingham

CO Poisoning

Identified by brother John Robert Coulter

Thomas Robinson

29

Hewer

53, Main St, Hensingham

Burns, Shock, CO poison

 

George Stevenson Parkinson

26

Hewer

Low Harras Moor

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by widow Mary Jane Parkinson

Thomas McDowell

19

Trailer

Streeton's Trc, Hensingham

Burns, Shock, CO poison

Identified by brother in law Robert Knox

Jackson Sparks

19

Hewer

4, Williamson's Lane

Burns, Shock, CO poison

 

William John Sparks

23

Hewer

4, Williamson's Lane

Burns, Shock, CO poison

 

John Casson

37

Hewer

Low Harras Moor

CO Poisoning

 

Henry Goulding

32

Hewer

2, Ravenhill

CO Poisoning

 

John Bennett

23

Hewer

28, Arrowthwaite

CO Poisoning

 

John Pattinson

36

Hewer

13, Williamson's Lane

Burns, Shock, CO poison

 

Thomas Henry Cooper

28

Hewer

28, Auction Yd, NewTown

CO Poisoning

 

Isaac Osbourne

26

Hewer

Crookdale, Brayton

CO Poisoning

 

George Watson

37

Hewer

5, Brookbank, Hensingham

Violence of the Explosion

 

John Carson Brewster

39

Shotfirer

17, Lonsdale Place

Violence of the Explosion

 

Richard Denvir

58

Shifthand

2, Low Road

Violence, CO Poisoning

(Spelt as Denver in the Whitehaven News)

 

Douglas James Michael Fell

21

Student

Holy Trinity Vicarage

CO Poisoning

   

William Carter

26

Hewer

30, Thwaite Ville, Kells

Violence, Burns, Shock

   

Thomas Moore

29

Hewer

3, Garden Villas, Hensinghm

Burns, Shock

   

Robert McDowell

44

Hewer

High Hensingham

CO Poisoning

   

*** Witness stated he identified by trouser and belt. It was impossible to identify by the features.

J.McAllister about to descend the mine

No.5 shaft is closest to the photographer

"Scene of the Great Disaster at Haig Colliery, Whitehaven, on Sept 5th, 1922 whereby 39 men Lost their lives"

"A glance at the list of addresses above indicates the cruel blow delivered against the manlihood of Thwaiteville, the little Arrowthwaite colony of Army huts, tenanted by colliery employees, which sprang into existence since the war. In a day, nine of it's men had been recorded as dead with the probability of more to follow. The hamlet is in the deepest mourning, it's inhabitants (with the exception of the children who do not understand the calamity which has befallen the community) talking in hushed voices. Probably the most tragic case is that of the deaths of George McCreadie and his two sons, Robert and Gordon. All lived in the same hut in Thwaiteville and even in the war, no wife sustained such a crushing blow in a single day.The widow is left with five children….

 

The blast travelled left to right

John Brewster was some way back from the seat of the explosion, but the force of the blast can clearly be seen by the falls of roof

The enquiry heard evidence regarding the strong feeder of firedamp (a release of methane from the coal strata) found discharging from the fissure at Moore's Place. Questions were raised about the safety procedures adopted by Weightman and Brewster, but it was thought most unlikely either would have fired shots into a face if there were any suspicion of a blower behind it.

A youth named Joyce was described as having a miraculous escape. He was on the telephone, in a manhole on the main road, when the explosion ripped past. This alone, saved him from certain death. A Mayors fund was opened to "place the relatives beyond the reach of poverty" and money poured in from around the country. A letter and 20 shillings was received from a mother in Scotland for Mrs McCreadie because her own two sons, who had been killed in the war, bore the same names as the McCreadie boys, Robert and Gordon.

….Yesterday, our Reporter called on some of the men who were down the mine when the explosion occurred but escaped. In some instances, their re-collection of what occurred after the explosion was distinctly hazy. Our Reporter called up on Mr T. Travaskis, Rope Splicer, who resides in Catherine Street. Mr Tervaskis escaped with his life but is severely injured. He has three ribs broken, is suffering from internal injuries, has sustained severe wounds on the back of his head and forehead, and has been burned down the left side. Our Reporter found Mr Trevaskis lying in a clean, comfortable, well-furnished bedroom, where he is being nursed by his devoted wife. He was much to ill to talk, but managed, speaking slowly, and with an effort, to tell our representative that the explosion sounded, at the place where he was working, "like a gun shot". After that he knew no more. From other sources, our representative gathered that Mr Trevaskis was found un-conscious, his head lying over a tub".

Whitehaven News 7th September 1922

Home Page   Family History   Vaughan Family Start   Previous Page  Frank Vaughan's Mining  Top of Page