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"What the Papers Said"

"What the Papers Said"

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Publications & Research "What the Papers Said"

South Wales, August 1856

South Wales, August 1856


Derbyshire Times, Saturday 30th August 1856 (page 4, col. 3)

As was announced in the second edition of the Derbyshire Times of last week, the inquest on the bodies of the 114 colliers killed by the terrible explosion in the Glamorganshire colliery was terminated on Thursday, by an unanimous verdict of manslaughter against two managers and the three firemen who had charge of the pit.

The evidence is very voluminous, and proves that the colliery was worked in a very careless fashion. One of the witnesses, William Jones, survivor of the horrible catastrophe, said there were no safety lamps. It was worked throughout with naked candles. Jones had worked for three months in this way at the far extremity of the pit. In some of the "headings" he considered the air "middling good", though in almost all he had occasionally seen gas. In "Charles's headings", which he described as one of the worst, it frequently happened "that there would be a cap" (glow of ignited gas) "at the end of his candle, half an inch high". He sometimes mentioned these things to the fireman, sometimes not. He "was not afraid of it".

On the occasions when he thus perceived the gas the fireman had left no marks at the entrance to the headings to indicate there was danger in working them. When Jones first went to work there, the ordinary indication that the heading

might by safe to work in was by leaving a lighted candle burning in it. When there was danger, "cross pieces of wood were put up to the entrance to show that there was fire there".

In November last year, the candle signals were abolished, and certain tin tickets substituted, which the colliers were instructed to hang on a nail at the entrance to the stall or heading, leaving them to be removed by the fireman the next morning. This novel step in the science of self- preservation immediately became excessively unpopular among the men. To hang a ticket every day on a nail was literally more trouble than their lives were worth.

William Jones, for his part, soon settled the matter. He put his ticket in his pocket, and lost it the first day. He never had another supplied to him; in all probability he never asked for one. The thing had to be given up, and the safety signals at the Old Cymmer Pit consisted thenceforth "of a shovel or pick-axe placed in a peculiar position by the fireman in the heading".

The evidence clearly points to the systematic violation of all the rules of coal mine working established under the recent Act of Parliament.

Submitted by Alan Vickers

Note: The explosion occurred on 15th July 1856

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