"What the Papers Said" - from Shropshire Caving & Mining Club Archives
Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, December
On Thursday Sir. J. V. T. Lander (coroner) held an inquest at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Dark Lane, touching the death of John Samuels, aged 59, a collier. The deceased, who was employed under the Lilleshall Company at the Stafford Pits, was accidentally burned on November 25th.
Mr. W. N. Atkinson (his Majesty's Inspector of Mines) and Mr. Stokes (his assistant) were present, and Mr. N. T. Beech and Mr. Greene represented the Lilleshall Company.
Ann Whittington, wife of William Whittington, Dark Lane, Dawley, said she was present when the deceased was taken home. He was then suffering from burns over the face, back, arms, and all over his body. He said it had happened in the pit, but did not say how. He made no complaint of anybody or anything. Dr. McCarthy was called in. and had attended him since.
Charles Rigby, a lamp-cleaner, employed by the Lilleshall Company at the Stafford Pits, stated that he knew the deceased, and last saw him at work on the 25th November. Witness's duties are to clean, light, and lock the lamps, and he locked the lamp the deceased had that morning. No one else is allowed to have the keys, but witness. Witness remembered giving the deceased his lamp, and he went to work. The next witness heard was at breakfast time the same morning, when some men told him that a man had got burned. He went to the place and then saw the lamps, and all were locked, including that given to deceased. Witness was told there had been an explosion, but could not say what was the cause of it. —In answer to the Inspector. Witness said he knew Samuels's lamp by the number. All lamps were locked in the same way as shown by the lamp produced. He could not say how they would be able to unfasten these lamps without a key. He had never found any lamps unlocked, and had no reason to think that the men tampered with these locks. If a miner wanted to open his lamp he would have to steal a key out of the lamp room.
There were two loose keys there and two fast ones. — John Corbett, a fireman, employed at the Stafford Pits, said he saw the deceased when he came to work. It was the duty of witness to examine the lamp locks. He examined the deceased's, and it was fast, and appeared all right in every way. Witness thought deceased must have done something to his lamp. If the lamp went out it was deceased's duty to send it to the lamp station for witness to put it right again. Witness was satisfied the lamp was perfectly fast when deceased had it given to him. — Absalom Pitchford, also a fireman, employed at the same place, stated that he set deceased, on the morning of the accident, to get some coal down. Witness had been down previously and examined the place, and after he heard there had been an explosion, he went, in company with the under-manager, Mr. Green, to the place. He was present when the lamps were examined, which appeared all right. Witness said there was a slackness of the ventilation, but he thought it was safe enough for the men to work. It must have been gas that caused the explosion. If the deceased's lamp was unfastened it was sufficient to cause the explosion, or if a man struck a match that would do it.
— In answer to the Inspector, witness said he was in this place about 4:45 that morning to examine before the men commenced their work, and he made a report of examining the workings, and finding them safe. He found no gas anywhere that morning. — John Churm said he was working with deceased, but could not account for the explosion. The deceased was blown and burnt all over his body and arms. Deceased's lamp was afterwards found to be in two parts. Witness saw the deceased screwing his lamp on again. Witness said they were aware that the lamps were, dangerous. This lamp, if opened by the deceased, would cause the explosion. Witness was sure the deceased had had it undone, but how he could not say. Witness saw nothing more than usual in the ventilation that morning. He had never heard of lamps being unfastened in these pits. — James Tonks said he was working in No. 5 stall. He knew the deceased, who was in No. 6. Witness said he had his lamp given to him in the usual way. Witness said he felt a gush of hot wind on the Tuesday morning, and was rather shocked at first. He ran towards the way end, and returned with his mates. They saw the deceased, who had several marks on his face, body, and arms. Witness asked him what had happened, but all he said was " James, my lamp". Witness saw his lamp in two parts about a yard apart. Deceased must have taken it off himself. Witness told Samuels at the time that he ought to have known better than interfere with his lamp. He admitted doing it, and he asked witness what he had better do, and witness told him to own up to the truth. He could not say whether he had or not. — In answer to the Inspector, witness said this was the first time he had known a lamp to be undone. The men were not searched before entering the pit. — John Greene, assistant manager, said the case was reported to him, and he afterwards visited the place to make an examination. There were no signs in No. 5 or 6 stall of gas, but there was gas in the air road leading to No. 6. When there had been an explosion they generally expected to find gas. He considered there was plenty of ventilation. The deceased unfastening his lamp would cause the explosion. He had endeavoured to find out what had caused it, but could not. He did not think the men were in the habit of opening their lamps. — In answer to the inspector, witness said he knew there were other lamps, and much better ones, with lead plugs. — The Inspector recommended the use of these lamps, as it would be impossible to open them, once they were fastened. Deceased told witness that he could not give him any idea how the explosion happened.
This completed the inquiry, and the Coroner, in summing up, said it was a miracle something serious had not happened to all the other men. From the evidence the deceased had no doubt opened his lamp, and the evidence of Tonks showed clearly that the cause of the explosion was due to the opening of this particular lamp. He felt sure any suggestion the jury wished to make would be considered by the Lilleshall Company.
The jury in returning a verdict of " Death from shock, the result of injuries accidentally received by burning", added to their verdict the following rider:— "That in the opinion of this jury the burning was caused by an explosion of gas in the Stafford Pits, which was brought about by the deceased unfastening his lamp, and they recommend that the Lilleshall Company should adopt some better means of securing the lamps".
Mr. Beech said the recommendation of the jury should be brought to the notice of Mr. Perrott, and the inquiry then terminated.
Submitted by Steve Dewhirst