WILLIAM PIT. Whitehaven, Cumberland. 18th. February, 1939.

There was an explosion at the colliery about 2 a.m., about one and a half miles from the shaft bottom in the direction of Parton which claimed the lives of nine men and twelve boys.

The chief overman examined the mine on Saturday morning and found no firedamp. On Monday morning, Topping, an overman examined and found that all was safe and the men went to work. It was believed that a boy named Kennedy followed Topping into the works with a naked light and gas fired at the candle.

One account stated that:

On the Saturday before, there was no appearance of damp and the “waster”, as the person is called whose business it was to examine, had on Monday found all the places safe till he came to the last, by which time the people had gone to their work but on going into the last with a boy, who, besides his safety lamp, had an open candle in his hand, the damp, which had accumulated since Saturday, exploded at once. These two were much scorched but escaped with their lives. The others that were in the pit perished, with the exception of one man who was recovered.

Those who lost their lives were:

  • George Scott aged 60 years of New Houses, left a wife.
  • William Davidson aged 41 years of New Houses left a wife and four or five children.
  • Hugh Raney aged 46 years of Banks Lane, left a wife and four children.
  • Barney Cairn of Tangier Street, single.
  • William Smith aged 22 years of New Houses, married for three months.
  • Felix McGinnis aged 33 years of Tangier Street who left a wife and two children.
  • Richard Harrison aged 43 years of New Houses left a wife and four children.
  • John Tordiff aged 31 years of New Houses, left a pregnant wife and four children.
  • John Firth aged 33 years of Charles Street left a wife and two children.
  • Thomas Gilmore aged 60 years of Tangier Street, left a wife and three children.
  • John Fisher aged 10 years of New Houses.
  • William Doran aged 14 years of New Houses.
  • Richardson Shields aged 16 years of New Houses.
  • Michael Wheatley aged 13 years of New Houses.
  • John Dunn aged 11 years of New Houses.
  • William Atkinson aged 14 years of New Houses.
  • Robert and James Tear aged 12 and 18 years of Addison Alley, brothers.
  • Christopher Pearson aged 14 years of New Houses.
  • John Ross aged 18 years of Charles Street.
  • William McMullen aged 11 years of New Houses.
  • Joseph Clark.

The local paper said:

The accident is one of those awful circumstances which spread misery and distress throughout the whole of the neighbourhood and leaves many a house in wretchedness by depriving them of protection and support. It is also one of those occurrences against which no human foresight or precaution could have effectually protected those who became its victims.

 

REFERENCES
Annals of Coal Mining, Galloway, Vol. 2, p.128.
Mining Journal. Vol. viii, p.58.
Children’s Employment Commission. Append i, p.876.
The Cumberland Pacquet, 19th. February 1839.

Information supplied by Ian Winstanley and the Coal Mining History Resource Centre.

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