Brynmally Colliery Accident. Wrexham 13th March 1889

The colliery was the property of Thomas Clayton with Mr. Frederick Hutchinson as the certificated manager of the Pendwill Pit of the Brynmally Colliery. The Pits were known as the Nos. 1 and 3 and the explosion took place in the Queen seam of the No.1 Pit. The pit was 290 yards deep. The No.2 shaft was closed and No.1 shaft was the down cast and No.2 the upcast and the colliery was ventilated by a Schiele fan 4 feet 6 inches in diameter which usually ran at 500 rpm. The seams that were worked at the colliery were the Upper and Lower Queen seams in which there were 200 men and boys working. The lower Queen seam was 190 yards deep and was reached by a tunnel driven from the shaft and the ventilating air was split to the north and the south sides and the coal was worked on the longwall system. There was little blasting and safety lamps were used in the mine and open lights were closed at the pit eye of the downcast shaft but none in the workings. Men who lost their lights went to the lamps station to relight them. There were two lamps stations, one at the bottom of Harry Garston’s jig and the other near the overcast. Garston, Thomas Edwards, Charles Williams and E. Hughes, the chartermaster, carried lamps keys. Hugh Jones who was in charge of the roads also had a key as well as the fireman and underlooker.

The men went to work at 2 o’clock when William Parry inspected the south side and he had been fireman for about four months. He had been down the pit since 4.20 a.m. and found no gas. William Henry Dodd who was a filler went down the pit 6 a.m. and met the fireman near the top of the break and he was told that everything was all right. He went to work and at about 2.30 a.m. he felt a shock like a wind working backwards and forwards. He asked Henry Griffiths to go and see what was the matter. He declined and Dodd went to investigate. He found Thomas Davis alive and then a horse and a boy. He thought that the lamps were open and at the inquiry he gave evidence that there system of relighting lamps in the mine was very lax. Ioan Powell, the manager of the Vron Colliery was in the exploring party that found most of the bodies. An inspection showed that the explosion had taken place near the jig wheel and everything was blown away from that point and gas was found during the rescue operations.

The men who lost their lives were :-

James Davis aged 14 years, Wagoner, son of David Davies, collier,

Edward W. Edwards aged 14 years, Wagoner, adopted son of Evan Roberts,

Edward Rowland aged 14 years, hooker-on, son of Morris Rowland, chartermaster,

Joseph Williams aged 15 years, pony driver, son of the late John William, ostler,

Peter Jones aged 15 years, filler, son of Peter Jones, tailor,

Charles Hughes aged 14 years waggoner, son of Samuel Hughes, horseman,

William Davies aged 22 years, filler, and a single man.

Evan William aged 53 years, collier who was a widower.

Thomas Stanton Davies aged 16 years, pony driver,

Thomas Edwards aged 40 years, chartermaster,

Robert Thomas Edwards aged 17 years, filler,

Arthur Thomas aged 17 years, filler,

Thomas Jones aged 20 years, collier,

Henry Tudor aged 17 years, jigger,

Henry Garston aged 50 years, chartermaster,

Thomas Williams aged 33 years, collier,

Hugh Jones aged 48 years, byeman,

Samuel Millington aged 18 years, filler,

Thomas Jarvis aged 20 years, filler and

Peter Griffiths aged 22 years, filler.

The inquiry into the disaster was held by Mr. B.H. Thelwall, Coroner at the Harp Inn, Moss. All interested parties were represented. William Parry, fireman, had inspected the pit at 9 a.m. on the morning of the explosion and found no danger at the spot where the explosion occurred. Samuel Matthias was in the seam when the explosion took place and he told the court that if a lamp went out then he would try to find the fireman and if he could not find him, them the charter master would relight it. It was thought that the explosion occurred by men opening their lamps in the return airway and Mr. Hall, the Inspector, stated “The contravention of the rules is to the greatest discredit of the working men of the district and it is more than disappointing, that after all that has been done by the legislature, the men were so reckless with their and other men’s lives.” In the Inspector’s Report for 1888, Mr. Hall commented that he thought workmen’s lives seemed to be less secure in the North Wales Collieries than in any others.

He went on to say “I believe that this unenviable condition is due principle to the ‘butty’ system of working which prevails. Under this system proper discipline is seldom maintained, the chartermaster of ‘butty’ being deputed to look after the safety of the workmen employed by him, and although he is under the supervision of the officials acting under the certificated manager, it is naturally assumed that he must, to a great extent, be responsible for the safety of those he directly employs.” There was strong evidence that there had been indiscipline with the workmen’s lamps and Mr. Hall was critical of the recklessness of the workmen and he also thought that this reflected on the management of the colliery when he was asked by the Coroner if he blamed any of the officials he said that the situation occurred through generally bad management. The Coroner summed up and the jury, after reflection, brought in the following verdict “The explosion was caused by an accidental fall of roof in Garston’s jig the 9” seam which caused a sudden outburst of gas which was ignited where 3 men and a boy were supposed to be sitting with lighted open lamps which in our opinion caused the explosion.”

Source: Collieries of Denbighshire

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