Monday, 28 July 2014

The Accidental Mine

My grandparents lived in a middle cold flat in Verdun, on one of the numbered streets that ran from the Aqueduct to the St Lawrence River. These were 3 story buildings that were all stuck together, did not have central heat, and in the beginning no hot running water. The rent was cheap. In the kitchen, against one wall, was a tall, round-ish stove that was coal burning and it heated the whole house.  Every couple of years 2 tons of coal was delivered by the alley and stored in the back shed off the kitchen. We visited often at my grandparents' house, and I always wondered how come the sooty, saggy floor full of coal didn't fall through to the unit below. It never occurred to me to wonder where the coal came from.... Grampa said it was delivered by truck.

This year, in May 2014 an explosion at the coal mine in Soma, Manisa, Turkey claimed at least 300 lives. It made me think of my grandfather's coal, and what others had to endure so my grandparents could stay warm during the cold Quebec winters. Through the years there have been many mining disasters.

The worst ever coal mine disaster is said to be the gas and coal-dust explosion in China, April 26, 1942 at the Benxihu Colliery when 1,549 workers died.

The worst single disaster in British coal mining history was at Senghenydd in the South Wales coalfield, October 1913, killing 439 miners and 1 rescuer.

The Monongah Mining disaster in West Virginia occurred on December 6, 1907, and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American History". The explosion occurred in Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines, killing over 360 miners.

The 1902 Mount Kembla Mine disaster was the worst of Australia's history, killing 96 workers in the explosion caused by gas and coal-dust ignited by miners' torches.
The worst Canadian coal mine disaster was the explosion at the Hillcrest Mine,  Hillcrest, Alberta, June 1914. A total of 189 workers died.

One of my neighbours in Nanaimo, BC told me about her father being brought with his family on a ship from England to work in the mines, whose owners were in London. The families were greeted by those already here, who had hastily put up temporary shacks and gathered food for them, as the men were put right to work. There was an explosion at the Number One Coal Mine in Nanaimo in May 1877 that killed 150 miners, including 53 Chinese workers. Only 7 miners survived and the fires burned all day.

"Chinese workers were listed in the Government inquest as 'Chinamen, names unknown' followed by a tag number. BC employers did not have to report the deaths of Chinese employees until 1897."

Though coal mining has been around for thousands of years, it came into its own during the Industrial Revolution.  Coal was, and still is, used at many industrial plants and is mined in many different countries. 

This from Wikipedia: (Mt is Millions of tons)

"Global coal production is expected to reach 7,000 Mt/yr in 2030 (Update required, world coal production is already past 7,000 Mt/yr and by 2030 will probably be closer to 13,000 Mt/yr), with China accounting for most of this increase. Steam coal production is projected to reach around 5,200 Mt/yr; coking coal 620 Mt/yr; and brown coal 1,200 Mt/yr"
This article was inspired by the link for UK Coal Mining Accidents, posted in a group by genealogist Elaine Stockton Curran, whose ancestor was killed in the Pretoria Pit Disaster of 1910, Westhoughton, Lancashire. The explosion claimed the lives of 344 men and boys, just days before Christmas. You will find Elaine posting often and helping others at The Conservatory Facebook Group.

Pretoria Pit Memorial in Ditchfield Gardens, Westhoughton

If you had a coal mining ancestor, I have gathered a few links that may be of interest to you. The first is a list of mining accidents, and you can search for the ones I didn't list.

Relevant Links:

UK Coalmining Accidents and Deaths Database

World Mining Accidents

Turkey Coal Mine Disaster 2014

UK Coal Mining Accidents Click on reports for names of miners

Pretoria Pit Disaster, Westhoughton, Lancashire 1910

Pretoria Pit Disaster, at OPC Lancashire

Nanaimo BC - Coal Mine Explosion 1887

Nova Scotia Mine Fatalities - Database 1838-1992

NS Westray Coal Mine Disaster 1992

NS The Drummond Colliery Disaster May 1873

Number 12 Colliery, New Waterford, NS - July 1917

Explosion at Springhill Mines, Nova Scotia 1891 - Our Roots

Explosion at Springhill Mines, Nova Scotia 1891 - Internet Archive

Miracle at Springhill - 1958

Australia - Bulli Colliery Disaster 1887 (Newspaper)

Mount Kembla Disaster - 1902 Australia

Pike River Mine Disaster 2010 New Zealand

Ralph Mine Disaster - Huntly, Waikato, NZ 1914

Senghenydd, Wales Mine Disaster October 1913, Memorial

Hillcrest, Alberta 1914 Mine Disaster Memorial

Coal Miners of Sebastian County, Arkansas

The Monongah Mining Disaster (West Virginia) 1907

List of Names - Monongah Mining Explosions 1907

Wages and the cost of living in the anthracite industry of Pennsylvania1920

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