This article was originally published in The Cambrian newspaper and reprinted in The Times.
Frightful Colliery Accident
The painful and melancholy duty devolves on us this week again to record another of those frightful and heart-rending colliery accidents which have been, of late years, of frequent occurrence in the mining districts of South Wales, particularly in Glamorganshire. The scene of the present catastrophe, which has resulted in the death by drowning of no less than 25 men and boys and several valuable horses, was the Main Colliery, situated near Bryncoch, a short distance from Duffryn-house, and about two miles from the town of Neath. The colliery is the property of Messrs. Fox, Redwood and Co., under whose auspices it was re-opened about 2½ years ago, and has since then been carried on by them with much vigour, and, until this untoward inundation, with every promise of ultimate success. The accident took place on Wednesday last.[April 6, 1859] In the morning the men and boys to the number of 80 descended the pit as usual with that buoyancy of spirits peculiar to the Welsh colliers, little dreaming of the proximity of that destructive element which was so soon to engulf them. Having descended, the colliers repaired to their various occupations, some to the headings, some to the wagons, while others took their turns as explorers of drifts. The object of the explorers of drifts was to obtain an additional pit as an upcast shaft. This, we understand, was done at the suggestion of the Government Inspector, who objected to the men having only one way of ingress and egress to the colliery, as they were exposed to the smoke and heat passing through the winding shaft. Things went on smoothly until about 11o'clock. At this time there were what is called two turns of borers, three men in each turn. While the borers were engaged in driving in a southerly direction they unfortunately struck into the workings of an old colliery, called the Fire Engine Pit. Although the proximity of these old workings was well known, still there was not the slightest apprehension felt of any danger arising from them, as they had been, it was supposed, thoroughly drained previous to the re-opening of the Main colliery. Indeed, so confident were the men, we are told, that they frequently ridiculed the idea of the old workings being a source of danger to them after the precautions which had been taken while they were being drained at the time already referred to. The old workings, however, proved treacherous. In the heading worked by Thomas Barker and Philip Thomas the side bore hole came in contact with them, and the water began to flow apace. The men lost no time in attempting to plug the hole, but their efforts soon proved fruitless. The water gained on them with a rapidity that completely hurled them back by its volume and pressure. Seeing the danger that now threatened them, the alarm was given, and there was a general rush to the mouth of the shaft, the only way of escape. The usual danger signals having been exchanged with those at the mouth of the pit, the engine was brought into requisition, and not a moment lost in bringing up the men. Expeditious as they were, however, the flow of water was too impetuous for them, for in a very short time it was found that there was a perfect torrent pouring into the workings and rapidly extending itself even to the mouth of the shaft. Knowing that the water was thus rapidly overwhelming everything at the only place of escape, the anxiety of those above may be better imagined than described. Tram after tram was sent down with the greatest possible speed, and in a short time 55 men and boys and two horses were rescued. The number left in the pit is supposed to be about 25, all of whom, it is feared, must have perished. As soon as the news of the disaster extended the friends and relatives of the colliers repaired to the spot. The scene that ensued was most heartrending. Parents, brothers, sisters, and friends assembled in groups, mingled their lamentations, and rent the air with their cries. In the midst of all this everything was done that art and practical experience could suggest by Mr. Graham, the superintendent of the cutting, and those under him, to drain the water. As soon as it was found that no more men could be saved, two powerful engines were set to pump and the trams were converted into water tubs. These were sent up and down by the engines with marvellous speed, and brought up as many as 432 gallons per minute. Considering that the cutting is 95fathoms in depth, this was deemed very good work. In addition to this another powerful engine was set in motion, which pumped out 900 gallons per minute. By incessant working it was found that in 12 hours the water was lessened about five feet. Yesterday, however, we regret to find that the quantity underwent but little diminution. As a proof of the rapid manner in which the pit was overflowed, we may mention that in two hours after the discovery of the accident the water flooded the shaft to the height of 63feet. By 4 o'clock it had reached 80 feet. Some of the men and boys saved had a very narrow escape One boy saved himself by clinging to a horse's tail. One horse, having reached the shaft in time, instinctively jumped in as one of the tubs reached the bottom. Another horse did the same, and, by clinging to his tail, the lad saved his life. A man, named William Taylor, succeeded in saving three boys while they were plunging about in the bottom of the shaft. Another man was clutched while he was about to sink from sheer exhaustion. Poor Dorman, the foreman, who was in the pit when the water broke in, fell a victim while laudable endeavouring to warn and save others. He had, it appears, ample time to escape, but, in his anxiety to aid his men, he himself found a watery grave. He was a most valuable servant, and his loss is much felt. He has left behind him a wife and seven children. The Government Inspector of Collieries arrived at the pit yesterday morning, and made a minute inspection. We understand that he fully approved the temporary expedients resorted to to drain off the water. Until this is done, nothing more can be effected towards extricating the bodies that are now submerged in the pit. In reference to the particular spot where the borers were engaged, we were informed that every precaution was used so far as human foresight could suggest. As soon as the water is pumped out a searching investigation, no doubt, will take place. Until then it only remains for us to add that the accident has, as might be expected, caused a profound sensation, has evoked a feeling of deep sympathy for those poor families who have lost their all thereby, and has shed a gloom over the whole district which will not soon be dispelled.
Among those killed in this incident was Timothy Lloyd.