Return To Fforestfach History/Weigfach Colliery page - HERE
Cambrian Disaster Doc. 2
THE CAMBRIAN SWANSEA MARCH 16th 1877
THE FATAL COLLIERY EXPLOSION AT WEIGH FACH
The following is a correct list of the unfortunate men who were killed or injured at the explosion at the New Weigh Fach Pit on Thursday morning last; - killed; -
[in column for clarity]
Abraham Bevan, Overman, 48, wife and five children;
Isaac Williams, collier 30, wife and five children,
David Davies, collier, 30, Llanelly, single;
John Davies, trammer, 16, single;
David Williams, collier, 33, wife and four children;
William Williams, trammer, 20, single;
Thomas Thomas, collier, 46, two children (widower);
John Morris, unknown [added from March 9th edition death list, but not on the original March 16th edition - it seems to be a print error]
John Griffiths, collier, 29, wife and two children;
Evan Davies, 29, wife and two children;
David Anthony, collier, 24, wife and one child;
Henry Jones, labourer, 27, wife and one child, Pencader, Carmarthen;
David Davies, fireman, 31, wife and five children;
David Thomas, collier, 29, wife and three children;
Robert Howells, trammer, 15, single;
Charles Cooper, collier, 23, wife and one child (Gloucester);
John Prosser, collier 56, wife and five children;
William Matthews, trammer, 21, single;
David Thomas (No. 2), collier, 37, wife and six children;
Injured; - David Thomas, a lad, aged 17, trammer, burnt about the hands and face. About half a dozen others suffered from the fire-damp, but recovered.
Was opened before Mr. Edward Strick. Coroner, at the Marquis’s Arms, on Saturday afternoon, at two o’clock.
In commencing the proceedings, the coroner said: - Our business here this afternoon will be merely to go through the formal part of proving the identity of the bodies you have viewed. In order that I may give the necessary orders for their burial, and when we have done that, I shall propose to adjorn this inquiry until Wednesday next, at eleven o’clock. This will give an opportunity to Mr Wales, her majesty’s Inspector of Mines, to look fully into the Colliery and enable him to attend here, so as to give the assistance that may be required in the course of the inquiry. We will now merely propose to identify the bodies, and when that is done we will adjourn.
The jury then viewed the bodies at the different homes, and a sad enough occupation it was. Evidence of identification having been taken, the Coroner gave the required certificates for the burial of the dead.
On Sunday a good many of the poor fellows were buried on the cemeteries of Cockitt and Fforestfach, and the day being fine, so did thousands of people, mostly dressed in mourning clothes, attended the funerals.
THE ADJOURNED ENQUIRY
The adjourned inquest upon the bodies of the eighteen poor fellows who were killed by an explosion of fire-damp in the Weigh Fach Colliery, Forest Fach, near Swansea, on Thursday the 8th just, was resumed at the Marquis’s Arms Forestfach on Wednesday.
The Coroner was Mr. Edward Strick. Mr W.E. Wales, the Government Inspector of Mines for South Wales, and Mr Thomas Glasbrook, the general manager of the colliery, were also present. The colliery is the property of the Landore Siemen’s Steel Company, and has been workin some five or six years.
The Coroner, in opening the proceedings, remarked that the enquiry upon which they were about to enter, would probably involve a considerable sacrifice of time, but looking to the importance of the enquiry, he felt sure they would not begrudge giving any time necessary to the most full and complete investigation. It would be their duty in the course of the enquiry to see if any blame attached to any person, and if they were of any opinion that blame did not attach to anyone, then to endeavour to ascertain to whom. But even should they be of opinion that no blame could be attached to any person, they should. By careful observation of the evidence, ascertain whether they could not make some recommendations by which an occurance of this kind could be avoided in the future.
No doubt, where there had been such a serious loss of life, they would give the greatest possible attention to the evidence, so as to ascertain every particular which led to the accident. If blame attached to anybody it was possible that was numbered amongst the dead, in which event he had paid the penalty due to such negligence. He would only say that they should found their verdict solely upon what they should hear in evidence, and not upon any rumours they might hear elsewhere.
The following evidence was then given:-
Thomas James deposed: I live at Forestfach and am a collier and worked at the New pit, Weig Fach Colliery. I last worked there on Tuesday evening, the 6th, and went there at six o’clock in the morning. I worked at No. 20 west level. I do not know in what number the explosion took place. The other “turn” commenced about five o’clock in the morning. When I left the workings were all right. - That is as far as I saw. I was working in the top-hole, to the rise of the coal. I did not see any gas there at all. I had my lamp with me. I did not try for gas with my lamp. Should have known if there was any gas there. I am sure there was no gas there when I left. I should have seen it if was… Cross –examined by Mr. Wales: I did not hold my lamp to the top for gas. Worked there on Monday- did not find gas there then. I have worked there since they commenced the level. I cannot say I have never seen gas there. There were three “boxes” to carry the air to the nearest pair of timber, which would be four feet to the face of the coal.
Thomas Rees sworn: I live at Ravenhill, and am a fireman in the employ of the Weig Fach Colliery. And had night charge of the New Pit of that said Colliery. I was down working on Sunday night- going about ten o’clock on Sunday night. I went down before the men went down. When I went down I examined the working places, going into every heading, I went again on Monday night, and again went all round the place. David Davies was the fireman; he was down before me, it was his duty to to report to me the state of the workings when he left. I asked him the state of the workings, and he said “all right.
I then went into the various headings and tried for gas. I found a little bit of gas in NO 19 top-hole. Men were working there in the day time. I cleared the the gas away. Men had to go to that heading in the night.
Did not find any gas in NO 20 top-hole. When I returned to the station the men went to their work. I was down until about half- past four that morning. The men went out from the work before I left. I met David Davies on the slant when I came out. He asked me if there was gas about. I told him I had cleared a little gas from NO 19 top-hole. He then went down the slant. Had not discovered gas in the colliery for a long time before that. When we find gas we report it in the book. We did so on this occasion. We always take out the men from the heading when we see danger. There is always danger when there is gas. I have been down the colliery since the explosion, and cannot say where it took place. Cross-examined by the Government Inspector: I found the gas in No 19 about five o’clock on the Tuesday. We put a short pipe up to the heading, which cleared the gas. I told the men I had found a little gas there. Was in the heading again on Wednesday morning- about four o’clock. Was sure there was no gas there then- it had been cleared. Never found gas in there then- it had been cleared. Never found gas in that top-hole before Tuesday night. Did not find gas in any other place but the top-hole. The lamp-satation was NO 18, where I locked all the lamps. Nobody would be justified in taking a naked light beyond the lamp station. There was a naked light a little way down, beyond the lamp station, about a fortnight ago. They were repairing the the roads. I knew that no naked lights should go beyond the lamp station. That was not my fault. It was Abraham Bevan’s fault. Bevan was the overman in charge of the pit. John Roberts on one occasion was working with a naked light, and said that Bevan had allowed it. I told Roberts that such was not allowed by the rules. He said that Bevan had said there was no danger; but I said it should not be allowed. I did not go down the pit on the Wednesday night. It was my duty to do so, but I had nobody to go with me. On the Wednesday night David Davies came to my house, and told me that Abraham Bevan had told him to go to the work about three o’clock the next morning to see that all was safe. I did not go down at my usual time on Wednesday evening, because the men had gone to Llangafelach Fair, and there was no work to be done. The last I know is that David Davies was going down to examine the workings about three o’clock on the Wednesday morning.
By Mr. Glasbrook (through the coroner) the manager and the rules specifically state that if any gas is found anywhere, we are at once to withdraw the men until it is cleared. The manager frequently reminds us to look to the gas besides the rules. The Abraham Bevan I am speaking of the same man who was fireman when an explosion took place in the Old Pit about three years ago. I do not know of a naked light being used in any of the workings except on the “slant”. When I saw the man with a naked light, I stopped him, and he went back. Bevan was the overman, and I should be obliged to obey his orders. I was stopped the man who had the naked light because it was a breach of the rules.
Thomas Thomas of Ravenhill. Collier deposed; I worked at the New Pit, Weigh Fach Colliery. I worked “day turn.” I went to work about four o’clock on the Wednesday morning. Most of the men then came out to go to the fair. I went to work about six o’clock on the Thursday morning (the morning of the explosion). Saw David Davies there. I had a lamp, locked from David Davies. I then went to 20 air-way- he told me all was right there. Evan Davies went on in with me. I went on tramming, as usual, and had filled about half a tram, when I heard a noise as of cannon. I ran out to the slant as quickly as possible and tried to go up but I could not. I fell down, and know no more about it until I found myself at the bottom of the pit. I was then taken up the pit, I saw the sparks coming from the west. Never heard the fireman say there was gas in the workings. Cross- examined by Mr. Wales; did not see Abraham Bevan that morning.
Henry Ponaford: I live at the Cockitt, and am a collier working in the New Pit of the Weigh Fach Colliery. I was in the “day turn” and worked in NO 19 level, east. Worked all day on Monday and Tuesday; on Wednesday we came up about eleven or twelve o’clock to go Llangafelach fair. David Davies, the fireman was in the pit when I left. He told me my working place was all right. Had not known gas in the level for a long time past- in fact scarcely anything since the level had been driven. I remember on one occasion, several months ago, being delayed for about half an hour in consequence of gas; it was driven out before we went to work. Went down about six o’clock on the morning of the explosion. David Davies, the fireman, locked my lamp at the station, and told me all was right, and I went to my work. After working for about ten minutes I heard a report like a “shot going off.” I ran out towards the slant but only reached as far as between No 17 and 18. I there over-took my son who had fallen from the after-damp. I wanted to to get him on with me and I determined to remain with him until assistance came and took us up together.
I could not see my son as it was so dark, but I recognised his groans, and I remained with him for about five or ten minutes we were both taken up.
Never knew anybody working below the slant with a naked light. Have occasionally seen a little gas- always went to the fireman and reported it, and left the heading until it was cleared.
Never remembered any complaints being made of David Davies- believed him attentive to his duties. Re-examined: Always received special orders and cautions from the manager to leave the working places at once when we found gas. By the Jury: Did find gas once, and reported to the fireman, and he at once removed it.
William Thomas, Forest Fach collier, worked in the New Pit of the Weigh Fach Colliery, working “night turn” worked in NO 20 west level. Worked there on Monday night. Had not been stopped there since. I have been working there in consequence of gas. I have never found gas there.
Cross-examined by the Government Inspector: I never found any gas in the top-hole of the level; and was never stopped there.
William H Matthews, of Gorse –road, banksman, deposed; I let the men down the pit on the Thursday morning. They went down about half-past six. The last shift came up about twelve o’clock on the Wednesday. I do not know whether anybody went down the night turn. After being down some time, Moses Richards came up and went to the engine-house, and ordered that the fan should be worked faster. That was done. After that some other colliers came up and said there was a fire in the pit; they seemed almost suffocated. They said they had been working in the top level- it was very bad there, and must be worse lower down. I am sure the fan was not stopped all the time I was there..
Mr D H Thomas M.R.C.S deposed that he was on the spot within a short time of the explosion, and saw sixteen of the dead bodies. Most of the men died from choke-damp.
John Jenkins, a boy of 15, deposed that he had been engaged to turn the small fan underground in the pit. Worked by night in level No 19 west. Worked on Tuesday night but not after. Never saw any gas there.
Another John Jenkins deposed that he had worked in the New Pit, Weigh Fach, tramming in No 20 heading. Worked the night turn. When I went down Thomas Rees locked my lamp at the station. Remembered a little gas being in his level at the beginning of last week. There was “fire” there on Sunday night- a little. I saw it myself. I worked on just the same. I know the rules. And we ought not to work there when there is gas. We ought to tell the fireman of the gas. Did not tell the fireman. The fireman Thomas Rees told me there was a little gas in the top-hole of No 20 on the Sunday night. The colliers were not then working. Went there on Monday and Tuesday nights, and found gas there on each occasion. Saw Thomas Rees there on Tuesday night and told him there was a little gas there, but did not prevent him from working. Did not work after Tuesday night. Went to the fair on Wednesday. The gas was cleared out with the fan in about half an hour.
The fan was always kept going.
William Thomas deposed; I live at Caebadell, and am a collier. I worked at the New Pit, Weigh Fach. I worked in No 19 west top-hole. No 20 is the bottom level. I worked night turn. Worked on Monday night. Rees the fireman, told me my stall was right. There was no gas there. Had not seen any gas there at all. Not where I was working. Know the rules, which says if there is gas we must leave the place and tell the fireman. The manager and fireman told me that as well. Never knew of any gas in any heading or stall in which I worked. Did not work on Wednesday night because of the fair I suppose.
Phillip John of the Cockitt, deposed; I am engine driver of of the New Pit. Weigh Fach. The engine winds and works the pumps. Another engine works the fan. I worked the engine on the Thursday. The men went down between six and seven. Saw Abraham Bevan go down about seven o’clock. Somewhere about half past seven, somebody came up and said a fire had happened- that the gas had taken fire. Richards told me to drive the fan as fast as it would go, which I did. I drove the engine which works the fan on Wednesday as well as Thursday night. The fan was kept on working the whole of Wednesday and Thursday night- at the usual speed all the time.
David Beynon, collier, deposed that he was down into the colliery on Thursday morning, after the explosion, and went searching for lamps. Saw the lamps of some of the deceased in No19 level- they were all right. Went down again on Friday morning, and again searched for lamps. I found a lamp without a case in No 19 level. I found it from nine to ten yards from the air top-hole. Found the bottom part of the lamp there. In No 19 I found that the doors had been blown between the top-hole and the slant.- the timber had not there been knocked down. Saw no other signs of the explosion.
By the Inspector: Cannot say whose lamp I found open. The doors were blown off- out towards the slant.
The open lamp was found about ten yards from the body of Abraham Bevan.
John Richards, of the Worcester Pit, deposed to finding an open lamp in No19 level. Did not know positively to whom the the open lamp belonged but believed it to was that of Abraham Bevan, the overman, who had been killed.
The Coroner said that was all the evidence forthcoming that day, and the enquiry was then adjopurned until to-day. (Friday).
Note: The disaster took place on Thursday 8th March 1877.
*Re-written from the Cambrian Friday March 16th 1877 by Robert Davies, Fforestfach, Swansea*
Return To Fforestfach History/Weigfach Colliery page - HERE