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Cambrian Disaster Doc. 4






The calamity which recently occurred at this colliery is too terrible in its nature and results to admit of being soon forgotten or lightly passed over. The sudden suffering and sad bereavements of which we are often constrained to read have generally occurred at a distance; and harrowing as these usually are, their details lose much of the bitterness which they would otherwise produce from the circumstances that their victims are unknown to us. It is the smile and prattle of the child that enlist the nurse’s affections in the tender object of her care. The social intercourse of neighbours and acquaintances binds them to each other by feelings akin to fraternal affection, and when the bonds of friendship thus formed are rudely broken, those who experience the shock suffer more poignantly in proportion to the length and strength of their intimacy. Nor is this all. If the great deep of our sympathies is to be thoroughly stirred, it is not enough that we should be told of the sufferings of others; we must witness them. Unhappily many thousands of us are near enough to the scene of the Weig – Fach disaster to have brought under our notice the pitiful condition of the widows and fatherless whom it has robbed of companions, protectors, and supporters; to say nothing of the cruel laceration it must have produced in the natural affections of hundreds who, through it, have lost relatives, associated, and friends. In presence of so grievous a catastrophe, it is useless to moralise about its causes. If it be admitted that it was the miner’s proverbial fool-hardiness, and that this fool-hardiness was stimulated by the unfortunate concomitants of a neighbouring Fair, the case is in nowise altered, so far as the necessity for sympathy and aid to the survivors is concerned.

The poor fellows, whom the explosive shock of subtle gas deprived of life, or the treacherous “choke-damp” suffocated, are beyond the reach and need of help. Tears and lamentations in abundance followed them to their last resting place on the quiet Sunday which saw them, in the midst of thousands of solemnised spectators consigned to the tomb. They themselves had endured no physical pain. The sudden stroke inflicted by ignited gas, or the paralysing power of the atmosphere out of which oxygen had just been burned, instantaneously destroyed any sensation, and made lifeless corpses of living men, before they were conscious of the fate that had overtaken them. The case of many who are killed by accident is often more lamentable. Few occurrences of this nature could exceed in dramatic intensity that of a fine young fellow who for two hours was held under the wreck of the “Flying Scotchman” train, a terrible disaster to which happened at Morpeth early on Sunday morning. During those two dreadful hours he kept talking to the man who was labouring in darkness amid a pitiless storm to extricate him. He said “you are very kind” I don’t want to hurry you, but I should like to be relieved.” Relieved!  We wonder that his patience should have been so conspicuous amid such agony so intense, and desire so earnest. He was eventually relieved; but it was only to utter a scream, and expire! There is about it a tragic interest such as is rarely met with in the mortal suffering of genuine heroes.

The colliers whose sad end now calls for our active sympathy on behalf of their bereaved wives and children escaped so severe a trial. But those dependant on them are not the less entitled to the commiseration and support of those who can help to alleviate their distress. The work has been well commenced. The large hearted generosity of Mr Llewelyn, who has recently done so much for the working classes and the poor in the immediate neighbourhood of Swansea, is worthy of all praise. We are glad to perceive that it has been well followed by others, and we are confident that many more will join this princely band of good Samaritans. But the rich must not be permitted to have the whole luxury of doing something to dry the tears and alleviate the distress of the sufferers. Tradesmen and working men of every name and class must unite in an effort to abate the bitterness of so great a calamity. “Whoso see eth his brother in want and shutteth up the bowels of his compassion-how dwelleth the love of God in him? No rational doubt can be entertained that if the workers in this important business be properly organized, sufficient funds will be speedily realised to make such provision for the sufferers as those best acquainted with the case have reported to be necessary. One day’s pay each from the colliers in the neighbourhood, and the occupants of workshops and works in the town and on the banks of the Tawe, would form a highly respectable instalment of the amount required.

Note: The disaster took place on Thursday 8th March 1877.

*Re-written from the Cambrian Friday March 30th 1877 by Robert Davies, Fforestfach, Swansea*


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