COLLIERY DISASTER IN LANCASHIRE
Five men killed, thirteen injured
A shocking accident occurred this morning a Bold Colliery, St Helens, whereby 5 colliers lost their lives, 4 men were picked up dead and another died shortly afterwards, and 13 were seriously injured.
The men were being lowered down the pit shaft which is 600 yds deep, 18 men got into the cage, both decks of which were filled. The cage was lowered on the usual signal given by the banksman, when it was at once discovered that something terrible had happened. The haulage rope came off the pulley wheel and the cage crashed to the bottom of the shaft.
The released rope flew into the engine-house, almost wrecking it, while the descending cage smashed through the landings at the bottom of the shaft. Some little time elapsed before anything could be done, so great was the damage at the bottom of the shaft, but, when the exploring party got down they found one man underneath the cage, crushed into a lifeless mass, while three others were found dead in the cage.
The injured were speedily brought to the surface and removed to the Borough Hospital, St. Helens. The names of the killed are John Caveney, of Burtonwood who succumbed to his serious head injuries on the way to hospital, John McHenry, John Swift, Thomas Rothwell, and Evan Davies, while those injured are Thomas Bradshaw 15, William Rigby 17, Edward Rattigan 26, Aaron Grant 16, John Jervis 17, Edward Hughes 18, Richard Murray 36, Harry Eden 14, Frederick Pye 15, Arthur Mardy 19, John Eden 15, and David Rothwell 24.
28 January 1905
Inquest yesterday by Coroner Brighouse into circumstances connected with the five dead.
James Fowler, engine winder, with 16 yrs experience, said at 4am on the 16th inst, when winding "dirt" he "pulleyed" the cage into the headgear. An hour was occupied in repairing the damage caused. When lowering the men after the cage had gone three-quarters on the way down the shaft, he found the engine was running too quickly, so he pulled the lever against the engine, and then put steam against the engine, but it continued to run, and the crash came.
In reply to the Coroner, he said, he did not lose his head and put steam on instead against the engine.
To a question by Mr Hall, Government Inspector, he said, the reversing of the engine was difficult, and the brake was bad.
In reply to Mr Peace, who, appeared for the colliery proprietors, said he was told when he went there the that the engine brake was not worth snuff.
Mr Peace, Don't you think you made a mistake, and instead of pulling the lever towards you pushed it ahead? Fowler, "No"
Witness said he could not explain why the engine did not stop when he pulled the lever.
The Coroner, We are not going to believe that the brake reversing lever and steam were as this witness describes he has committed an error of judgement and has forgotten.
Fowler said he was present on Monday when experiments were made. The cage was suspended 40 yds from the bottom, and the brake tried, but the cage began ascending. Mr Wilson, "We say that if the reverse fails, as we say it did in this case, there is no power in the engine house to prevent an accident.
Llewellyn Spurling, engine-winder on the day shift, said he had been winding at Bold Colliery for 13 yrs, and never found any difficulty in winding with the engines. He never noticed the brakes were inefficient. He thought Flower had put steam on instead of against the engines. There was nothing the matter with the reversing gear. Fowler, he considered had lost control of the engines. He had made 307,000 windings, with only one slight accident. The Winders Society were pressing for the adoption of steam brakes in all engines.
Thomas Cook, who had 10 yrs experience of the same engines, said he "pulleyed" the cage once about two years ago. The steam was rather low and the engines were priming, under these circumstances it was difficult to manage the engines and the reversing gear got sluggish. The brake was not a good one and would not hold the cage.
Mr E. H. Burleigh, consulting engineer, Manchester, said the revering gear was satisfactory. But, the foot brake would not hold a full cage.
Mr Hall, thought it would be wiser to have a steam brake, they had a wonderful record in Lancashire. He had been here nearly 30 yrs, and this was only the third accident where lives had been lost through over winding, so that they could not find much fault with the men.
The jury returned a verdict of Accidental death, and did not attach any blame to the engine winder. They thought he must have lost his head, but they left that out of the question.