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1937 – Markham Colliery Disaster

On Thursday 21st January 1937 at 2.45 pm an explosion happened just when the men were changing over from the day shift to the afternoon shift. A flame which escaped from a faulty covering plate on the coal cutting machine caused a build up of gas and ignited the coal dust. Seven men were killed at the scene and two men died later in hospital. Four men were seriously injured. The accident happened in the Black Shale seam – the deepest part of the pit and the furthest away from the pit bottom about one and a half miles. (The nine men who died have all now been commemorated as part of the Walking Together project.)

 

List of Miners killed in the 1937  disaster

 

Derby Daily Telegraph 23rd Jan 1937

PIT INQUEST OPENDED

Victims of Derbyshire Explosion

LETTER FROM DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE

There were poignant scenes in the recreation hall of Markham Colliery, Duckmanton, near Chesterfield, to-day, when the inquest opened on the nine victims of the explosion which occurred on Thursday afternoon. The victims were: Edward Baggaley (34), married of Park-street, Birdholme, Chesterfield: L. Cadywould (21), single, of Furnace Hill, Barrow Hill: William Cauldwell (48), married, of Main-road, Renishaw: Joseph Furness (28), Married, of Speedwell Terrace, Staveley: Ralph Marsden (41), married of North Crescent, Duckmanton; Charles Moreton (29, of Grey-Street, Clowne; Fred Roddy (28), married, of Poolsbrook road, Duckmanton; Wilfred Edmund Slater (30), married, of Canal-walk, Chesterfield; and Edmund Smith (29), married, of South Terrace, Duckmanton.

Baggaley and Marsden died in Chesterfield Hospital, where Walter Frost (44), married, of Sheffield-road, Newbold Moor, Chesterfield and Fred Bassett, of Sheffield-road, Whittington Moor, are still detained.

WIDOW BREAKS DOWN

The Chesterfield District Coroner (Dr. R. A. McCrea) sat with a jury of men, Mr W. Hall, H.M Inspector of Mines, Mr H. Hicken, General Secretary of the Derbyshire Miners’ Association, Mr. David H. Turner, managing director of the Staveley Caol and Iron Company, Mr. John Hunter, general manager of the Staveley Collieries, and Mr. R. Ringham, manager of the Markham Collieries, were also present.

The first witness was Mrs. Helen Baggaley, a young woman, who was led forward by a man. She broke down as she took the oath, but when she was asked if she had identified her husband’s body, she made an effort and replied “Yes.”

Joseph Cauldwell, who had identified his brother William, had come straight from the pit to give evidence.

At the conclusion of the evidence,, the Coroner said that it would be necessary to adjourn the inquest for some time, perhaps for a week or two, but he would not fix a definite date.

FEARFUL BLOW

Ir always came as a fearful blow when an accident such as that happened in the pits, he said. It was not so long ago that he had had the unpleasant duty of conducting an inquest after the explosion at Grassmoor.  In the meantime there had been one of two rather serious ones throughout the country, but in the case of that particular area and that colliery it had particularly free up to the present time.

Mr. Turner, on behalf of the chairman and directors of the company, expressed deep regret at the catastrophe and sympathy with the bereaved. That morning he said, he had received a letter from the Duke of Deconshire, who wrote: “I am so very sorry to hear of the accident at Markham Colliery, and I hope you will convey my sympathy to the relatives of those who have lost their lives”

Mr. Hunter, who apologised to the Coroner for appearing before him in working kit, offered sympathy on behalf of the officials and staff of the colliery. “we are prepared.” he said, “to do everything and anything which will lessen this terrible loss that has been sustained.”

 

Derbyshire Times 19th February 1937

MARKHAM PIT EXPLOSION

Resumed Inquest on the Nine Men Who Lost Their Lives

EXHAUSTIVE INVESTIGATION

The inquest on the nine men who lost their lives as a result of the explosion at Markham Colliery on Thursday, January 21st was reopened at the Chesterfield County Police Court yesterday (Thursday)

The victims were

EDWARD BAGGALEY  (35), married of 58, Park Street, Birdholme, Chesterfield;

FREDERICK  RODDY  (25), married, of 51, Poolsbrook Road, Duckmanton;

WILLIAM HENRY CAULDWELL  (48), married of 49, Main Road, Renishaw;

WILFRED EDMUND SLATER  (30), married, of 10, Canal Wharf, Chesterfield;

CHARLES MORETON  (28), married, 3, Elm  Street, Hollingwood, Staveley;

LEONARD CADYWOULD  (21), married, of 43, Old Village, Poolsbrook;

EDMUND SMITH  (29), married, of 33, South Crescent, Duckmanton;

JOSEPH FURNISS  (28), married, of 57, Speedwell Terrace, Staveley;

RALPH MARSDEN  (41), married, of 36, North Crescent, Duckmanton.

Some very interesting evidence was given on Thursday, and every effort has been made by all parties concerned to throw all possible light on the causes of the accident.

When the Chesterfield and District Coroner (Dr. R.A. McCrea) opened the inquest at the colliery offices two days after the explosion, he took formal evidence of identification only and adjourned the proceedings.

At the resumed hearing yesterday, the Coroner sat with Mr. J. R. Felton, Nottingham, the Divisional Inspector of Mines, and behind them, on the raised seats usually occupied by the magistrates were the jury, the foreman being Mr. S. Rhodes. At the solicitors table facing the magistrates bench were Mr. D. N. Turner (managing director of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company), Mr. John Hunter (general manager of the Company’s Collieries), Mr. R. Ringham (agent for the Collieries), Mr Hall, Sheffield (Inspector of Mines), Mr. H. Hicken  (secretary to the Derbyshire Miners’ Association), Mr Frank Lee, M.P. (assistant secretary), Mr. P.E. G.  Mather (solicitor to the D.M.A)

Others present included Coun. Oliver Wright (treasurer to the D.M.A.), Aldrins J. S. Spencer (compensation agent to the D.M.A.), Mr H Kirk (manager of the Staveley Company’s IrelandColliery), Mr A. G. Connell (the Company’s electrical manager).

Dr.J. B. McKay, Malvern Road, Bolsover, said he was called to Markham Colliery on January 21st, at about four in the afternoon. He went down the pit at about 4.30 and went along the main roadway. The first case he saw was the man Baggaley, who was being carried out on a stretcher. Witness treated him, and he was taken at once to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Witness then went to the rescue base on the district and on the way passed four bodies. He came to the surface about 7.15 p.m. and made an examination of the bodies.

THE MEN’S INJURIES

Slater, compound fracture of left leg, fracture left ribs, laceration left elbow, extensive burns to arms, hands, abdomen and face.

Smith, extensive burns to face, arms, chest and back, laceration of scalp.

Furniss, extensive burns to legs, arms, chest and back, laceration of forehead.

Cauldwell, extensive burns to legs, body and chest, fractured ribs, laceration of scalp, fractured skull.

Cadywould, burns to chest, arms, legs, face, back and pelvis.

Roddy, burns to face, neck, chest, arms, abdomen and legs

Moreton, burns to face, neck, chest, arms and hands, fractured ribs, burns to forearms and back.

MERCIFUL LACK OF SUFFERING

The next day with Dr. Fisher, the Medical Inspector of Mines, he examined the seven bodies. Dr. Fisher took a specimen of the blood from one of the men and analysis showed that the percentage of carbon monoxide in the blood was 90, which was saturation. The fatal amount pf carbon monoxide was 60 per cent., which would kill in two or three minutes: 90 per cent would be fatal in a very short time, almost immediately.

The Coroner: Do you think any would have retained consciousness long enough to suffer?

Dr. McKay. I think a minute at the outside.

Mr Felton. Did the appearance of the other bodies suggest equal saturation – Yes.

Mr. Hunter. Were the ambulance arrangements satisfactory, underground and on the surface? – Yes, Think so.

Dr. H. T. FLEMING, of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, said that Marsden was admitted shortly after four in the afternoon of January 21st. He was suffering from severe shock and extensive burns all over his body. He was covered in coal dust and his skin was pitted with little punctured wounds. He was given anaesthetic so that his injuries could be cleansed  and tannic acid applied. He died on Friday at 10 p.m. from shock due to burns. Baggaley was admitted at about 5.30 on Thursday afternoon and died about six the next morning.He was a good deal worse than Marsden. An attempt was made to cleanse his burns under anaesthetic, but his condition was so bad that it had to be discontinued. The cause od death was shock due to burns. Witness saw cosigns of carbon monoxide poisoning, in either man, but no test was made of the blood.

J. E. LEEK, 18, Private Drive, Hollingwood, the Staveley Company’s head surveyor, said he was called to the pit about 8.15 on Thursday night and got there about nine.  He was told to make a detailed survey of the area, and that occupied him between 10 that night and 2.30 the next morning. He was shown the places where the bodies and lamps were found, and he made plans. With the aid of a pointer, Mr. Leek explained a large plan of the workings which hung on a wall in the Court.

NO GAS DETECTED

WALTER FROST, 622, Sheffield Road, Whittington Moor, Chesterfield, said that on Thursday, Jan 21st, he was working in Markham Colliery on the left-hand side just above the roll on No. 2 conveyor unit in the Black Shale seam. At 6.45a.m. when he went to work everything appeared quite normal, and there was nothing unusual regarding ventilation. He tested for gas with his oil lamp about 7 o’clock, and he tested again during the shift at 9 o’clock. On neither occasion did he detect the presence of gas. He had worked on that unit for three months and had never previously detected gas.

Witness saw one man, Edwin Smith take a Ringrose detector up the face at the beginning of the shift. Witness had great faith in the Ringrose detector. He had not seen it showing the presence of gas. He had a gas-testing certificate and he understood the use of the ordinary lamp and the Ringrose detector.

About 1.30. witness helped the cutter, Roddy and Cadywould who took the cable past him. When witness had finished worked he helped Furniss. About 2 o’clock Roddy, the coal-cutter man came down the face and said, “the cutter has burst.” meaning that the machine had gone wrong. Roddy continued down towards the main gate, intending, apparently to let the deputy know. Twenty minutes later Roddy returned, and he told the witness that things were all right. Witness did not see him again. Dowdes went up the face and came down a few minutes later. Marsden, Baggaley and Furniss were working between No 4 and No 5 stints.

“FLAME ALL ROUND ME”

Witness had just donned his shirt and overalls when something went “ping.” “! saw and felt flame all round me,” witness continued. “it was like blue flame surging round my neck, face and legs. It seemed as if a shot gun had been fired behind my back. There was clouds of smoke, and I was pitched forward.”

Witness described how he crawled down the face to the gate end, and crawled on down the main gate as best he could. Then he was assisted by two others. Witness had no lamp.

Mr. Felton: Did you hear a noise when the explosion happened? You described  it as a “ping”

Witness: It was as if there was a shotgun fired. There was a crack and immediately afterwards I was enveloped in flame. Witness added that the flame appeared to come from the direction of the coal-cutter. Shortly afterwards their reversed and took its normal corse up the face. When the explosion happened witness was about 17 yards up the coalface. He had seen the deputy several times. He did not see a Ringrose detector near him.

Mr. Hunter, having congratulated witness on his “plucky escape,” next questioned witness, who said he was an experiences stallman. He had been at work on that unit three months, and during the whole of that time there had been good ventilation on Thursday, the 21st  and there were a number of Ringrose lamps and oil lamps on the day shift.

Witness, in reply to the Coroner, said he had only seen one Ringrose detector on the face during that shift. Witness stated that he was burned on the arms, back of the legs, back of the neck and head.

A BANG AND A BLUE FLAME

FRED BASSETT, 594, Sheffield Road, Whittington Moor, said that he was working on the day shift in the first stint on the right-hand side of No.2 conveyor unit. He started work at 7 a.m., when everything seemed quite normal, and so far as he could see the ventilation was all right. He had an electric lamp, and Sam Bray, who was at the gate-end stint, carried an oil lamp, which he (Bray) usually hung at the gate-end Witness saw the deputy test for gas between 7.30 a.m. and 8 a.m., and did not see anyone else test for gas during that shift. He had never known gas to be present when he had been working in that seam, but he knew what happened to the Ringrose lamps when gas was present. There were four or five Ringrose lamps on the right-hand side. Witness saw Roddy and Cadywould working at the gate-end, but did not see them any more. He filled his stint shortly before two o’clock, and the man Bray left shortly after 2 p.m. Dowds asked him to get a bar from Bray’s stint, and witness went together one. Then witness collected his clothes at the conveyor head, threw his shirt, trousers and vest over the loader and reached for his snap tin. Witness was just about to get over the loader when “the thing happened”

The Coroner: What happened?

Witness:There was a bank and a blue flame

The Coroner: What did you do? – I was thrown too the floor.

Witness added that he was facing the coal-face when the explosion happened. The flame seemed to come from the left-hand side. Witness added: ” I tried to get up again, but could not manage it, but I managed to crawl over the loader. I saw some men in the gate, and they asked me what was the matter, but I was unable to tell them. I made my way to the main gate and noticed that the air there seemed quite normal. Further down I met Warner and Bradley. Witness was later taken to the pit bottom.

Answering Mr Felton, witness said he did not see any dust or smoke, but felt a rush of hot air.

INSTRUCTIONS IN CASE OF GAS

Answering Mr. Hicken, witness said he had finished his own work before anything happened, and he was finishing Bray’s work because the latter had gone to see the manager. The instructions were that when the Ringrose lamps were showing red the men had to come off the coal-face and report to the deputy.

WILLIS FISH, 7 South Crescent, Duckmanton, colliery deputy, said he was on the day shift and was in charge of No. 2 conveyor unit. He was not a regular deputy; the latter was at rescue practice. Witness arrived at the coal-face about 7.a.m. and examined the gate-end lift. He found no gas and saw that everything was in order, and he then went round to the left-hand side and walked the whole length of the face, making several tests for gas, though he could not say exactly how many.

The Coroner: In any test did toy detect the presence of gas at all?

Witness: None whatever.

Fish added that he had noticed that there was a break over the coal-cutting machine in the left-hand corner. He examined the break and found no gas there. There were two Ringrose lamps in the left-hand bend. One was hung below the roll nearest the main gate, and the other was four or five yards from the top corner. Both were quite normal. Witness was in the left-hand bend for quarter of an hour, and then he went up the right-hand side, where there were six Ringrose lamps. He made several examinations there and found no sign of gas. About 9.30 he attended to some tubs off the roll in the gate and made further examinations in the gates, went to the top corner and made another test. In his opinion the working conditions at the time were perfectly satisfactory. He got back to the main gate about 10.30 a.m.

Fish said his last inspection before the explosion was made at 25 minutes to two. E. Smith was working near the coal cutter, timbering. Other men there witness ordered down the face to do filling. He made a thorough examination and found nothing. He was perfectly satisfied with the ventilation. The detector lamps showed no sign of gas, and at no time did any of the men report anything abnormal shown by the lamps. He had  22 detectors in use, including eight Ringrose lamps.

Describing the explosion, witness said there was a sudden rush of air, followed by dust, smoke and heat, and interrupted ventilation. He saw no flame and heard no report. He helped in the rescue of the first two men.

There were some shots fired during the shift, but he could not say how many or at what time they were fired. He had the ordinary collier’s safety lamp at the time. He was a shot firer and a spare deputy, and had acted as deputy several times before, so that he was quite used to the job.

NEVER FOUND ANY GAS

In the reply to Mr.Felton, witness said that there was nothing about the break; they were used to breaks. He noticed no difference in the ventilation at any time that day. During the four or five occasions he had worked on the face he had never found any gas.Asked by Mr. Hunter what two guiding principles governed his work, Fish replied: Safety first and carrying out the Mining Acts.” Those had been always impressed on them by Mr. Hunter and the other officials.

Mr. Hunter: Have you been encouraged to report the slightest show of gas? – Yes, sir

What would happen  if you didn’t – It would be fatal, sir.

It is the practice of the Staveley Company, isn’t it, to start a man as a shot firer first for him to get experience before he is appointed a deputy? – Yes, sir.

In reply to another question from Mr. Hunter, Fish said that throughout there had been very good ventilation. Mr. Hunter: You swear to that? – Yes, sir.

Fish said he examined the break on his inspection at 25 minutes to two. When he next saw it on the Saturday it had widened. On his inspection before the explosion he noticed that Smith‘s Ringrose  lamp near the coal cutter was hanging in the usual place where it could detect the first sign of gas. There was plenty of ventilation passing up the left-hand bank.

Mr. Hunter: Did you do your job properly on this day? – Yes, sir

Fish, in reply to Mr. Hicken, said there was 14 men working on the left-hand side, and there were six lamps and two automatic detectors. The proportion of detectors (oil or automatic) to electric lamps given out at the face was about 50per cent.  The regular deputies knew in advance which of the men were taking detectors. Witness knew all those on the face who would be expected to take a detector. He was quite sure every man on the left-hand side who was due to take a detector from the lamp cabin had a detector on the face that day.He was certain eight oil lamps were given out. If any of the lamps given out did not find their way to the face he would find out on his first examination. Witness made two examinations for gas in the water and he tested for gas in the breaks.

LESLIE STEVENS, &!, South Crescent, Duckmanton, a colliery deputy employed at Markham No. 1 Colliery, said that he was the usual deputy in charge of No. 2 conveyor unit, and also a member of the Colliery Rescue Brigade. On January 21st he was attending the quarterly practice of the brigade the Chesterfield Rescue Station. On leaving Chesterfields to go home he heard of the explosion at 5.10. He went to the pit arriving a few minutes before six o’clock. He was placed in charge of the rescue team, and was instructed to explore No. 2 left-hand top corner and as much of 9’s face as possible. As he went along 9’s face he noticed the timber had been displaced, having been blown in towards the direction whence he had come.

THE FALLS

He continued up the face, and about 20 yards past the gate he discovered a fall. He got over that, and then came across a much larger fall 25 yards away which he could not get over. He tried to get some of the fall away, and got on to the top of it, but the area was too small to take a team through. Some of the props were lying at an angle towards him, and it seemed as if the impetus which had displaced them had come from the opposite direction. Had the explosion preceded the fallible would have expected to have that the props would have been flat down.

Witness went down 9’s face by the left-hand air was, and on to 2 left-hand tail gate and so on to the face. He examined 2 left-hand corner over the cutting machine, and went 15 yards down 9’s face on the other side of the fall. All round that area there were hardly any props remaining. There was a big break.

On January 20th he examined the face, and everything appeared to be in order. He went to the top corner and made seven or eight examinations for gas, but there was not the slightest trace of gas in the tail gate. there was nothing abnormal at 12.30.

“SLIGHT SHOW OF GAS”

On Sunday, January 17th, he found at the top corner a break, running five yards in length, It finished off a few feet from the top corner, and a slight show of gas was coming up from the break. Steps were taken to keep the gas down. On January 17th he again conducted an examination and discovered that the gas had been removed. He had only found gas on one occasion on that bank-early in November, and it was only 1 per cent. The Ringrose lamp had been used regularly.

They had never had any trouble in the top corner  with the machine, which had been working  in that bend since about January 10th. The usual practice was that Ringrose lamps should be hung as near as possible to the roof and in such a position if anything happened it could be discerned at once.

Answering Mr. Felton, Stevens said it was on November 11th when the face was first started, that he first found an escape of gas, and it was then in a pot-hole three yards from the top corner. On December 10th and subsequent dates he had found gas in a break in the left-hand gate, but only twice in his experience had it been found in the bank. On January 17th there was an escape of gas amounting to 1 per cent. in 2’s left face, five yards from the corner. It was issuing from a break. He had never found any breaks apart from that in the top ten yards, but occasionally they found ordinary breaks, lower down the stall.He had examined the wastes with his lamp and with the Ringrose lamp by pushing the latter into the waste on the end of a stick, and he had not found any gas in the wastes in that stall. It was usual for the coal cutter men to come on about 1.15 p.m., and they each had an electric lamp, a Ringrose lamp and an oil lamp. Usually they hung the Ringrose lamps on stakes a few yards in front of them.

SAW NO FLASH FROM COAL CUTTER

Answering Mr. Hunter, witness said that for one escape of gas, there had been five reports to the management. He had never seen any flash from a cutter in his colliery, and he had not heard anyone who had. If anyone saw a flash from a cutter, it was his duty to report the matter, and the power was taken off and the machine not used until rectified.

SHOT FIRER’S EVIDENCE

JOHN DOWDES, 16, South Crescent, Duckmanton, shot firer, said he was in No. 2 conveyor getting to the coal face. That was at about 6.40, and the borer was about to start boring on the left-hand face.

Altogether, witness fired 22 shots. The last shot on the left-hand side was fired at about 8.30. The last shot of the shift was fired at about 11.30, and that was on the right-hand side.

He examined for gas before and after firing each shot. Eight shots were fired on the left-hand side, and 14 on the right-hand side. Witness spent the time after 11.30 supervising timbering on the right-hand side. He made tests for gas.

At 2.30 he was talking to the corporal and then he left him and went over the loader and spoke to Bassitt. He then went to where Frost was working.

“1 asked him if he was clear,” said the witness,  and he replied “About”

He then went to have a look at the belt and this took him about 25 yards down the right-hand side. He was nearly against the cutting machine when a gust of wind came down the face and he fell forward.  “I had my back to it” he added. “The gust was followed by smoke and heat.” He saw no flame at all.

He then turned round and went into the main gate as soon as he could. He could see an oil lamp burning. He ran straight to the telephone and telephoned Mr. A. Wild., overman, for he though that something serious had happened.

When he returned he saw Frost, who was lying down with some other miners. He helped to put him on a stretcher and gave all the assistance he could.

“I had seen him three minutes previous to the explosion.” he stated. He heard another man groaning, and he thought that was Baggaley. He also helped  to get him on to a stretcher. He then went further up and found a dead man, whom he thought was Furniss. He got him out.

He went still higher up, and found anotther nan he believed to be Slater. They were all in a vicinity of about 15 yards, he said, and Baggaley was buried in timber up to his waist.

Witness set temporary props. That was before he found Slater. He found two extinguished oil lamps against the bottom of the props.

Mr. Felton asked witness if the condition of the air was all right before the accident.

Dowdes replied that it was quite normal then.

Mr. Felton: After the explosion, what happened to the air?

Witness: It “went back” He added that after the explosion air seemed to be taking its normal course.

Mr. Hunter enquired what number of shots they were allowed to get in. Dowdes replied that 40 was the limit, and it was well within their capabilities.

Mr. Hunter: Before a shot is fired, what do you do?

Witness: Make an examination for gas within a vicinity of 20 yards.

Mr. Hunter Where else do you make an examination?

Witness: In the waste.

Mr. Hunter: You are quite satisfied you examined on each occasion before you fired a shot?

Witness: Before and after.

Mr. Hunter: If you had found any gas what would you had done?

Witness: I should not have fired any more.

Mr. Hunter: After the explosion you say the ventilation quickly resumed its normal course? – Yes, sir.

Mr. Hunter: You are satisfied that it was an adequate supply of ventilation ? – Yes, sir.

FOUND TWO BODIES

ALBERT EDWARD BROWN, overman, 21, Duckmanton Road, Duckmanton, said on Jan. 21st, he was on the day shift. He tested in the top corner for gas and it was quite clear there. As he went to the left-hand bank he saw 11 colliers there, and three contractors. There were two Ringrose lamps and several oil lamps near. He then travelled 50 yards down the left-hand tail gate, and after making his inspection he cam down the face again on to the main gate-end.

He then spent some time on the main roads and in other unit gates. He returned to the pit bottom at one o’clock and met the afternoon shift coming on. He gave the afternoon overman some instructions and told him “that everything was all right.”

He then came out of the pit and when he got home he received a message to return to the pit. He did so and went down to 7’s main gate. The air conditions were normal to within 7’s right-hand air-way. There was some smoke very close to the roof. He retuned down 7’s main gate to 2’s main gate and found two stretcher cases being attended to. With some others he found small fall, and behind it two bodies, partly buried. They got them out and went still further along the bank and were joined by the rescue brigade, who went further on and passed two bodies back. He then went with the rescue team to the 7’s gate.

2 PER CENT OF GAS

The Coroner: Did you test for gas when the men were got out?

Witness: Yes, we found 2 per cent there.

Mr. Felton: The tail gate would be a short cut for the air, would it not?

Witness: It would if it was not stopped.

Answering Mr Hunter, witness said it was usual to ensure that there was sufficient ventilators to clear any accumulated  of gas. He corroborated a statement that gas had been reported on 12 shifts in three months, representing 246 shifts actually worked. He said that on Jan. 21st, after the explosion, under instructions from Mr. Hunter, he made a systematic search of the unit for two oil lamps which were missing. Eventually he found one oil lamp under a man’s coat in the stable slip and the other on some stones covered by a six-inch board by another set of clothes. They were about 150 yards from the pit bottom.

MINE RESCUERS’ EVIDENCE

Brown, in reply to Mr Felton, said that he gave instructions to Roddy to keep Smith’s Ringrose lamp until another man (Moreton) arrived with his. At the time of the explosion the Ringrose lamp was in the charge of the cutterman because of witness’s instructions.

WILLIAM ALLEN GENT, first instructor at the Chesterfield Rescue Station, said that in company with the other men of the Chesterfield Brigade, he answered the call to Markham No. 1 Colliery at 3.21 p.m. They went down the pit at 4.20, and got to the coal face, where there were men already at work. They advanced in front of the men, and about eight yards away found the first body, partly buried by the fall. After examination they went a further eight yards, where another body was found, which was in a kneeling position. The timber had been knocked down and it was dangerous to proceed any further at the moment. Subsequently they decided on a further advance and reached No. 2left hand tail. They could see a fall which appeared to be in front of the tail gate. The conditions at the time were very bad. All the timber was blown out and there was a big break, and so he decided that it was too dangerous to go any further at that time. Consequently they returned to the main gate again, where they were met by Superintendent Johnson, Mr. Brown, and the Manager. They went up 7’s gate, along the left hand tail gate to the face. At the junction of 7’s right had airway the bird (a canary) was affected by carbon monoxide. in the right hand tail gate and the main road, everything was normal.

Witness, replying to Mr. Hunter, said that in the first visit to 2’s face the roof was weighty, by which he meant that bits of stone were settling. There was not a big fall at the cutter corner. Witness described the discovery of a smouldering prop which was surrounded by brattice. He got the impression that possibly the brattice set fire to the prop.

GEORGE JOHNSON, Superintendent of the Mansfield Rescue Centre, said he had received a call and arrived at the colliery at 3.55. Near the pit bottom he met a stretcher case, and further on there was another. One hundred and thirty yards from the face there were two men who had been brought out and a little later two others were got out. One of them had been treated, and attempts were being made to restore his breathing. The team went in with foam extinguishers to look for the other missing men. In the meantime the base was advanced to 9’s left hand. The team returned and reported they could not get through into the cutting corner. During another attempt an impassable fall was encountered. Eventually witness and Mr. Brown got on to the top left hand corner with the safety lamp and canary, and they managed to get through the left hand tail gate to the face. Workmen were there timbering. With the help of a spot light, he found three men lying in the corner, between the coal cutter and the face. The bird was not affectedly gas.

In the corner, fire damp was shown in the lamp. The workmen got the victims out, and they were taken away in stretchers. Three electric lamps were found there, two being alight and the other being out.

Witnes, in reply to Mr. Felton, said he did not see a Ringrose lamp or oil lamp there.

TRIBUTE TO AMBULANCE

Answering Mr. Hunter, witness said there was not a serious fall by the cutter, but there was an obstruction just in front of the men. The men were not under the fall.

“I have never seen better facilities for treatment of the injured or transport or readier assistance than was available for the rescue brigades.” added witness.

HERBERT SMITH, 1., Joel’s Row, Hipper Street, Chesterfield, stallman, said he saw the deputy three or four times during the shift. Witness tested for gas and found the air perfectly satisfactory. during the four weeks he had worked on the face he had never noticed anything abnormal.

FLASH FROM COAL CUTTER

Shortly after two, there was a sudden flash which looked as if it came from the coal cutter. He spoke to Roddy about it and Roddy came down the face and said that the cutter was “busted.” Twenty-five minutes later Roddy returned and said he was going to try it again. E. Smith told witness that there had been some sparks flying from the cutter. That would be at the time witness saw the flash. Witness noticed no change in the ventilation during the shift and he heard no fall.He left the stall at 2.30 to 2.35.

Mr. Hunter: You were the last man to go out of this stall. You are most definite the there was a good wind hen you left the bank? – Yes, sir.

Witness said he worked stripped and while he was dressing, about 2.30, he would’ve felt any change oy air on his body. Witness agreed that he would see E. Smith‘s Ringrose lamp from where it was hanging, the red bulb would come on at two per cent, and if it had come on it could be seen for quite a long way. Witness did not notice the red bulb come on.

When Mr Hunter was putting a question, Mr. Felton interposed with a point, and Mr. Hunter said he would repeat his question “with Felton’s permission.”

The Coroner: “Not with Mr. Felton’s permission.”

Mr. Hunter apologised to the Coroner, and was putting his question once more when he saw the Coroner and Mr. Felton exchanging smiles. He made some comment and Mr. Felton assured him that they were anxious to get to the facts.

Mr Hunter: It is vital to me that I should get this answer, and if you will excuse me I do not want to be interrupted.

TALKED ABOUT FIREWORKS

Answering mr. Hicken, witness admitted that he would have been nervous if he had suspected gas in the top corner  when he saw the flash from the cutter.

Mr. Hicken: Is that what was going on in your mind when you talked about fireworks in the top end? – It may have been.

Had you had any suspicion of gas, you would have been afraid lest the sparking ignited the gas? – Yes, sir.

Witness went on to say that the dead man Smith had told him there had been a flash on the cutter. Those were the only remarks that passed between Smith and witness about the incident at the top end. When Roddy came to him, witness asked him what had happened and Roddy said “The cutter’s bust.” Roddy made no remark about the sparks and did not say why he was going down the coal face. Roddy was gone for 25 minutes. When Roddy returned, witness asked him what he was going to do, and Roddy said he was going to try it again. He did not say whether or not he had seen a fitter or an electrician, or a deputy.

FLASH FROM CUTTER

FRANK MANSELL, 141, Old Poolsbrook, Staveley, a contractor employed in No. 1 pit, said he was at work in east district on the day shift. His ordinary work was at nine’s main gate, but on that particular day hew assent with Hargreaves, junior., and Leslie Hargreaves to two’s conveyor face to deal with a roll on the left-hand side of the main gate. Everything appeared to be perfectly normal. Witness saw Roddy and Cadywould about 1.30 p m., when they passed  him, and he gave them a hand with a cable. Twenty minutes later Cadywould came down to witness and asked for a shovel. Witness promised to leave a shovel on the face. When witness was dressing at 2.30p.m. he saw Cadywould in nine’s gate. Cadywould again asked for the shovel, and witness told him he could have one then. Cadywould then told witness that he had seen a blue flash come out of the side of the cutter. Witness had no idea why Cadywould mentioned it, although it was an unusual thing to see a flash come out of the cutter.  Witness told him to go back and tell Roddy to leave the cutter until someone could see to it. A fitter named Hardwick, who was with the witness at the time, told Cadywould to get an electrician to the cutter. Cadywould said nothing more about it to witness, and he (Cadywould) went back then. Witness did not think it was necessary to do any more because he relied on Roddy‘s experience.

 

BEN. C. TAYLOR, of  3, Racecourse Road, Newbold Moor, a stallman, said he saw no oil lamp at the gate end, and did not see a Ringrose lamp either. He was working in one part all the time. He left the place at about 2.40 p.m., and went down the main gate for about 150 yards, and hid his tools down there. He had just laid them down and was picking up his lamp when the air suddenly reversed and the atmosphere was befouled with dust. His helmet was blown off, and his lamp knocked to the floor. Eventually, witness found his lamp and set off to the pit bottom. The last time he saw the deputy was about 2.25 p.m. He had worked in the place for three months and had not detected any gas there, and he had seen Ringrose lamps along the coal face. Witness added that he had given the coal cutters – Cadywould, Moreton and Roddy – a hand with a cable, and had seen Roddy again at 2.30 p.m. coming from the top left-hand side. Roddy passed him then and returned three or four minutes later, and went back to the pit bank. He never saw Roddy again.

After Mr. Felton, Mr. Hunter and Mr. Hicken had examined witness, the Coroner adjourned the inquest until  10 o’clock this (Friday) morning, expressing the hope that it would be completed to-day.

 

Derbyshire Times 26th February 1937

MARKHAM PIT EXPLOSION

Jury Return Verdict of Accidental Death After Two Days’Inquiry

“Combination of Abnormal Conditions”

The inquest which was re-opened Thursday week, on the nine men who lost their lives as a result of the explosion at Markham Colliery on Jan. 21st, ended on Friday  afternoon last, with a verdict of accidental death. The cause was stated to be an unforeseen combination of abnormal conditions – an accumulation of gas exploded by a flame which escaped from the coal-cutting machine box due to a faulty replacement of the cover plate. “The jury were satisfied,”  the verdict continued, “that every precaution and provision have been and are taken by the Staveley Coal and Iron Co, to ensure the safety of the men working in the mine.”

The victims were

EDWARD BAGGALEY  (35), married of 58, Park Street, Birdholme, Chesterfield;

FREDERICK  RODDY  (25), married, of 51, Poolsbrook Road, Duckmanton;

WILLIAM HENRY CAULDWELL  (48), married of 49, Main Road, Renishaw;

WILFRED EDMUND SLATER  (30), married, of 10, Canal Wharf, Chesterfield;

CHARLES MORETON  (28), married, 3, Elm  Street, Hollingwood, Staveley;

LEONARD CADYWOULD  (21), married, of 43, Old Village, Poolsbrook;

EDMUND SMITH  (29), married, of 33, South Crescent, Duckmanton;

JOSEPH FURNISS  (28), married, of 57, Speedwell Terrace, Staveley;

RALPH MARSDEN  (41), married, of 36, North Crescent, Duckmanton.

 

Thomas Barley,8. Hartington Cottages, Staveley , stallman, said he did not work on January 21st, the day of the explosion, as he was ill, but he was at work on the 19th. He usually worked in No. 2 unit. During the period he had been working there he found some gas on November 11th, and he reported this to the deputy, Mr. Stevens, who told him to get some additional brattice cloth, which was to clear the gas and drive the air more towards the roof. The place was examined afterwards and it was found to be all right.

Witness added that the Ringrose detector was in position all the time. He had never seen it show red. He went to work the day after the explosion and helped with the repair work.

Mr. Felton: About this gas on November 11th. Had any deputy found it before you, or were you the first to find it?

Witness: I was the first to find it.

Mr. Felton: Where was it coming from?

Witness: It was coming from a pothole.

Mr. Hunter: You have been quite satisfied during the whole time  you have been ib 2’s with the ventilation going around there? I want you to be quite sure, because it is very important.

Witness: Yes, sir.

Sidney Smith, 15, Poolsbrook Road, Duckmanton, said he was at work on the afternoon shift. He heard something like a “weight” bump and a cloud od dust followed. He saw no flame.

Walter Bray, 196 Poolsbrook Cottages, Staveley, stallman, said he was at work at the time of the explosion. He heard a bump, and then the deputy came and fetched him, along with others, out.

Samuel Edward Thorne, North Crescent, Duckmanton, colliery deputy said he supervised the erection of screens to clear any gas that might accumulate and also to direct a current of air. He had made an examination on the previous night shift, bu had found no gas at all. There was a brisk ventilation going round the top corner and nothing unusual whatever.

TOOK COVER PLATE OFF

Alfred Thomas Harvey, of 15, New Poolsbrook, an electrician employed at the colliery, said that on Wednesday  January 20th, he was at work on East District. He visited 2’s unit and examined the top side coal cutter externally, and saw that the bolts were in position. He did not run the motor at all on that occasion, but examined the cable from end to end and the gate end switch gear in 2’s main gate and found them in very good condition. On the previous day he had been employed in the same district and saw the same machine, which was not working at that time. On that occasion he took off the cover plate, undoing all the studs and taking them out. He found that the carriage was loose and that one screw had fallen out. So he replaced the screw, cleaned the cover plat and put it back, and he was quite satisfied that it fitted perfectly. After that the machine was used to cut  the face through to the top end, and it remained there until the Thursday morning. Witness had been working in that section about a week, and hah had six or seven years’ experience with similar machines.

Mr. Felton: You know it is very important that the cover plate should be tight? – Yes, sir

So far as you know you put it back in a proper manner? – Yes, sir.

Answering Mr. Felton further, Harvey said that when he tightened the plate he did not think there was any dirt between the flanges, but he could not offer any explanation as to why dirt was found later.

EVIDENCE OF MACHINE TESTING

James Cowan, 30, Abbey Dale, Park Rise, Sheffield. Electrical Inspector of Mines, said that about 8 p.m. on January 21st, he went underground into 2’s unit with Mr, Felton. He went to the coal cutter, but owing to the presence of fire-damp, he was to allowed to remain there more than a few moments. There was then only sufficient time to notice that the cable was connected with the machine  and the the main set screws were in position. He came down the coal face to examine the trailing cable but it was buried beneath fock and other debris. He examined other apparatus in 2’s main gate, and on the morning of January 22nd he went again to the coal cutter and made a detailed examination. The cable was disconnected from the machine and feeler measurements of all the flanges of the machine were taken. The plug base joint at one point showed a gap of  25 1,000 inch. There was a hole through the insulator of the plug about one quarter of an inch in diameter, caused by the omission of screw. A subsequent examination showed that would not have been dangerous. On two sides it was not possible to take measurements because of the design of the machine: the skid plate  prevented such measurements. Then the cover plate was carefully taken away, and it was found that all the bolts were in position and were tight with the exception of two which were not loose, but were “finger tight.” In the bottom right-hand corner of the switch casing flange there was a deposit – or rather a compression – of first and coal dust forced hard as though it had been trapped by the cover. The compression of dirt was 3/16th inch in measurement, leaving a gap between the switch cover flange and the switch casing