The enduring mystery of the
Missing Mapperley Miner O NE hundred years ago this month, undermanager Thomas Severn went down Mapperley Pit and never returned to the surface. The mystery of his disappearance has never been satisfactorily solved. No body was ever found, even after extensive searches helped by Ilkeston and Mansfield Mine Rescue teams.
What had happened to this 43-yearold father of five who lived with his second wife at Park Hall, Mapperley village? He had descended the mine at 6am and had been seen doing his rounds around 11am. After that … nothing. Had he been buried in a sudden rock fall? Had he been murdered and his body disposed of? Had he somehow exited the mine unnoticed and emigrated? One can imagine the conversations in the local public houses: The Old Black Horse, The Candlestick and The Punchbowl. All recent rock falls had been examined. The other two theories were hard to swallow. Although as an under-manager he may have had some opponents, he was generally known as a decent man with religious convictions. He was a member of the church choir and of the Home Guard. Why would anyone want to kill him? And why would he want to abandon his new wife, family and fairly comfortable way of life as an under -manager? These were hard times. The country was at war and most
lax in its implementation of safety measures, involved in a cover up over what had happened to Thomas Severn, found to have paid out hush money. His theory is that Thomas Severn had for some reason entered a dangerous roadway which should have been closed off. He had then been overcome by blackdamp, or choke people in this mining community Thomas Severn. He revealed he damp, a deadly occupational hazard were far worse off. had been paid to keep silent about of the time, occurring in poorly A letter arriving at the office of the it. Now fearing he was about to ventilated coal mines. Essentially, meet his Maker, he felt he needed Ilkeston Advertiser on 18th June the victim is starved of oxygen and 1988 was to throw new light on the to come clean. Unfortunately, he quickly suffocates. died of heart failure before he could mystery. The sender, Ray HuthTwo men later came to seal up the waite, said he was one of only two reveal lucidly what exactly had opening. Had they seen Thomas happened. people alive who had been told Severn’s lifeless body on the what had really happened to Thom- Mr Huthwaite said the above conground ahead of them but decided it as Severn. Actually, the revelation fession had been told to them in the was too risky to enter the area to try was incomplete, as you will see if strictest confidence and they had and help him? Were they more you read on. sworn upon the Holy Bible that interested in their own safety and they would not say a word to anyEditor Peter Pheasant arranged to carrying out their urgent instrucmeet him. He was to discover that one about what Mr Wain had said tions to seal the entrance post haste until after his death. George Wain before the Mines inspector came? Ray Huthwaite and an unnamed associate had been in conversation died in 1981. Maybe they feared losing their jobs with a man called George Wain (a Hector Tyler, a miner himself, has if they failed to do as they had been pit deputy at Mapperley at the come to is own conclusion and instructed – men had been sacked time). Ray Huthwaite knew his written a book called The Mysteri- for much less - and so decided to informer and respected him comous Disappearance of Thomas Sev- seal the entrance and leave Thomas pletely as a ‘very upright man who ern, with the subtitle The Solution Severn to his fate. He may well would not tell a lie’. to a Derbyshire Mining Tragedy. have been beyond help anyway. George Wain (also a first aider of Through his research he believed The men, it seems, had then struck the St John Ambulance Brigade) that the Mapperley pit had been: a deal with management to keep told them he had been attending a at the time struggling financially, quiet. Although struggling finanman who had collapsed at the pit cially, the pit owners had no option top. Realising he was dying, the but to agree, or they would have stricken man wanted to clear his been in deep trouble themselves for conscience and told his helper what not having sealed off the deadly he knew of the disappearance of
Left: Library picture, not Mapperley. Above: the cover of Hector Tyler’s book. Right: the road approaching Mapperley village today.
Let’s talk about politics There is much talk of the need for political reform. I have for some time been interested in what form this might take and how we might make a start with it here in Ilkeston. There seems to be a strong need for something less polarised and more collaborative but what would this look like and how might we begin to have an experience of it? To be truly democratic this will need some kind of forum where all voices can be equally heard and equally listened to. What might this mean in practice as well as in theory? If you are interested in looking further at this then come along to an initial meeting at the U Choose Smoothie Bar on Bath Street, Ilkeston on Saturday 16th June at 11am. The meeting will be upstairs and you can get refreshments before or afterwards in the café below. Richard Shaw
Elton John told me a joke last week ....I have to admit its a little bit funny. John Allen
Thomas Severn—disappeared area sooner. The sealed-up road would not have been explored by the search teams because it would be claimed that it had been sealed before Thomas Severn had gone missing. (Searching every blocked off road would have been an impossible and too dangerous task to carry out.) With the passage of time, maybe we will never know for sure what happened, but Hector Tyler’s theory seems as good as any. His knowledge and experience as an underground worker have convinced many that he could well be right. Mapperley pit is now closed and gone. The tragedy of Thomas Severn remains a talking point and a subject of conjecture to this day.