A Miners Association poster produced shortly after the explosion.
The public mind is again painfully agitated by one of those direful calamities that too frequently occur in connection with our staple industry, viz. a Coal Pit explosion. The scene of this direful event is within 7 miles from the city of Durham, and 18 or 20 miles from Newcastle. The explosion occurred between three and four o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, the 28th of September, 1844, and has proved fatal to ninety five individuals, being the greatest number lost by explosion in the county of Durham on record. Immediately after the awful occurrence numbers of persons were seen hurrying to the mouth of the pit, anxious to learn the fate of their relatives and friends, when a scene presented itself that none but a spectator can duly appreciate. Fancy indeed cannot pourtray to the mind's eye the horrible appearance of the blackened and disfigured corpses of the sufferers. The bitter agonizing shrieks of the bereaved mother â€” the heart-rending lamentations of a sister over the remains of her dear and only brother. The feeble, though deeply felt moan of the grandfather, who had for years prided himself on the possession of noble, good, and industrious children. In fine, let the reader carry himself into one of the many desolated and deserted cottages of the village, that, on the morning of the fatal event, exulted in all the joy and pleasurable content, that the hard working sons of the mine are known to possess, and now behold the dismal change. Nothing but the bitter exclamation of the deepest woe, in truth, it may be said in the beautiful words of scripture, "That Rachael weeps for her children and will not be comforted, because they are not." As is always the case upon these distressing occasions numbers of brave men were promptly on the spot to render every assistance, and at the imminent peril of their own lives quickly descended the shaft, and by relays of workmen succeeded by eight o'clock on Sunday morning in bringing up the whole of the bodies of the unfortunate sufferers, many of whom were dreadfully scorched, their mangled bodies presented an awful spectacle, sufficient of itself to bring home to any feeling bosom the burning thought that such dangerous employment should be amply rewarded. It is impossible to describe the distress and agony existing in the neighbourhood of the accident, which must be regretted by every person. The effects of this awful catastrophe will be the means of reducing many families to a state of poverty and dependency. It is understood that the inquest will be held today (Monday) when care shall be taken to furnish every particular as to the cause and nature of the misfortune, and when, if any neglect be found on the part of the agents, it is to be hoped that a humane and feeling public will endeavour to bring before the proper tribunal the parties who can thus sport with human existence. List of the sufferers Thomas Briggs, left a wife; John Briggs, a son of the above, and son; John Whitfield and son; William and George Elsdon, brothers, young men; Henry Mather, young man; Joseph Gibson and three sons; William Favish, left a widow; William Jobling, left a widow; Ralph Surtees. young man; John and William Surtees, brothers, cousins to the above, both young men; Robert Williamson, young man; John Williamson, deputy, brother to the above, left a wife and six children, pregnant with the seventh; Wanless Thompson, left a wife and large family; John Noble, left a wife and four children; Geo. Hall and son, left a wife; â€” Hall, a boy; William Routledge, young man, this young man's father was burnt to death upon the same colliery a short time since; Daniell Lemon, cousin to the above, left a wife and one child; Henry Weightman, left a wife and one child; William Weightman, boy, son or nephew to the above; John Currie, left a wife and family; William Dixon and son, left a wife and family; John Pettley, young man; William and John Dixon, brothers, young men; John Curley, left a wife and one child; Elliot Richardson and son, left a wife and family; Michael Thurlwell, young man, Christopher, John, and Stephen Teesdale, brothers, their father fell down the same it and was killed; Robert Carr, left a wife and one child; Robert Rosecamp, left a wife and four children; William Rosecamp, brother to the above, left a widow; James Maughan, young man; Thos. Bottoms, boy; Joseph Wolfe, left a wife and one child; Peter Wolfe, brothers; Four brothers of the name Drydon, and Edward Nicholson, brought up in the same family, young men, lately from Walker; R. Douglass, left a wife and four children; John Brown, young man; Mark Davidson, young man; John Brown, young man; George Dawson, left a wife and six children; Thomas Moody; Hans Ward, left a wife and five children, pregnant with the sixth; William Barras, left a wife and four children, also his son, a boy, whom he took down the pit for the first time to look at it; George Bell, left a
wife, and Jonathan Bell, brothers; William Taylor; William Davidson, left a wife and three children; Michael, Matthew and Henry Clough, brothers, under sixteen years of age; James Sanderson, left a wife and two children; William and John Harrison, brothers; John Sanderson, left a wife; James and Thomas Turnbull, brothers, young men; John and Thomas Willis, brothers, young men; John Willis, a boy; Peter Robinson, young man; George Richardson, left a wife and one child; Joseph Moffit, left a wife, Richardson and Moffit married two sisters; John Ferry, left a wife and five children; George Ferry, son of the above; George Heslop, young man; John Parkinson, young man; Robert and Thomas Nicholson, brothers, boys; Two boys of the name of Gilroy, brothers; William Nichol, young man; William Dobson, left a wife; James Richardson, left a wife and four children; James Leyland, left a wife and two children; James Robson, a boy; and Robert Hogg, a young man. The Funeral We again visited the scene of the fatal event on Monday, Sept. 30, and the whole village continued in a state of the greatest excitement, thousands having assembled to witness the corpses of the sufferers borne to their last long home. Previous to the departure of the bodies (which were placed in carts) Mr. Robert Archer, Miner, delivered an excellent and suitable address to the assembled multitude, who seemed evidently impressed with the awful solemnity of the occasion, and after a hymn had been sung the immense procession, which was upwards of a mile long, wended its way to the various places of interment, viz., Easington, South Hetton, Halgarth, and Great Hetton. The Miner's Doom (from the Miners' Advocate) 'Twas evening, and a sweeter balm on earth was never shed, The sun lay in this gorgeous pump on ocean's heaving bed; The sky was clad in bright array, to beautiful to last, For night, like envy, scowling came, and all the scene o'ercast. 'Tis thus with hope — 'tis thus with life, when sunny dreams appear, The infant leaves the cradle-couch to slumber on a bier, The rainbow of our cherish'd love, we see in beauty's eye, That glows with all its mingled hues, alas! to fade and die! 'Tis dark, still night, the sultry air scarce moves a leaf or flower; The aspen, trembling, fears to stir in such a silent hour; The footsteps of the timid hare distinctly may be heard Between the pauses of the song of night's portentious bird. And in so drear a moment plods the Miner to his toil, Compelled refreshing sleep to leave for labour's hardiest moil; By fate's rude hand the dream of peace is broken and destroyed, ~~(unreadable)~~ And why this sacrifice of rest — did not the Maker plan The darksome hours for gentle sleep, the day for work by man? Yes! but the mighty gods of earth are wiser in these laws, They hold themselves with pride to be their creatures' first great cause The Miner hath his work begun, and busy strokes resound, Warm drops of sweat are falling fast — the coal lies piled around. And what a sight of slavery! in narrow seams compressed Are seen the prostrate forms of men to hew on back and breast. Fainting with heat, with dust begrimed, their meager faces see By glimmering lamps that serve to show their looks of misery. And oft the hard, swollen hand is raised to wipe the forehead dews, He breathes a sigh for labour's close, and then his toil renews.
And manly hearts are throbbing there — and visions in the mine Float o'er the young and sanguine soul like stars that rain and shine amid the dreariness that dwells within the cavern's gloom Age looks for youth to solace him — waits for his fruits to bloom. Behold! there is a careless face bent from yon cabined nook, Hope you may read this in his bright eye — there's future in his look; Oh, blight not then the fairy flower, 'tis heartless to destroy The only pleasure mortals know — anticipated joy! Oh, God! what flickering flame is this? see, see again its glare! Dancing around the wiry lamp like meteors in the air. Away, away! —the shaft, the shaft! — the blazing fire flies; Confusion! — speed! — the lava stream the lightning's wing defies! The shaft! — the shaft! — down on the ground and let the demon ride Like the sirocco on the blast, volcanoes in their pride! The choke-damp angel slaughters all — he spares no living soul! He smites them with sulphureous brand he blackens them like coal The young — the hopeful, happy young fall with the old and gray, And oh, great God! a dreadful doom, thus buried to decay Beneath the green and flowery soil whereon their friends remain, Disfigured, and, perchance, alive, their cries unheard and vain! Oh, desolation! thou art now a tyrant on thy throne, Thou smilest with sardonic lip to hear the shriek and groan! To see each mangled, writhing corpse, to raining eyes displayed, For hopeless widows now lament; and orphans wail dismayed. Behold thy work! The maid is there her lover to deplore, The mother wails her only child that she shall see no more! An idiot sister laughs and sings — oh, melancholy joy! While bending o'er her brother dead, she opens the sightless eye. Apart, an aged man appears, like some sage Druid-oak, Shedding his tears like leaves that fall beneath the woodman's stroke His poor old heart is rent in twain — he stands and weeps alone, The sole supporter of his house, the last, the best is gone! This is thy work, fell tyrant! this the Miner's common lot! In danger's darkling den he toils, and dies lamented not. The army hath its pensioners — the sons of ocean rest, When battle's crimson flag is furled on bounty's downy breast. But who regards the mining slave, that for his country's wealth Resigns his sleep, his pleasures, home, his freedom, and his health From the glad skies and flagrant fields he cheerfully descends, And eats his bread in stenchy caves where his existence ends. Aye! this is he that masters grind and level with the dust, The slave that barters life to gain the pittance of a crust. Go read yon pillared calendar, the record that will tell How many victims of the mine in yonder churchyard dwell. Hath honour's laurels ever wreathed the despot's haughty brow? Hath pity's hallowed gems appeared when he in death lay low? Unhonoured is his memory, despised his worthless name, Who wields in life the iron rod in death no tear can claim.