Good evening Alan
I have just published the memoirs of my husband’s great uncle Harry’s Story and the following is an extract from it which relates a death in Gedling Pit. Dorothy Ritchie at the Local History Library told me of your research into pit deaths and I thought you might be interested.
“A few weeks later an event happened in the pit in the district in which I worked which will never leave me. I would inform my reader that though deaths in the mine was not ‘usual’ they were certainly not unusual. Apart from explosions, such as Senghenydd in South Wales and Whitehaven in the north east, in which hundreds were killed, there was an average of around 400 individual deaths each year.
This tragedy came upon us during an afternoon shift around five o’clock. One of our mates (ponydriver) who we called Young Teggatt, he was fourteen and few months old, was killed. He was bringing a train of full wagons from the coalface to the main road, he was riding on the shaftiron (the connecting rod from the pony’s shafts to the wagons); it appeared that a piece of lagging (a flat piece of timber placed in the roof) had by pressure become dislodged and was protruding at an incline. Apparently this piece of lagging was caught in the top of the pony’s collar and brought about thirty tons of stone and dust upon Young Teggatt and the first wagon. The pony just escaped ‘the fall’. About this time I was bringing my ‘run’ of full wagons to the junction joining each road, I jumped off the shaftiron in order to fix the point of the track and noticed a cloud of dust which was moving from the adjoining road and it immediately enveloped me. I knew at once that it was from a heavy fall of roof. Straight away I hurried down this road (gate) to see what had happened. What I saw was a great shock to me. The pony was pinned to the side with a mixture of lumps of stone and dust. I could neither hear nor see my comrade. I moved some of the lumps of stone from the pony’s shafts and managed to release him, then I ran to the main road to get help. I did not know what had befallen Young Teggatt, he could have been behind the wagons. The men got to work removing the debris and after about twenty minutes our mate was reached but alas he was dead. Suffocated by dust and no doubt internally injured by huge pieces of the strata.
This is not the end of the tragedy! It was tradition in those days and I believe it still is, that when a death occurred in the mine and all mines, work ceased for the day. The miners were not paid for this time off, but it was out of respect for their fellow-worker and to show their sympathy for the bereaved family. Some men wanted to keep the matter quiet because their wages depended upon the amount of coal that reached the surface they were known as ‘getters-out’. They thought they could keep the pit ‘turning’. They probably thought in their ‘little’ minds that “It was only a lad.” I couldn’t have this attitude and I immediately went in to my own coalface men and told them of the tragedy. They downed tools at once and passed the news along the coalfaces and within fifteen minutes the whole pit was at a standstill. We lads had unlimmered our ponies and were dressing when the head ‘getter-out’, a man of about 35 years and a bully came towards me and using much bad language at me, which I returned with interest, he saying, “Yo ‘im whose stopped the job.” I picked up a ‘dog’, a dog is three links of chain (iron) with a hook at each end, weighing about 9 or 10 lbs and is used for coupling the wagons (tubs) together. I stood my ground and said to him: “If yer come any further I’ll ‘it yer in the clock (face) wi’ this dog!” He stopped in his tracks. I have never regretted my attitude on this occasion but being the unofficial spokesman for my mates also, it did not enhance my position with those in charge. As a compensation however I did get from my fellow gangers a loyalty and a confidence which was a very pleasing experience to me as a fifteen year old.”
Inquest, Chesterfield Arms, Gedling