Roachburn Pit Disaster
28th of January 1908
Causes and Circumstances attending the Accident which occurred
Roachburn Colliery, Cumberland
28th January, 1908,
From an inflow of Clay, Sand, Moss and Water,
J. B. Atkinson, M.Sc.,
One of H.M. Chief Inspectors of Mines.
Thanks to The Durham Mining Museum
About noon, on Tuesday the 28th January, 1908, at Roachburn Colliery, situated on the eastern border of the County of Cumberland, and owned by Messrs. Thompson and Sons, a private firm of long standing, of which Mr. Charles Lacy Thompson is now the sole surviving partner, the roof or face of an excavation driven up to the outcrop in a highly inclined coal seam under moorland in the neighbourhood of two small tarns gave way, and the surface deposits, consisting of moss or peat, sand and clay, accompanied by water, poured into the mine and caused the deaths of the three persons described below, who were imprisoned by the inflow, and whose bodies have not been recovered :—
There were about 120 other persons in the mine at the time of the inflow, all of whom escaped to the surface without injury by two different routes to be described hereafter.
Operations to rescue the imprisoned men, or to recover their bodies, were at once commenced and prosecuted vigorously without success until the rise of the inflowing materials prevented any further effort being made.
Owing to the fact that no inquest could be held as none of the bodies had been recovered, coupled with the exceptional character of the accident, you were pleased to appoint me to hold a formal investigation into its causes and circumstances.
Mr. R. Sheriton Holmes, Solicitor, of 145, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, was appointed to act as legal adviser to the Court.
After advertising the time and place of the Inquiry in the "Carlisle Journal," the "East Cumberland News," the "Newcastle Daily Chronicle," the "Newcastle Daily Journal," and the "North Mail," and after written notice had been given to the owner of the colliery and to the representatives of the miners, the Inquiry was held in the Village Hail, Hallbankgate, near Brampton Junction, on 13th March last.
The owner of the colliery was represented by Mr. T. S. Strong, solicitor, of Carlisle; Mr. W. Straker, Corresponding Secretary of the Northumberland Miners' Association,* appeared on behalf of the relatives of the deceased James William Wharton, and the miners; and Mr. S. Coulthard, Secretary of the Northumberland Deputies' Association,* appeared on behalf of the relatives of the deceased Robert Pattinson, and the Deputies.
Mr. A. D. Nicholson and Mr. H. A. Abbott, Assistant Inspectors of Mines in the district; Mr. J. Cairns and Mr. T. Hall Scott, of the Northumberland Miners' Association; and Mr. Miles Baldwin, Secretary for the Roachburn Colliery Lodge, were also present.
Thirteen witnesses were examined, including the manager, undermanager, master shifter, four deputies and some of the workmen, and outside expert evidence was given by Mr. Austin Kirkup, Agent for the Lambton Collieries in the County of Durham, and by Mr. John Rogers, Agent and Manager of the Widdrington Colliery in Northumberland, who had some years ago been professionally connected with Roachburn Colliery.
On the evidence given at the Inquiry, and from inspections of the mine and investigations made by myself, by Mr. A. D. Nicholson (to whom I am much indebted for the preparation of the plans accompanying this report) and by Mr. H. A. Abbott, Assistant Inspectors, I beg to submit the following report.