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Universal - Senghenydd, Glamorganshire Colliery Explosion -
14th October 1913 - Page 5

Four Hundred and Forty Miners Were Killed - Those Who Died
Information From Ian Winstanley - Senghenydd Pit Disaster Video Compilation, Nicola Rees

The Inquest

A fund to relive the suffering of the victims dependants was set up and captured the imagination of the public. The above list is taken from the document that details the payments to the people who had lost their breadwinners.

The inquest into the deaths of the men was held at Senghenydd on Monday 5th January 1914 before Coroner David Rees. The proceedings lasted seven days with the jury bringing in a verdict of "Accidental Death.'

The inquiry into the causes and circumstances attending the explosion at the Universal Colliery was conducted by Mr. R.A.S. Redmayne, Chief Inspector of Mines. All interested parties were represented and the proceedings lasted almost a month. Two very large volumes of evidence resulted. The investigation was painstaking with Edward Shaw being examined for three whole days and some witnesses recalled again and again.

Mr. Redmayne wrote of the probable site of origin of the explosion and it's probable Cause:-
"I have come to the conclusion that there is a strong probability of the explosion having originated in the Mafeking Incline and that it was preceded by a similar occurrence to that which took place further outbye of the Mafeking return in October 1910, namely, by heavy falls liberating a large volume of gas.

These heavy falls exposed seams of coal and beds of hard rock, and an outburst of gas may have come away at one of them. The only apparent means of ignition would be sparks from the electrical signalling apparatus, or from rocks brought down by the fall, and we know that explosions have been by both causes.

The only other possible means of ignition were safety lamps or matches. The difficulty in regard to the former is that no lamp was found in the place, and even where a broken lamp was found, under a fall, it was inferred that it had been broken by the fall. There were, however, lamps lower down the hard heading, but there is no evidence pointing to any of them having been the igniting cause of the explosion. In respect of matches, a rigorous search of the persons descending the mine was carried out daily, and the possibility of a match being the igniting cause is, in my opinion, remote."

Exhaustive test had been carried out on the electrical signalling apparatus. The General Regulations gave precautions which should be taken to avoid 'open sparking' from electrical and wires in mines in which there was inflammable gas.

Mr. Redmayne Wrote:-
"Undoubtedly electrical signalling wire was being used in a part of the mine in which there was likely to be inflammable gas in quantity sufficient to be indicative of danger. It was argued by counsel appearing on behalf of the owners and management, and evidence was called to show, that the sparks caused by bringing the wires together, or in ringing the bells, were not of sufficient intensity to ignite gas. In effect there was no 'open sparking'. In this connection I can only regret that the safer plan of excluding sparks altogether was not adopted.

It is all the more astonishing that the management should have faced the risk that sparks might have ignited gas in view of the Bedwas Colliery explosion which occurred on March 27th 1912, and was proved beyond all reasonable doubt to have been caused by the sparks from an electric bell. The attention of owners of
mines throughout South Wales was called to this explosion in a circular letter sent out by Dr. Atkinson, dated 28th August, 1912."

With reference to the rescue apparatus at the mine, Mr. Redmayne added some Recommendations:-
"I incline to the belief that if there had been rescue apparatus kept at the colilery, and men equipped with breathing apparatus and carrying with them a lighter form of apparatus, had they at once penetrated the West York by the Return and the Bottanic District a few more lives would have been saved.

I am convinced that had there been available at the time an adequate water supply, and had the brigades of rescuers attacked the three fires, the fires might have been extinguished in a comparatively short time.

I should have thought, in view of the fact that the colliery was such a gassy one, and as it had already been devastated by an explosion, that the management would have made arrangements for a supply of water adequate to meet an emergency of that kind that had actually occurred."

With regard to the state of the mine prior to the explosion the Commissioner pointed out that it was a breach of the Act not to have cleared coal dust from the roof and sides and he commented on the desirability of stone dusting:-
"I know that apprehension exists in some quarters as to whether such a remedy would not be worse than the disease, the idea being that the introduction of stone dusting might be conducive to 'miners' phthisis' (pneumonokoniosis), bit I would point to the fact that dust derived from argillaceous shale has existed naturally in mines in the United Kingdom for long past without, as far as I know, injurious effects resulting to the workmen employed therein."

The Report drew attention to the fact that there had been several breaches of the Coal Mines Act and in a general comment about the management of the mine Mr Redmayne said:-
"Several oft these breaches, may appear trivial, but taken in the aggregate they point to a disquieting laxity in the management of the mine.

I regret exceedingly having to say this because Mr. Shaw impressed me as an honest, industrious and in many respects, an active manager and he gave me his evidence in a clear and straightforward manner and assisted the Inquiry to the utmost of his power."

About the manager's behaviour on the day of the disaster he commented:-
"It would be invidious, where all the mining engineers and miners engaged in attempted rescue operations worked so hard in endeavouring to get past the fire in the workings with the object of saving life, to commend individuals by name, but I think a particular need of praise is due to Mr. Shaw and to the small band of
workers which accompanied him underground immediately after the explosion."

Pit Terminology - Glossary