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SOUTH WALES ECHO – Monday, 27th March, 1995

Thanks to Billy Williams Back To Welsh Menu

Glamorgan Pits Were Extremely Difficult To Mine
Work that was always fraught with danger


DESPITE being among the most prolific in the country, the Glamorgan pits were to prove extremely difficult to mine.
The deep seams which yielded the prized steam coals were what was known as "fiery" full of potentially explosive gases.
As a consequence, work was always hard and fraught with danger.

And those who survived the inevitable explosions and roof falls usually became old before their time.
Industrial diseases like pneu-moconiosis and silicosis almost invariably proved fatal.

And the eye disorder nystagmus, contracted from working at low light levels, could cause insanity if not treated.
During the 46 years before 1914, one miner was killed on average every six hours.

Causes were many and varied, but almost half the fatalities were down to roof falls.

Explosions, although dramatic in the number of victims they claimed, accounted for fewer than 17 percent of the deaths.
Analysis of these grim statistics showed that sixty per cent of the victims were lolled before reaching the age of 30.

Eighty per cent died before the age of 40.

In addition, living conditions throughout the mining communities of Glamorgan were appalling.

Hastily erected dwellings soon became hopelessly overcrowded, while sanitation, where it existed at all, was primitive.
With such an ideal background for the proliferation of virulent bacteria, disease and death soon came to these densely populated communities.

The hot summer of 1849 saw a cholera outbreak that caused 884 deaths in Merthyr, Dowlais and Aberdare.

And a report by health officials in 1893 paints a graphic picture of conditions in the Rhondda Valleys at the time.

"The river contained a large proportion of human excrement, pig sty manure, congealed blood, entrails from slaughterhouses, the rotten carcasses of animals, street refuse and a host of other articles....in dry weather the stench becomes unbearable."



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