|Eckington Colliery Explosion, Relief Fund - 4 Feb 1871
The CHAIRMAN in opening the proceedings said he must thank those gentlemen present for the honour they had done him in calling upon him to appear on the present occasion, which he considered to be a most interesting as well as an important one. It was scarcely necessary for him to enlarge upon a subject they were all well acquainted with but it was an occasion which called for their sympathy as Christians and as men. (Hear, hear.) Considering the late calamity at Renishaw, he could only suggest to them, if they thought of the late severe weather, when they had been enabled to gather in comfort around their firesides in the evening, they ought to carry their thoughts a little further to those men who laboured to get out of the ground the coal which was so necessary for their domestic comfort. They must see how these workers were exposed to dangers whilst following the occupation by which they gained their livelihood. They were necessarily subjected, whilst pursuing their employment, to serious accidents whereby their lives might be taken away at once, wives were suddenly made widows, and many children deprived of their parents—perhaps reduced to a state of orphanage. These things he need not say must stir up the feelings of humanity in their breasts, and those who had met on this occasion showed by their attendance that there is nothing human that was foreign to them—(cheers)—and that they were really interested in them and were desirous to do all they possibly could to pour balm into the wounds of suffering humanity and to relieve the necessities of these poor sufferers. (Applause) Those who were dead had been committed to the earth, but with respect to those who were left behind it was evident they were in a state of destitution. The bread-winners were now gone from them, and the least thing they could do was to consider how they could relieve them. (Hear, hear.) He did not think it was necessary for him to say more than that a good spirit had also been shown on this subject by many who were not present at this meeting. These gentlemen had written some notes to the secretary, which he would read. They not only expressed their regret at not being able to be present, but showed their heartiness in the matter by forwarding very handsome contributions, which were most encouraging to those who had engaged in pushing forward this very laudable object. The speaker then read the following letters which were received with great applause:—
Holker Hall, Grange,
J. W. Fearn, Esq.
---- within a few days after the accident we had formed a committee for the receipt and disposal of money contributed for the above object, and we have organised a general collection through the parish on behalf of --- We have also supplied all the widows and children who are unable to provide for themselves with decent mourning and we have guaranteed to them 5s a week for every widow, irrespective of any circumstances, and 1s 6d a week to every child under twelve years of age for one month. During that time the committee will have a opportunity of making enquiry into the circumstances and prospects of each widow, and will be able to dispense their benevolence according to the necessities of the several families.
I am anxious to have this done not only carefully at first, but rigidly and repeatedly afterwards, that we may avoid the demoralizing procedure of treating all widows, young and old capable and incapable alike, and that the aid afforded, may be liberal, where it is wanted, and judiciously dispensed with a view to encourage self exertion and self help. I shall be glad to learn that meetings at Chesterfield Entertain views similar to those which I have expressed and that they are disposed to make our committee the dispensers of their charity.
The total number of widows is 19. I have received the following contributions. Lady Sitwell, Renishaw Hall, £20; Miss Mary Sitwell, £5; Mrs. Wildman, £5; Anonymous, £5; Mr. Dale, Scarborough, £2. 2s; Mr. Gorman, Superintendent of Police, £1 1s; Rev. E. B. Estcourt, £10.
Besides these the following gentlemen have promised the sums opposite their names. The Rev. T. Hill. Mount St. Mary's College, Spinkhill £10; R. Lee Ballasize, Esq., £25. The house to home collection is now in the course of being made.
I have the honour to be, Sir,