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Whitehaven News

Haig Pit Disaster - 5th September 1922

Thanks To John Lumsdon

One long and six short blasts on the colliery horn at 23.00, was the first indication that something had gone wrong at Haig Pit. Soon, hundreds of relatives and friends had assembled in the pit yard and the dust coated faces of the men emerging from the shaft were anxiously scrutinised.

It was in a way fortunate, that the explosion had occurred at 10.15 during the shift change. The afternoon shift of 340 men had just left the workings. The 189 men on night shift were riding into their work place in tubs. Had the explosion occurred fifteen minutes later, many men would have been working in the location of the blast, and would certainly have been killed. The rescue brigades were summoned from all four Whitehaven pits and also from Brigham. On arrival at the seat of the explosion,
2.1/2 miles under the sea, they found that there had been extensive falls of the roof but quickly recovered the bodies of James Knox and James Fitzsimmons.
Later on, the body of William Bradley was found and while searching for the last man, Harold Horricks, a fire was discovered in No.3 District, 30 to 40 yards up No.1 Dilly. This gradually assumed serious proportions and despite many hours of heroic and exhausting work, the rescue party failed to get it under control.

It was reluctantly decided to abandon the search for the missing man and seal up the district in an attempt to starve the fire of oxygen. Seven bricklayers worked for many hours to finish the "stopping", with the last one being completed on Christmas Eve.

James Knox and James Fitzsimmons, who began work in the mines at age nine, and ten respectively, were both heroes of the Wellington Pit Disaster in 1910, and Knox received the King Edward Bronze Medal for his part in the rescue. They both also took part in the rescue operations of the 1922 disaster at Haig.

Seven bricklayers worked for many hours
to finish the "stopping"

The body of Harold Horricks, who was survived by a widow and bright little girl aged four, was never recovered from the workings and remains underground at Haig to this day.

The four victims were :-

Name Age Occupation Address Status

James Knox



1, Mountain View Prospect


James B Fitzsimmons



1, Back Ginns


William Bradley



5, Mitchells Court, Irish St


Harold J.G. Horrocks



1, Todhunters Bldgs, Queen St


The mine remained closed, along with Wellington Pit, forcing nearly two thousand men out of work until the Management and Mine Inspectors could be sure the fire was extinguished. It was February before analysis of samples of air taken through a pipe in the stopping proved the fire had been extinguished. Doors had been made in some of the stoppings on 9 th February ready to resume the search for Harold Horrocks.

A party of 24 men descended underground on 12th February 1928, including Mines Inspectors, Officials and Colliery Managers - WHEN . . .


Pit Terminology - Glossary