|On arrival back at the shaft top, the assembled crowd finally realised the last card had been played and there was nothing further that could be done for the trapped men. Mr Atkinson made the decision to build a 2 foot thick stopping in the main roadway in an attempt to starve the oxygen of fire. This was achieved over Thursday night / Friday morning.
A telegram had already been sent, by the miners, to the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, left, asking for such permission. The three man party entered the mine office for a short meeting and were told that all that could be done, had been done, and to go home quietly.
|A congregation of miners assembled in the Market Place Friday morning, numbering about 3000. A speaker was to have addressed the crowd but after a while, when no one had turned up, they made there way to the pit. The Chief Constable had prepared for all emergencies and a sizeable amount of police officers moved across the gates to the pit which was then rushed by the miners.
The situation growing tense, men mounted the walls and implored the miners to return to the town, which did not meet with the crowds' approval. Eventually they were allowed to send a three man party in to see the Managers and put thier case for the demolition of the stopping so as to continue the search for their trapped comrades.
In Parliament, James Kier Hardie, right, the founder of the Labour party, spoke on the issue in a speech against Mr. Churchill. He Said:-
"I give it as my opinion, based upon my practical experience as a miner, that at the time it was decided to wall up the mine, the miners were in all probability, still alive. The fire which imprisoned the miners, took place in what is known as "The Bottleneck" and apparently this was the only means of exit from the workings......I hope Mr Churchill is not more concerned about shielding the mine owner than he is about finding the truth."
On Sunday morning, a party of seven entered the mine hoping to reach the seat of the fire by the return airway. About one and a half miles in, the doors separating the intake from the outake were opened and four men entered with breathing apparatus. Mr Steel, the Mine Manager. Mr Blair, Assistant Manager, Mr Henry, Under Manager, and Mr Thorn from Sheffield, had travelled about 190 yards when their Canary fell from it's perch, which they then left at the roadside. Further on, their safety lamps went out which were also left at the roadside. They then continued over many falls until the heat was 85 deg Fahrenheit and they could no longer see their electric lamps for the smoke. They had reached a point 500 yards beyond the stopping in the intake and within 400 yards of the fire. They reluctantly came to the decision that no one would make it past the fire and all beyond must be long since dead. It was decided to build another stopping in the return and a further stopping in the intake as the only possible course to put the fire out.
These stoppings remained for many months until the management were sure the fire had finally been extinguished. Many of the Officials and miners that had been involved in the rescue attempts were sent to London to receive the King Edward Medal for their efforts in the face of great danger.
On the return into the mine, they found huge falls beyond the fire. After these were dug through, the job began returning the badly decomposed bodies of the miners to the surface. The identification and funerals commenced as soon as was possible due to the state of the bodies. When the last body was recovered, the relatives were called to the pit top for identification but, after seeing the body, they were absolutely sure it was not the man in question. Sometime earlier, a body had been wrongly identified and had been buried in the wrong grave, but it was not known when this had occurred. The situation was made worse by the number of members from the same families that had been killed. They included three William Walkers, two William Bensons, two Joseph Reids, two John Reids, two George Ritsons, two Henry McCluskys, two James McCormicks and Seven members of the McAllister family.
A mass funeral took place with an estimated
10,000 people attending
|It is not known if this time indicated four o'clock in the morning after the explosion, or four o'clock in the afternoon. We will never know how long the men survived behind the stopping or if they were still alive when it was built.