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Miners and Their Families
What's It Like Being A Miner?
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Ellen Brown - The Kaitangata Coal Mine Disaster in New Zealand
Alan Beardsmore - Dandy Pit, My Grandfather, Francis Shuker, Was The Only Man To Escape From The Coal Face
David Owen - Dandy Mine Disaster Dudley 1920
Mark Sheriston - Jim Sheriston was my Granddad
Nicola Avenia - My father, Jim O'Brien worked at Tilmanstone colliery and rescue team
Brian Clarke My father - miner and my hero
Neil Leveritt - Spent my working life in and around the coal mines in Australia
Ian Kelly - I was a miner
Terry Cullen - Bradford Colliery Manchester
John Harris - I worked at Annesley 1970 - 1988 as a face worker

NZEllen Brown
27 Jan 2016
The Kaitangata Coal Mine Disaster in New Zealand

NZ MapHi Fionn,

I have mining Beardsmore and Gribben ancestors, and am currently discovering my family tree here in New Zealand. If I can help you with anything, please just let me know.

Kind regards, Ellen.


Kaitangata is a town near the coast of South OtagoNew Zealand, on the left bank of the Clutha River ten kilometres south east of Balclutha. The town is known to its residents simply as Kai.

(Information from Wikipedia, photo from the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

More about the disaster, click here or see below

Alan Beardsmore
25 October 2010
Dandy Pit, My Grandfather, Francis Shuker, Was The Only Man To Escape From The Coal Face

I am trying to find out more about the Dandy pit disaster. I understand that my grandfather, Francis Shuker, of Coopers Bank, was the only man to escape from the coal face after they hit an underground stream and did so by climbing a ventilation shaft. I am told he emerged from the mine with a towel wrapped round him.

He went on to work at Baggeridge and was over 70 when he retired.

I would be pleased if anyone can let me know any information on this including the date and people involved.

Thanks in anticipation, 
Alan Beardsmore

(Unfortunately information is more easily available when an accident becomes officially a disaster but this requires at least 5 to die. I have some information from Charles Bird, see email below.)

Kaitangata Coal Mining Disaster

At the moment I am also looking at the disaster in Kaitangata in New Zealand where 5 Beardsmores were killed in an explosion in 1879, James Snr, James Jr, Edward, Joseph and Caleb.but I am sure you wouldn't be able to help with this!
Thanks again, 
Alan Beardsmore 

Kaitangata's European history is closely tied to coal extraction. One of New Zealand's early industrial disasters occurred  in South Otago in the Kaitangata Coal and Railway Co.'s mine on the 21st of February 1879, there was a loud underground explosion in the coal mine and 35 miners lost their lives. Coal mining was the mainstay of the town's economy from the 1870s until 1972, when the last state-owned underground coal mine closed. Several open-cast mines have continued to exist (both state and private) up to the present day, such as the Kai Point Mine.The Kai Point Coal Company has been mining coal at Kaitangata since 1951 and produces coal for local industry and domestic heating.

Image and infomation from Wikipedia

At first no one knew exactly how many men were underground. A train was sent to nearby Balclutha to bring help. An initial rescue attempt was thwarted when rescuers were unable to enter the mine due to the debris from the explosion and the presence of ‘fire damp’ (mainly methane gas which becomes explosive when mixed with a certain amount of air). It was not until around lunchtime that rescue parties were able to enter the mine.

By early evening it was clear that there were no survivors and that 34 men had died. The condition of the men’s bodies revealed that they had not been killed by the explosion but had been suffocated by a belt of ‘black damp’ – a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The coroner's report identified faults in the mine's safety practices and ventilation system. There was also a lack of safety lamps.

The explosion appeared to have been sparked by the mine manager’s brother, who carried a candle into a disused part of the mine, where fire damp had accumulated. The gas exploded when it came into contact with the naked flame. The accident resulted in the introduction of stricter controls for mining.

Information from NZ Today in History

Subsequent investigations of working conditions in the mine disclosed a disregard for generally accepted safeguards. To unskilled management was added reckless carelessness, and the result was tragedy. At 9 a.m. on 21 February, the small township of Kaitangata, a few miles from Balclutha, was shaken by a violent explosion, and 12 hours later the last of the bodies of the 35 victims had been located. The exhaustive inquiry into the accident uncovered a system of neglect and foolhardiness that the public found impossible to accept calmly. Defective ventilation, the use of naked lights (mainly candles) in the face of recurring evidence of firedamp in the mine, and the refusal of the manager (“confessedly unskilled”) and the deputy manager to abandon or modify their haphazard and slipshod methods of operation were shown to be the causes of the tragedy. In response to public clamour, new legislation was passed to provide stricter control of the working of coal mines, but even with this warning from Kaitangata it was to be many years before legislation produced the relatively safe conditions of today.

Information from An Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966

A lot more information at

David Owen
08 January 2006
Dandy Mine Disaster Dudley 1920

Hi Fionn
Great site,
Have you anymore information on the Dandy Pit disaster as I had an ancestor who was drowned at a pit named Jobe Dando and I was trying to find some information about him.
Best wishes

From: Charles Bird
Sent: 05 April 2008
Subject: Dandy Pit Disaster Job Dando

Ref. David Owen. Job Dando Dandy Pit Disaster Shut End Pensnett.

The accident occurred on the morning of Saturday, 21st. April 1923. Four miners lost their lives and a fifth was rescued after being trapped for 46 hours. The victims were:-

  • William Simmons, 47 married Coopers Bank Pensnett
  • Job Dando, 44 married 3 children Bromley Pensnett
  • Ernest Haden, 45 married 4 children Boat Fold (Gills Fold) Wordsley
  • Thomas Jordon, 23 single Coopers Bank Pensnett

The fifth man, my great Uncle, Enoch Cadman 54 single 11 Summer St. Kingswinford who was trapped by the water was rescued on the Monday morning the bodies were recovered later in the day.

There is a short item in the main edition of the Wolverhampton Express and Star of the 21st. Feb. 2008 relating to this incident. A copy of this newspaper is available, by post, for details ring 01902 319330

I have no connection with Job Dando or the Express and Star.

John Harris
18 November 2005
I worked at Annesley 1970 - 1988 as a face worker

Enjoyed browsing your website, but feel I must point out a mistake on the info about when Annesley was sunk, by the time it was sunk according to your site, the pit had already been in production for 25 years! It was actually sunk in 1860 & began production in 1865.
I worked at Annesley 1970 - 1988 as a face worker, hard times but miss the mates.
All the best ............ John Harris

Thanks for the information John, it is now sorted

Neil Leveritt
12 March 2006
Spent my working life in and around the coal mines in Australia

Hi Fionn

Congratulations on a superb web site. I came across it when I was researching my family history as many of my ancestors worked in the coal industry in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
I was born in Nottingham but came to Australia as a boy and spent my working life in and around the coal mines in Australia. The working conditions were not nearly as harsh as those in England and I was fortunate to become a Mine Manager when I was in my late 20s and progressed from there.

I would appreciate being able to use some of the photos from your site to link to the pits and / or working conditions of the times. Naturally I will include a link and reference to your site. I am not intending to have a "publication" as such, but have a web site and some documentation available for family members. Certainly no financial gain.

Thanks for the very good site,
Kind Regards
Neil Leveritt
Sunny Queensland, Australia.

Brian Clarke
16 March 2006
My father - miner and my hero

Dear Fionn,

The time was ca- 1928, when this country was in a state of depression with jobs difficult to get. My father was married with 2 young sons and out of work. He had worked down the mine since leaving school at 13/14. He had suffered the misfortune of being involved in accidents at the coal face, some 3 times, and was now out of work. He heard that there were jobs in mining in South Yorkshire and got one - he lived in Stoke on Trent. So he would cycle some 70 miles to Doncaster, over the Staffordshire/Derbyshire peak district at the beginning of a 4 day working week and return on his bike to his family each week. It must have taken him nearly a full day on his bike which had no gears to get there, and back!

One day, on his way home, his bike had developed severe problems such that he abandoned it. He soon reached the village of Monyash with another 35 miles, or so, to go. It must have been about afternoon time and he was wondering how and when he would get back home to his family, no buses, trains etc. being available. He saw a bike left outside a pub and decided to use it to get home. He was a decent, law-abiding citizen, who felt it was the right thing to do, under the circumstances. He hadn't gone far when he heard a shout of "Hoi bring my bike back!" Looking over his shoulder, he saw that he had taken a policeman's bike! In for a penny in for a pound, he decided to cycle faster. The police had no mobile phones and Dad got away. When he reached home my mother said that his back was red raw since he had not been able to sit on the saddle which had rubbed his back raw. (my dad was too short to reach the policeman's saddle).

He did this journey, by bike, for some 18 months!

All this reminds me of how he went to such lengths to provide for his family". I was the youngest of 5 sons. In later life he suffered some 25 years of ill health which was a result of the internal injuries caused by being crushed underground. He never complained. What a hero he was and we should never forget what this country owes to its miners.

Brian Clarke

Nicola Avenia
14 March 2006
My father - Kent Miner's Rescue Team

My father, Jim O'Brien worked at Tilmanstone colliery and was on the rescue team there. Funny enough he asked me what I could find on the internet about it and it seems he may be able to help you more than the other way round as I am really struggling to find anything about Kent!!!

He doesn't have access to the internet but if you want to speak to him I can let you have his contact details.

Kind regards

Mark Sheriston
09 April 2006
Jim Sheriston was my Granddad

I was searching for my family name and found your website.
I am one of Jim Sheriston's grandson's.
Let me know if you need any information or photos.
Kind regards
Mark Sheriston

Yes please Mark!

Pit Terminology - Glossary