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Maypole Disaster 1908 - Page 1

Researched by Ian Winstanley - Those Who Died

Mrs Mary Harrington, Cashel, Charlestown receiving Stories From The Files - Reprinted here, first report of the disaster appeared in the "Examiner"
AUGUST 18, 1908 . . . Almost fifty years ago, and the date of one of the most terrible disasters in the history of Lancashire's coalfields. It was on that date, shortly after five o'clock, that a tremendous explosion shook the Maypole Colliery, Abram. Rescue work began immediately, and many heroic reports were made to bring out the men down the mine, but gradually hope faded, and finally the bitter truth was known.

Only three miners survived the explosion - seventy five died. "A colliery calamity, the like of which has not happened in the Lancashire area for a long number of years, and which has startled the whole of the mining world, occurred on Tuesday at the Maypole Colliery, Abram, and the death role it is feared, will prove a lamentably long one. The colliery was formerly owned by the Moss Hall Coal Company, but about eighteen months ago it was taken over by the Pearson and Knowles Coal and Iron Company Ltd. It is situated several hundred yards to the left of Warrington Road, Abram and is about midway between Wigan and Leigh.

"It was at the No. 1 Maypole Pit which is a cannel mine that an explosion of a terrible character happened, the effects being proved, most disastrous. At the time of the occurrence, the men had just changed shifts and this is regarded as a fortunate circumstance, for it is stated that during the day the number of men working in the mine is greater than in the night shift. At any rate, there were between 60 and 70 workmen down the shaft and of this number, at the time of writing, only three had been rescued.

"Shortly after 5 o'clock everything was proceeding as usual at the colliery when, with startling suddenness, the terrific report of an explosion at the pit shaft was heard and dense smoke and dust were seen issuing from the shaft and rising to a height of 200 or 300 ft. above, the headgear. Debris was scattered in all directions and a man who was working close by had a narrow escape of being struck.

For a considerable time after the explosion, clouds of smoke rose over the shaft and in the immediate vicinity of the engine house and it was not until this had been cleared somewhat that an idea could be obtained as to what had occurred. It was then discovered that, the headgear was damaged; the roof of the fan drift completely blown off; steam pipes broken and the ventilation from the fan house was stopped. A cage was ascending the shaft with tubs of coal and this was dashed to the bottom in consequence of the winding rope breaking. This would probably result also in some damage to the shaft itself which is over 500 yards deep.

"The report of the explosion naturally caused great consternation for miles around, and a shock was distinctly felt a couple of miles way. In a very short time, the streets leading to the colliery were alive with people hurrying to the scene of the explosion, and amongst them were the relatives of the men working down the mine. Alarming rumors which, unfortunately, were later proved to be correct, immediately gained currency and anxious relatives instinctively paid a visit to the lamp office in order to ascertain whether those they were seeking were engaged in the mine. Pathetic scenes were witnessed when some of the women learned that their, husbands and sons were down the ill fated shaft and in peril of their lives.

"The seriousness of the explosion was at once apparent and means of affecting the rescue of the entombed men were actively sought. Colliery managers and officials from all parts of the Lancashire area were early on arrival and placed their services at the disposal of the management in order to render all the aid possible."Doctors, too, rushed to the scene in motor cars and other conveyances and several nurses were also sent for. Many clergy men also waited on the colliery premises in case their services were required."

Pit Terminology - Glossary