100 YEARS AGO: THREE DEAD IN AGECROFT COLLIERY DISASTER
Today's story from March 1920 tells of a tragic accident at Agecroft Colliery, Salford which killed three local men, injured several more and left families devastated.
On the morning of Thursday, March 11th 1920 word had spread amongst the tightly knitted community adjoining the colliery that there had been an accident down the pit, the rumours said that 20 men had been killed, this quickly rose to 30 men and IO think it is worth quoting the newspaper report of this,
"The women in their frenzy hurried from their homes along the country lanes to the pithead and there in the warm,spring sun they awaited what they expected would be the dreaded news.
"Frightened children clung to their dry eyed, mothers skirts and all was despair.
"But the absence of the concussion of an explosion which would have been felt all over Pendleton effectively dispelled the the rumour that an explosion had taken place, it was then thought that the cage had got out of control and had gone hurtling down the 760 yard deep shaft, but this was dispelled as for the cages were seen to be working.
"Still an accident had taken place the motor ambulances and doctors arriving at the pithead showed this then the welcome news was broken to the crowd, only one man had been killed and four others were seriously injured"
Sadly this initial report was to prove incorrect as two of the seriously injured men would die that day from their injuries bringing the total too, three men killed.
It would appear that this was the first shift of the day and the men had descended the shaft in the cage and had walked along an incline were they would get on tubs on a rail track to take them to the coalface, but as they were halfway down the incline a safety chain had snapped sending the tubs crashing along and sending one of them off the tracks.
Israel Marsden 27, from Pendlebury died instantly, four others were seriously injured, Charles Morris, William Tattersall, Samuel Rowley and George Berry.
Berry's wife told the reporter that was the fourth time he had been injured at the pit in four and a half years, twice in roof collapses, and once when a knee injury caused him to be hospitalised for eight weeks and that he had only returned to work the previous Wednesday.
I just hope that George came to his senses and walked away from his job at the colliery before it was too late for him.
An inquest was held at Salford Town Hall by the County Coroner, Mr G.S. Leresche and the Salford Coroner, Mr A. Holmes to determine what had happened.
Thomas Worsley described as being a "gang rider" at the colliery told the court the following.
"About 6.30am on Thursday I was in charge of a journey of tubs in which a number of men were seated, Tattersall and Rowley were among them.
"We had travelled about 350 yards down the incline when somebody shouted that the first tub had gone off the line. so I jumped off and signalled the engine man to stop, I found that 16 tubs had bumped together so I shouted for the men to get oiut of the tubs, when suddenly they they began to move again and ran down the brow.
"I followed for about 80 yards and saw Rowley lying there injured and then I found Marsden near a manhole with his head severely crushed and two tubs lying across his legs"
He then explained that the tubs were fastened to a rope and then a safety chain was attached was hooked to the first tub, threaded through the axles of the other tubs and fastened to the last tub.
He put forward the idea that the bumping of the trucks had probably caused the safety chain to come loose causing the tubs to bash into each other as they raced down the incline.
Dr Sparrow, House Surgeon at Salford Royal Hospital gave details of each man's injuries which it has to be said were quite gruesome.
The Coroner then recorded a verdict of, "Accidental Death" and to him it would appear it was a pure accident, with no one to blame.
What a sad story, three lives snuffed out for nothing and as for health and safety I think you can guarantee that there was very little of that in those days and human life was cheap as these three unfortunate men found out.
Agecroft Colliery finally closed in 1991 bringing an end to over 150 years of coal mining in the Salford area.