Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Miners- a family memory

The deaths of the South Wales miners were poignant reminder of how dangerous the industry is. Of course although it is hard to realise now the Staffordshire Moorlands had a number of pits and many local men and women have worked in the past in the mining industry. The last working pits closed in the 60s and the only trace of the industry are in pubs name.

I was thinking of the sad fate of the miners recently on a visit to Caverswall. In the churchyard lie the bones of three distant ancestors killed in the Mossfield Mining disaster in 1889. Mossfield Colliery- long gone- was situated at Adderley Green. Charles, Thomas and Samuel Sherwin three brothers who were to pay with their lives because profit motives, a s the inquiry later revealed, outweighed safety considerations. The youngest Sam was 13 his body was recovered from under his dead pit pony. In the disaster, caused by an explosion, 64 men and boys were killed, as were 16 ponies. It is said that the family used the compensation money to start up a bakery in Werrington. Another story states that a pair of the dead brother’s clogs was attached to the grave in Caverswall. They were not the first or last Sherwin's- my mothers maiden name- to die in a pit.

My great, great, great grandfather Thomas Sherwin was killed in a gunpowder explosion in one of the pits that existed on Wetley Moor in October 1840. And the last was a relative killed nearly a hundred years later at Hanley Deep Pit.

A local newspaper reported on the community response.
"bodies were laid side by side on fresh straw to be identified and claimed by relatives. Day wore on into night but the crowd still remained and miners from other collieries were now standing by. A religious service was held near the mouth of the shaft. Mothers, fathers, wives, friends, neighbours, spectators and sightseers all stood bareheaded."

A similar scene was played out outside Gleision Colliery last week to tragically restore the poetic judgement that there is blood on the coal.