Saturday, 16 October 2010

Miners lives

Those Chilean miners captured the hearts of the world didnt they, and the efforts to bring them to the surface were extraordinary to watch.
Men working as a team above ground, to save those who had worked as a team beneath ground.
Remarkable to watch and what an incredible event to have been a part of, well,
above ground that is!

Sadly since then there have been further reports of miners killed or trapped around the world .......China and Equador to name but two.

I was spell bound from the beginning of the Chilean disaster, partly I think because my male relatives from my grandfathers generation, (he was born in 1900), had been miners too.
I grew up with the picture above, though it was never properly framed until I took possession of it.

When my Dad was a child, it had hung on the wall of his grandmothers house in Ferneybeds in Widdrington, up in the north east of England.
It was one of many mining houses and Grandad told me, that dam near every house would have had a copy of this lithograph, either on their wall or in a draw.
It is a lithograph, printed in 1862, on wallpaper of the time , so the back side is a faded, simple flowery pattern.
It had been passed down the family line to my Dad, and I have loved it since I was a child, and now it graces my wall, as it once did my Great Grandmothers.

It was printed to raise money for the families, of all the miners who died in the Hartley Pit disaster of January 16th 1862.
The huge great beam that sat above the shaft and was responsible for the raising and lowering of the cage, sheared right across, as the lithograph shows and half of it dropped into the shaft itself.

As far as I know, I had no relatives in this disaster, but it shook all the north eastern mining communities, the loss of life at that time was so great.
As a result, new laws were brought in after it, to ensure adequate ventilation and an alternative escape shaft were in all mines thereafter.
Mining always has always been a risky business and in those days, deaths were common. But so many deaths at Hartley, brought rebuke and intervention, so mine owners had to rethink some of the safety issues that had for too long been neglected. 

What was sad at Hartley, was that whole families of menfolk and boys died together. Families lost their father, several sons, the youngest was only 11 in one case, brothers, uncles and nephews.
If you read the names on the monument, you cant help but feel for the women who sat above ground for the 24 days, waiting for the bodies of their menfolk and boys to be brought to the surface.
The Illustrated London Times has the journalists reports from the time, having researched it because I have this lithograph, I wept at some things he said at the time.
(www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/1862a.htm in case your interested)

190 men and boys died of carbon monoxide poisoning
1 stranger in the mine at the time died of it too
the pit ponies were also poisoned
and 5 men who had been in the cage at the time the beam sheared, also died.
So I felt I had to watch too and hope, that the 33 miners would be brought to the surface, not expecting I suppsoe that they would be alive and well.
Though I think they will have a great deal to cope with, having had the world watching them, now they are above ground.
I suspect they will have a different kind of hell to go through as the months pass.

On a lighter note, Ive completed another tree.......
but Google is faffing about and wont let me upload it!
Will try again tomorrow lol

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