|Men waiting to enter the cage in the Ely Pit, Naval Colliery, Penygraig|
The cage is of double deck construction designed to get more men to the work face as quickly as possible thus increasing efficiency, always a priority for general manager Leonard Llewellyn. There are around one hundred men waiting to go down and among them are Philip Pascoe and Frank Wrentmore. Philip Pascoe and his brother George are both avid supporters of Penygraig RFC and have served the club faithfully in many a capacity. Philip has been trained in first aid and George has regularly assisted in auditing the club's accounts. Frank is a former Penygraig RFC player but switched codes when Mid-Rhondda formed a professional side. The previous year he played against the Australian tourists on the Mid Rhondda Athletic Field scoring the first try conceded by the tourists in their opening match. Philip Pascoe was probably disappointed with Frank's decision but would have understood the temptation to bring more wages into the family home. When the empty cage reaches the surface the men rush to clamber inside. Philip secures a place in the bottom deck while Frank gets into the top deck. Suddenly Frank remembers an errand he should have undertaken for his mother and jumps out of the cage. His place is taken by Tom Morris who is also a local rugby footballer. He joins Gideon Chapman, Thomas Henry Brown, Alfred Watkins, Morgan Evans, T. J. Morgan, Henry Marshall and Reginald Jenkins, a young lad beginning his life as a miner. It will be the last ride any of these souls will take down into the darkness. As James Vaughn waits at the pit bottom he realises something is terribly wrong. The shaft is 525 feet deep and the cage is descending too quickly.
|The Ely Pit Head showing broken sheaves.|
surroundings at the bottom of the pit and sets about attempting to rescue the trapped men from their predicament. Fragments of sheaves falling down the shaft present a real hazard, but the cries of the injured men spur him on. He enlists the help of David Lewis and Stephen Davies, two colliers who were waiting to “secure their eyesight” near the base of the shaft. Shortly afterwards two more men come quickly to their aid. Edwin Hodge and Thomas Rowlands have been down the pit about ten minutes, “taking a spell” while their eyes also adjust to the lack of light. They hear a terrible crash followed shortly afterwards by another and immediately make their way to the pit bottom. Dense clouds of dust obscure their vision. By the light of the lanterns procured by the resourceful James Vaughn the men begin to clear away the planks and debris knocked down by the cage. They are forced to retreat as dislodged brickwork clatters down the shaft around them but return to their task whenever it is safe to do so.
With great difficulty, Vaughn hands down some lamps through a small aperture to the men entombed inside the lower deck. Philip Pascoe gratefully accepts the lanterns and begins to assess the situation. The youngest, Thomas Fry, is comparatively unscathed. Another youngster, Noah Matthews has a broken leg. The maimed groan and cry out in their pain and distress. Dan Davies is at least able to check his brother’s condition. It is not good news. A bone projects out from David Davies’ leg above the knee. Another man complains his ribs are damaged. There are no dead on the lower deck, but many are seriously injured. Phillip Pascoe sets about applying his skills to help relieve whatever suffering he can while Daniel Davies, who also has a knowledge of first aid, assists in the bandaging of his brother’s leg.
|Victim Thomas Brown from Penygraig.|
|George and Philip Pascoe.|
Philip is seated.
Pit from all over the valley. They watch in reverent silence as the bodies of the dead and injured are brought to the surface. The dead are carried to their homes on stretchers by their comrades as their widows follow helplessly behind. The injured are attended to by ambulance men and the four doctors who had descended the pit with the rescue party. Some of the injuries are considerable and at least one of the men, Harry Marshall who has sustained a fracture at the base of the skull, is not expected to live. Dr Llewellyn explains that four men have been sent to the hospital suffering from compound fractures while amputations would be necessary in three cases. These are performed at Porth Cottage Hospital by Drs. Llewellyn and J. Naughton Morgan. Thomas John Morgan has his arm amputated while Morris’ leg is taken off at the knee and another man also has his leg amputated. William Thomas suffered compound fractures of both legs and an operation is performed to wire the bones. He later succumbs to his injuries. The remaining occupants of the cage have suffered injury either in the form of bruises or shock. Seven or eight cases are more serious.
|General Manager Leonard Llewellyn in attendance|
as Mrs D.A. Thomas cuts the first sod of the Anthony
(Pandy) Pit. The rescuers work their way through the
Pandy Pit levels to reach the men trapped in the Ely Pit.
" In answer to Point One: “Did the deceased persons lose their lives in consequence of the breaking of the spanner forming part of the winding engine?” YES
The point at issue was whether on their answers to those questions judgment should be entered for the plaintiff or the defendants. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Watkins sued, on behalf of herself and three children, for damages, owing to the death of her husband, due, she alleged, to a breach of statutory duty under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1687- 1896. The deceased met his death whilst being lowered into the pit at the Ely Colliery on August 27 last, it was alleged that there was negligence on the part of the defendants. The cage would carry twenty men. Later it raised and lowered safely 36 men, and on the day of the accident there were 28 men in the cage. The defendants denied that they were guilty of any breach of duty or negligence.
2. The employment of an inadequate brake was due to the negligence of the manager, and not the mechanical engineer or the defendants.
3. The spanner bar was fit and adequate for its purpose when first fitted but not on the on the 27th August when the accident occurred.
4. The unfitness and inadequacy of the spanner bar was due to an error of judgment on the part of Mr Dolman, the mechanical engineer.
5. The necessary means were not taken to repair the defect in the spanner bar due to the error of judgment on the part of Mr Dolman.
6. Failure to take the necessary means was due to the error of judgment on the part of Dolman.
7. The winding engine on August 27th was in a fit condition to lower 20 but not 26 men.
8. The unfitness was due to the spanner bar and brake together.
9. Such unfitness was due to the negligence of the manager in ordering 26 men down and an error of judgment on the part of Mr Dolman.
10. It was due to the negligence of the manager Mr Hollister to lower 26 instead of 20 men.
11. The I inadequacy of the brake and the spanner bar combined caused the accident.
12. The manager and the mechanical engineer were both adjudged to be competent men.
13. The defendants took all reasonable care to appoint a competent manager and a competent mechanical engineer.