THE TRIMDON GRANGE EXPLOSION
Extract from the SERMON preached by the Rev. Oates Sagar, M.A.
Deaf HiII-Cum- Langdale
Turn we now to that event which has produced among ourselves those tokens of sorrow so vividly described in my text. On a sunny day, in a remarkably summer-like February, when the birds (early returned) were singing cheerily in the sky, that happened, which, to many among us, turned the light of the sun into darkness, and caused sounds of lamentation and bitter weeping to rise up to heaven. At half-past two o’clock, on the afternoon of Thursday, the 16th of that month, an ominous sound was heard at Trimdon Grange, and even for some distance round, which has been described as like the sound of a boiler explosion. Anxious eyes were turned toward the mouth of the pit, and smoke and ashes were seen rising from the Harvey shaft, and then dismay and apprehension filled the minds of all. Too soon it was known that an explosion of gas had taken place, and it was felt that many lives must have been sacrificed. The sad intelligence spread rapidly through the neighbourhood and multitudes flocked to the spot.
Help came speedily from all directions. Mining engineers and their officials; miners in great numbers, with their agents, came to tender their services; and the surgeons of the locality were there, ready to discharge their necessary duties. Men were found willing to descend through the choking stithe into the mine, and the greatest exertions were made to discover the extent of the disaster, but it was some time ere this could be done. Meanwhile, it was found that the area of the explosion was not confined to the Trimdon Grange Pit, but that the deadly gas had forced its way through a connecting passage to the Kelloe Pit, which is worked by the same owner; and the miners there were compelled to flee for their lives. Six men, however, perished there: some of them gallantly led by the manager, H. C. Schier, M.E., died in an attempt to open the communication between the mines.
It was some time before it was known how many lives had been lost at Trimdon Grange. The living were brought to the surface in a few hours, the less exhausted of their number bravely waiting at the shaft till the others had been brought to bank. Nine of them had been saved through the presence of mind of a veteran miner, the back overman, J. Soulsby Senr.
who had kept them out of danger. The last of the saved was brought up shortly after nine o’clock, and it was felt that those who were still in the pit could not possibly have survived what was found to have been a most destructive explosion. Out of 93 men and boys who had gone down into the Harvey Seam that morning, only 26 were saved.
No exertions were spared by night or by day, and no expense was begrudged, in opening out the pit. Many volunteers ran great risk in performing this task, and in recovering the dead. Early on Monday morning the last body was carried home. It is supposed that all must have died in a very few minutes (some say five), and thus sufferings could not have been prolonged.
One man, J. Errington, was found with a boy on each arm, and another laid over him. He had evidently been trying to save them, and had lost his life in the attempt. One of the 26 saved, the fireman, P. Brown, was so dreadfully burnt that he died on the following Tuesday, after great sufferings. He was ministered to by members of the Primitive Methodist body. The engineman, H. Ramshaw, and his assistant, a boy, W. Taylor, were among the saved, but the former had been blown by the force of the explosion some distance from his engine. On recovering his senses somewhat, and learning what had happened, he exclaimed, ‘Whatever shall we do?’ The boy’s reply was, ‘I think thou had best pray.’ Such was the first thought that arose in the mind of this boy, and such, we may well believe, must have been the first thought of many who perished, if they had time to think at all. Many of them were only boys; out of 68 who perished at Trimdon Grange, 31 were under 2 I years of age.
Many of them, it is consoling to know, were Sunday scolars; whilst of the older ones, some were Sunday-school teachers and members of Churches.
I myself have personally known many of them for years, as well as their friends, and they were very dear to me. I have had some of them in my own Sunday school, some I have prepared for confirmation, and other clergymen others; while not a few of them have worshipped with us in various ordinances of the Church, both here and at Old Trimdon. And now, within the short space of one week, they have disappeared from our view, and their places shall know them no more! ‘My heart is distressed for you, my brothers!’ And what shall I say by the Word of the Lord to those who mourn the untimely removal of their beloved ones, whose voices were lifted up in lamentation and bitter weeping on that day of fear and trembling, and on the days of suspense which followed: There were some, indeed, whose grief was too deep for tears, and whose dumb sorrow reminded one of the poet’s line:
She must weep, or she will die.