History and Heritage

Mining Disasters Remembered

With so many mines of both pit and drift kind around Ystradgynlais and Ystalyfera, there were frequent accidents, injuries and occasional loss of life. The Llais newspaper provides a valuable source of information for these, sometimes regular, reports. We have attempted to compile something of a list of such incidents during the first half of the 20th century, both in honour of the hard-working men who risked their lives, and to give an indication of everyday life in a mining and mining community.

Ystradgynlais July 1904

From The Camnbrian newspaper, 8th July 1904 comes this report of an explosion at a mine near Ystradgynlais Railway Station :-


An explosion of a somewhat alarming character, though fortunately unattended by any loss of life or injury likely to have a fatal termination, occurred at the Ystradfawr Colliery, near Ystradgynlais Railway Station, on Thursday afternoon. The colliery is worked from a drift and a shaft: a vein reached from the latter at a depth of about 60 yards has been worked out and for some lime sinking operations have been going on with a view to reaching what is known as the "Big Vein," some 30 feet below. There was much rejoicing in the village when, two days ago, the big vein was struck, Seven sinkers were engaged on Thursday; one of them was employed in making a hole for a post, when, without any warning, the explosion took place. From inquiries afterwards made, it seems there must have been an accumulation of gas in a crevice near the big vein, which the operation of digging for the post tapped. Safety lamps arc always used in the pit, but it is said that these were not considered necessary during the sinking operations, as the coal was not actually being worked. All the men were immediately brought to the surface and placed in the engine-room, while Dr. Welsh, the medical man attached to the colliery, was sent for in hot haste. He soon arrived, and did what he could to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate sinkers.

The worst case was that of James J. Davies, who lives near the Tinman's Arms, at Ystalyfera. He had been severely scorched about the thighs, arms, and face. He lay in great agony, though the injuries, even in his case, were not dangerous. The other men; all of whom had been much burned about the face and hands, were Herbert Levi (one of the contractors), Crown Inn, Cwmtwrch; Evan Jones, Ystalyfera; David Jenkins, Clydach; Philip Jenkins, Pontardawe; David J Davies Crown Row, Cwmtwrch; and Richard Griffiths. Singularly, not one of the injured men belonged to Ystradgynlais. They had to be conveyed two, three, six, and, in the Clydach case, nearly nine miles, in a close van before reaching their homes, the hot rays of the burning son accentuating their torture.

Visited by a representative of the "Daily Post," Dr. Welsh stated the injuries of the men could not be regarded as at all dangerous. There was excoriation of the outer cuticle only. The effect, he explained, was just similar to that of scalding, the torture experienced being probably much greater than that of a really serious wound. He saw no reason why even James J. Davies, the most serious case, should not be cured in a week or so. The affair caused a good deal of excitement in the village and little knots of women and girls waited here and there to catch a glimpse of the bandaged features of the sufferers as they passed by on their way to Cwmtwrch. Between seven and eight o clock in the evening, James J. Davies, the Ystalyfera man, was still suffering acute torture as he lay in bed at his residence so much so that he could not give any account of the circumstances attending the accident.

"I was digging a hole for a post he said, and I had a lamp."
A good deal of sympathy is being felt and expressed for the victims for which, it seems, no one was to blame, as it could not possibly have been foreseen.



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The History and Heritage of Ystalyfera is put online by Swansea Valley researcher Val Trevallion and Wolfian Design. All copyright remains with the original copyright holder, and all original research is copyright Val Trevallion, YEARGroup.

You can contact Ystalyfera History by emailing: webdesign@wolfianpress.com or Val Trevallion by emailing yeargroup@hotmail.co.uk.

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