Mexborough and Swinton Times January 13, 1928
Wombwell Miner’s Sad Fate.
Killed By Fall.
How a man was buried alive and killed without a moment’s warning was related at an inquest held at the Primitive Methodist Schools, Low Valley, Wombwell, on Friday. The subject of the enquiry was the death of James Ernest Gawthrop of Darfield Main Cottages, Wombwell. Gawthrop lost his life in the manner mentioned at Houghton Main Colliery on Tuesday evening. He was working on the afternoon shift.
The inquest was conducted by Mr. C. J. Haworth with the assistance of a jury. Among those present were Mr. J. H. Hesketh and Mr. A.Guest, general manager and manager respectively of the. Houghton Main Colliery; Mr. G. Cook, H.M. Inspector of Mines; and Mr. T. W. Ilkley, representing the Houghton Main branch of the Yorkshire Mine Workers’ Association.
The widow, Mary Maud Gawthrop, first gave evidence of identification.
Joseph Barnes. 13, Barnsley Road. Darfield, was the next witness. He said he was working along with Gawthrop in ” sevens ” district of the Barnsley Bed seam of the Houghton Main Colliery, when the accident occurred shortly after 6 o’clock in the evening of January 3rd. Witness was at the coal face and about seven feet away from Gawthrop filling a tub in the ” gob.” There was a fall in the neighbourhood of where Gawthrop was working, and at the same moment the deceased uttered the cry “Oh!’
Witness went to the spot to find that he was completely buried except for his head. He was liberated as quickly as possible, but died about ten minutes afterwards
The Inspector Before this incident occurred were you drawing timber in the Gob? – No, sir
Had any timber been drawn? Yes, sir, about 4 o’clock. Nothing had been disturbed after we started working. When the fall occurred the props had been drawn two hours. All the props drawn were in the “gob.” Witness added that when the props were drawn a quantity of coal fell from the roof and Gawthrop was filling it into a tub when the fall occurred.
The Inspector: The fall came simply through the weight of the coal itself?—Yes, sir.
He did not attempt to knock any more props out? No, sir.
Were any props knocked out by the fall?
Witness: I believe there were, sir, but I could not say how many
Witness added that at the time of the fall Gawthrop was reaching forward to get some lumps ‘to “set ” his tub with. That was the first time witness had worked in that place.
George Stevens, 47, Broomhill, Wombwell, said he drew two props in the place where Gawthrop was working about 4 o’clock in the afternoon on the accident, and prior to that two props had been drawn by a man named Shreeve. The place seemed quite normal. In reply to the Inspector, witness said he used a hammer to draw the props and when props came out nothing fell.
The Inspector: Did you set any temporary timber while you do the props? – No, sir.
Where were you when you drew the props?
Between the next row props are. He added that they would be about 4four feet between the two rows of props.
If the props left in had a good hold of the coal how do you think this fall occurred?
Witness: Well, sir, I should say it was because one of the props ground out.
The Inspector: Then it could not have had a big hold.
Witness: A prop will occasionally grind out even ‘though it has a big hold if the coal is soft. ‘The place was perfectly quiet after the prop had been drawn.
The deputy, John Scott Elliott, Middlecliffe, said he inspected the place about 4.20 on the afternoon of the accident. Gawthrop was then filling a tub at the coal face. Witness examined the place and formed the impression that it was properly timbered. He went to the place after the fall and found that about three ton of “softs ” had fallen. The fall had displaced five or six props.
In reply to the Inspector, witness said he could not, account for the fall. He had not heard of a “bump “or anything of that kind. Witness suggested the possibility of Gawthrop having shaken one of the props by knocking against it.
The Inspector pointed out that there was a space of four feet between the two rows of props, and in order to knock one of the back props out a man would have to reach that distance.
“Do you not think it necessary to set ‘catch’ props?” he asked the witness. Yes, if it is necessary. I do not think that temporary timber was necessary in this instance. He could have used the Shane and John.
Mr. T. W. Illsley: In actual practice in the pit if man is not warned against taking out timber, he takes it out in the ordinary process of his work; does he not?—Yes.
Mr Hesketh: Are these men supplied with safety appliances?—Yes.
Thomas Shreeve, 5 Edward Street, Darfield, also spoke to drawing timber in the place in which Gawthrop was working. After the props had been drawn he thought the place was quite safe.
Charles Knowles, ambulance man, said Gawthrop’s spine, pelvis and both legs were fractured.
The Coroner found that Gawthrop was “Accidentally killed by a fall of softs.”
Expressing sympathy with the relatives, Mr. Illsley said Gawthrop was a thoroughly, practical and experience man. In addition to working at the coal face he had also been a drifter and a sinker. The circumstances were altogether bad, for he had left a wife and eight small children.
Mr Hesketh said he wished to express sympathy with the widow and family on behalf of the management.
While the inquest was in progress news was received that another man had been killed at the colliery.