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Coal News from Cape Breton
[early Years]
of Newfoundlanders Killed

 

Coal History
Would like to quote some coal mining history for those who are as interested as I, from the CD and paper put out last year of the Cape Breton Post (Ann MacDonald Batten)

"Century in Review"

1911

The Worst Disaster that ever occurred in a mine in Northern Cape Breton
Fatal Explosion carrying death to miners and destruction to property

Cause at present unknown - six dead - the bodies recovered
two are missing, one of them the assistant inspector of mines
Sydney Mines, Jan. 3

Six of the victims of this mornings disaster of the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Co.'s No. 3 colliery at Florence were recovered late this afternoon and brought to the surface, where they were identified by many of those employed in the same colliery.

The Dead
Those whose bodies were recovered were:
Eugene Reid, 17, single, of Heart's Content Nfld.
Israel Parsons, 20, single, of Sandy Point, Bay St. George, Nfld.
Arthur Amey, 20, single, of North Sydney.
James Messervey, 42, married of Sandy Point, Bay St. George Nfld., where he leaves a wife and six children.
Brian Murphy of Collier's, Haley's Pond, Conception Bay, Nfld.
John Wade [Mahoney], of Collier's, Haley's Point, Conception Bay, Nfld.

The Missing
Archie F. Ferguson, 45, married, wife and six children at Sydney Mines.
Harry Purchase, 28, married, wife and three children at Florence.

Taken to the Morgue
After the bodies of the six men had been brought to the surface they were taken to Francis' Morgue at Sydney Mines, where they were laid side by side just as they were when taken out of the pit. Hundreds of people visited the place to look upon the dead. The exposed parts of the men's bodies [the faces and hands] were blackened and the skin charred and with the exception of a few contusions on the heads of one or two, were not mutilated. The remains will remain in the morgue until tomorrow when a jury will be empaneled by Coroner Francis, the bodies viewed and a date set for the holding of the inquest on the men collectively. Arrangements have not yet been made for the funerals. But it is probable that the bodies of those who came from Newfoundland will be sent there for interment.

Cause Unknown
The disaster which cut off the lives of the men named is the worst that has ever occured in Northern Cape Breton and the definite cause will probably never be known, there are many conjectures, of course, but the only chance of determining the cause of the explosion lies in the finding of Ferguson and Purchase and this chance is a remote one.

Great Violence of Explosion
The force of the explosion was not felt outside of the mine, except at the bankhead, where there is said to have been a slight tremor. At the lower levels, however, there is ample evidence of it's awful violence. One of the results of the explosion was the hurling of a large double engine thirty feet across the mine. Steel bars two inches thick were twisted as if they were wire, while the haulage road was torn and thrown up in a heap extending to the roof, while the coal tubs were hurled many feet and broken to kindling wood.

Where it Occurred
The explosion occurred at the thirteenth landing, while the bodies of the six men were found close together at the fourteenth or lowest level of the mine, which is about a mile and a half from the mouth of the slope.

A Sad Scene
The scene about the colliery all day where large numbers of men had gathered, was one of gloom. That any of the men would come out alive was not generally expected, although a lingering hope that such would be the case remained in the minds of most of those about. At an early hour relief parties went into the pit to look for those who had been on duty, but the stoppage of the air currents due to the explosion was an obstacle that proved a difficult one to overcome and several of the rescuers even some of those equippped with the Draeger helmets and apparatus were overcome by the gas which still filled the pit.

A Hundred Volunteers
Relays of volunteer relief workers, however, were sent down at intervals and by noon there were over a hundred men in the colliery searching for the entombed men.

 

 

Page Contributed by Ann (MacDonald) Batten

Page Revised by Ivy F. Benoit (May 21, 2003)

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