Buried Alive

hollybankcolliery
Holly Bank Colliery, Essington

One good thing about researching family with an uncommon name is that it can make trawling through newspapers a bit easier.  Such was the case, when I did a blanket search for EBBANS in the British Newspaper Archive.  Among the genealogical gems found (more on those in later posts), was a coal mining accident that killed a relative in 1909.

coalminingaccidentThomasEBBANScoalminingaccidentThomasEBBANS2

ESSINGTON MINER BURIED ALIVE.-An inquiry was held by Mr. T. A. Stokes (County Coroner) at Newtown, on Wednesday afternoon, concerning the death of Thomas Ebbans (31), lately residing at Walsall Road, Newtown, Essington, who was accidentally killed at Holly Bank Colliery on Monday, owing to a sudden fall of coal. – Mr. Felton, Deputy-Inspector of Mines, was present; and Mr. H. H. Jackson (Messrs. Stanley and Jackson) represented the widow. Mr. J. C. Forrest, manager of the colliery company was also present. – William Mitton, a miner, engaged at the colliery, said he was working with the deceased man when the accident occurred. He was loading, and deceased was working on the face of the coal. Deceased put a hole in the face in proparation [sic] for a shot to be fired, and then asked for a “sprag” to put into the coal. Before witness could hand over the “sprag” some tons of coal fell, and the man was buried. Witness had to jump away to save his life. An alarm was raised, and Ebbans was got out. Replying to the Coroner, witness said it was customary to undermine the coal in the way described. Everything was done in the usual way. – Questioned by the Deputy-Inspector of Mines, witness said he could not account for a pick which was found on the ground immediately after the accident. He did not see the deceased using a pick. -Edwin Thomas, night fireman, said he examined the district between five and six o’clock on Monday morning, and found everything in order. So far as his observations went the coal was then safe. -Police-constable Albert Buckham, stationed at Essington, said he examined the body after the accident, and found that the man’s right thigh and ribs were fractured, and the neck apparently dislocated. -The Coroner remarked that the deceased appeared to have taken every precaution. – “Accidental death” was the verdict returned.

Walsall AdvertiserSaturday 29 May 1909, p11

sprag
A sprag – a prop to support a mine roof.

As if the event wasn’t tragic enough, a little bit of research showed that his wife was left with at least one young child, possibly two, under 4 years of age. They had only been married 5 years.
The 1911 census had her and her young child staying with her parents.  Interesting to note that it says she had 3 children born alive – 2 still living. Had she been pregnant at the time of the accident?

Sarah EBBANS Dutton
1911 Census – Sarah EBBANS (widow of Thomas EBBANS)

I’m interested in what happened to Sarah Jane (nee DUTTON) and other wives who found themselves in similar tragic situations.  Did the coal companies look after them in any way?  Was the fact that Thomas’ widow had a solicitor usual in these cases?  Unfortunately, the fantastic ‘Coalmining History Resource Centre‘ didn’t seem to list this particular accident – although I may have searched it ‘incorrectly’ as the search function seemed a bit limited.  If you have coalmining ancestors, I recommend you give the site a look.  And if you know of any resources that might help me, please let me know.

Holly Bank brick
Holly Bank Colliery brick
sswl_map4
West Midlands Division Map 119 A & B

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