Albert, 89, recalls Wrexham mining disaster

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

THE vivid recollections of a man who is the last living link with the 1934 Gresford Mining Disaster have been featured on national radio.

Albert Rowlands was a 14-year-old boy working in the colliery’s lamp room when the night shift, including his father, went underground .

By the next day, September 22, 266 of them – including his father – had died in one of the worst mining tragedies of the 20th century.

Albert, now nearly 90, was among those commemorating the event as BBC Radio 4’s Today programme marked the Durham Miners Festival.

Recalling the disaster Albert, of Troon Close, Borras, Wrexham, said: “Us boys in the lamp room had to be there as soon as the men started arriving for work.

He said: “We were cycling to work with my dad and he told us to get on or we’d be late so we went on ahead.

“He picked up his lamp at the other window so I never saw him again.

“Two others of his friends were with us and they were lost as well. They’re all still down there.”

He added: “People have said there was a huge explosion and the ground shook but that’s not true.

“All that happened was that the telephone rang and the fireman said, ‘they’re all coming up,’ and the miners were appearing and they seemed to be panicked.

“We were getting the lamps in and handing out the tallies and then it all went quiet.”

Only six miners climbed out through the choking smoke and dust, away from the raging fires that consumed their workmates in the Dennis Shaft.

Conditions down the mine were dreadful with the rescuers battling fires and further explosions.

Albert said: “They were coming back up and just shaking their heads and then they brought the bodies up. They only found 10 and they came up covered in blankets. I saw them. But by Sunday they had given up.

“I was always hoping to see my dad. You could always tell him even when they all looked alike, covered in coal dust, because he always had a big grin and lovely white teeth. But he never came back and his tally was left there hanging on its hook.”

Albert never worked at a mine again and to this day has never been down a pit.

The likely cause of the disaster was an explosion caused by a build-up of gas, chiefly methane, which was ignited, possibly by a spark from a metal tool.

See full story in the Leader

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