Survivor of Gresford disaster recalls tragic memories

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

ONE of the few surviving men to witness the full impact of the Gresford Colliery Disaster still retains vivid memories of the tragedy.

Robert Edwards, 98, has written memoirs on the disaster on September 22, 1934, that claimed more than 200 lives and he has presented his own theories as to why it occurred.

Although Mr Edwards, of Cefn Road, Rhosnesni, was not working down the pit at the time of the tragedy, he was employed at the colliery and rushed to the scene to help in the immediate aftermath.

The impact of the disaster was particularly felt by Mr Edwards as he had come to know all the men who died as he worked at Gresford as an electrical fitter.

“I knew everybody,” he said. “I had a lot of friends there.

“We were like brothers. Everybody in the pit was.

“I still think about the people who died.

“The men who used to work down there would say 'it's hot, unbearable, but what can we do? It's our job’.”

Mr Edwards was in Brymbo when he heard people shouting about the disaster early on the Saturday morning.

“There were people shouting ‘Gresford’s blowing up’”, he said, recalling how he rushed to the scene.

“When I got there the yard was absolutely full of people.”

Although Mr Edwards used a horse and wagon to help take sand to assist with the rescue mission, he was advised to get away from the scene amid fears there could be a further explosion.

He retains vivid memories of the disaster, having made it a focal point of his written memoirs that have now been donated to Wrexham Museum and Bersham Heritage Centre.

Due to Mr Edwards being unable to travel due to his advancing years, his daughter, Lynn, attended an event in Cardiff last week after being invited by the Miners Union with her father’s memories included in a new publication about collieries.

Mr Edwards, an electricity expert, claims the disaster was caused by a hole being filled with gas, leading to the explosion.

He also believes the primary reason so many people were down the pit at the time of the disaster in the early hours of the morning was because a lot of employees had requested to work through the Friday night to allow them to go and watch Wrexham FC play rivals Tranmere Rovers the following afternoon.

“It is awful to think so many of them died because they wanted to see a football match on the Saturday," he said.

As a young man prior to the disaster, Mr Edwards was given a concerning insight into the dangers of working down a mine when he was blinded in one eye in an accident.

“I never received a penny for that, it was like that back then,” he said.

Mr Edwards said he finished working in the mines in the 1960s and moved to Shotton Steelworks, having witnessed further concerning incidents that made him happy to not be working in a pit. I never want to go down another mine ever again.”

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