Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Cadeby Main mining disaster marked 100 years on

Memorial at Denaby Cemetery
Image caption A memorial was created to the 91 victims of the Cadeby disaster after a fundraising campaign

Descendants of 91 people killed in a mining disaster in South Yorkshire gathered this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

In the early hours of 9 July 1912, a huge explosion ripped through Cadeby Main Colliery near Doncaster, killing 35 of the 37 miners working in that section of the pit.

Hours later at the height of the rescue operation a second, more violent blast resulted in the deaths of another 53 men. Three other miners died later, bringing the total death toll to 91.

However, the scale of the tragedy would have been much worse had it not been for the fact that the explosion occurred a day after the local community had turned out for a major royal visit.

Knocked off feet

On Monday 8 July 1912, King George V and Queen Mary had visited nearby Conisbrough Castle, an event attended by hundreds of miners from Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries and their families.

Many of the miners took an unofficial day's holiday for the royal visit, which meant only 117 reported for work on the Monday night shift. The previous week, 450 miners had clocked on.

At 01:30 on Tuesday a methane and coal dust explosion occurred in the pit's South District.

A miner working at the end of the district was knocked off his feet and contacted two colleagues in another area to come and investigate.

Image caption Mining continued at Cadeby Main until its closure in 1987

After inspecting the South District and finding several bodies they contacted the surface of the mine and informed them of the explosion. The emergency procedure was put into action.

Senior mining officials joined the Cadeby and Denaby Main rescue teams and volunteers to head underground to recover the victims of the explosion.

But at 11:30 a second explosion occurred, killing every member of the rescue teams and most of the volunteers.

That evening, King George V and Queen Mary visited the pit head and vast crowds were reported to have been moved by the appearance of the royal couple.

Despite the terrible impact the events had on the local community, it was not until 2010 that two former Cadeby miners realised there was no memorial to all those who had died in the disaster.

The Cadeby Main Colliery Memorial Group was formed last year to raise funds for permanent memorials in Denaby and Conisbrough Cemeteries, where most of the victims are buried.

Bells toll

Group founder Jim Beachill said the generous response from the community had been similar to that which greeted the victims' families in 1912.

"The mining community is fantastic in its strength and solidarity," he said.

"We went to people and without question they donated funds.

"It was the same at the time of the disaster, the money came without question. Contributions came from all over the area, all over England and from outside the country as well."

On Sunday, a parade took place from the site of the former colliery, which closed in 1987, to Denaby cemetery where the memorial now stands.

Several descendants of the victims attended to lay wreaths and the memorial was be unveiled by 94-year-old Irene Newton, the oldest surviving relative.

Churches at Conisbrough and Denaby and through the Dearne Valley rang their bells 91 times at 11:00 in memory of the victims.

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