Remembering Coalbrook

To be continued…….

The Coalbrook mining disaster happened on 21 January 1960 at the Coalbrook coal mine of Clydesdale Colliery over a year before I was born. However, I remember my parents talking about it, but further than I never heard of any official commemoration or coverage and it was usually mentioned when yet another disaster occurred in the mining industry in South Africa. Unfortunately it has also been relegated to memory, and the purpose of this blogpost is to help keep the memory alive of those who did not return, and who are still entombed underground, in the place where they met their death.

From what I can read it is also classed as the worst mining disaster in the history of South Africa and the seventh worst mining disaster in the world (as at May 2014) (https://www.mining-technology.com/).  437 men lost their lives in the disaster, most of these being African mine workers. A number of rescue attempts were made but the operation was called off after 11 days with no bodies being recovered and with no hope of finding survivors.

In December of 1959 a collapse occurred at the mine that was really a precursor of what was to come. Management did not take sufficient heed of this warning and the miners reluctantly returned to work. However on the 21st of January the mine suffered from a “….cascading pillar failure where a few pillars fail initially and this increases the load on the adjacent pillars causing them to fail. This cascading failure caused pillar collapse over an area covering 324 hectares.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalbrook_mining_disaster) In essence the cutting down of support pillar sizes had brought down the roof! 

The human tragedy outweighs the economic one. Each miner probably supported a family or was connected to a family. They had wives and children, parents and grandparents, each was affected by the loss of those men who laboured in dangerous conditions to produce the coal that fired the power stations that supplied the country with electricity. 

Unfortunately the men who died were quickly forgotten, although in their communities they would  be mourned and remembered. In 1996 following the closure of Coalbrook South the new owner of the village and workshops erected a memorial using a coal cutter from the mine as a backdrop to an inscription on a stone plaque which reads:

IN MEMORY OF THOSE 435
MINERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
IN THE COALBROOK-MINE DISASTER
ON 21-01-1960
“AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS YOU ARE
STILL IN OUR HEARTS AND THOUGHTS”

The new and much larger memorial consists of an amphitheatre situated at the site of the south shaft. The  names of the 437 men entombed in the mine are engraved on stone plinth placed around the inside perimeter and two granite tablets at the entrance commemorate the disaster. 

Sadly the memorial at Holly Country near Sasolburg has been mired in controversy, issues raised include misspellings of names, poor workmanship, incorrect information and a blatantly plagiarised inscription.  It appears that even 60 years after the fact Coalbrook is still mired in controversy.  

The images used in this post were kindly supplied by Piet Lombard and are used with permission.

I have had to rely on a number of sources in this short commemoration. The primary source being 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalbrook_mining_disaster

http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/1960-coalbrook-disaster

http://schuitemaberend.blogspot.com/2011/04/coalbrook-mine-disaster-1960.html

There are a number of images of the memorials and area at: 

Coalbrook Mynramp

 

DRW © 2020. Created 21/01/2020 

Updated: 21/01/2020 — 18:43

Brrrrrrr

January has been a pretty uneventful month so far (touch wood), and apart from the wet and overcast skies there has been nothing to photograph. However, we are now heading downhill towards Spring and while anything can happen between then and now I am hoping that the rain decides to stay away for awhile or at least until the river levels have fallen. Down the road from me the all important harbinger of Spring is emerging from the ground. The Snowdrops are waking up, reminding us that the seasons change and that nature is keeping an eye open on us.

Unfortunately there do not seem to be too many snowdrop patches close to me, and the small patch that I watch out for is in a garden close by. I do know of a larger patch on the other side of town and when I head in that direction again I shall take my camera with.

Today is really the sort of day that I like. I am not a Summer person, I prefer the starkness and cold of Winter and when I go outside and see the frost I just feel so much better. There is something satisfying about the crunch of frost laden grass underfoot. 

Make no mistake though; I do not enjoy the frozen fingers and nose, especially when I am taking photographs. Here are some pics from this morning. The standing water is a result of yet another rise in river levels.

The little footbridge in the image below has spent a lot of this past season under water, and at the moment it is just re-emerging. Unfortunately that area is a morass of mud and turgid water so I won’t even consider venturing out there.

And the football field is really only fit for submarine races, water polo or kayaking.

(1500 x 617)

Winter is on the way out, but it is not too late for snow.  In March of 2018 we were snowed under, and while I love the snow I am always wary of the effects that it can have on simple things.  I will however just enjoy the weekend’s weather as it lifts my spirits slightly because I really need them lifted.

DRW © 2020. Created 18/01/2020

Updated: 18/01/2020 — 11:52

Looking back on 2019

In memory of Olive Walker, Tony McGregor, Rudi Van Dijk, Pam Price and Graham Armstrong.

2019 is having its last gasp and frankly I think I am glad it is almost done and dusted. It has been quite an eventful year and not all of it was good. 

In my life the most significant event happened when my mother passed away on 1 October.  I returned to South Africa in February to see her for what I knew would be the last time, and in October I returned to attend her memorial service.

It is hard to know how I feel about her death, there are just so many memories, regrets and guilt that it is easier to not deal with it. 

South Africa on the other hand had changed for the worst. Eskom continues to ruin the economy and at one point imposed rolling load shedding right up to stage 6. The concept of maintenance was forgotten once again and they are counting the costs of listening to bean counters, corrupt suits, cadres and consultants. The exchange rate on 23/12 is £1 = RZA18.54. 

On the political scene the UK held a General Election in November and Boris Johnson is the new PM and hopefully will make sure Brexit happens. It is however hard to know where politics will go in the UK, over here an election can put a different party in power whereas in SA an election just changes percentages. 2020 will be crunch time for this country, although we thought that October 2019 would be crunch time too. 

The weather did wreak havoc in the country with widespread rain and floods, Tewkesbury having 3 flood scares in 2 months. At this moment both the Severn and Avon are running high and there is a lot of water about.

(1500 x 655)

I did quite a few day trips of note this year, with Oxford being visited 3 times as well as visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Great Malvern. Evesham is still a favoured destination and of course I passed through London on my way to South Africa. 

Oxford was an experience though and I may head back there in the new year to see a few places that I missed.

(1500 x 529)

I also want to visit Didcot Railway Centre next year and am going to have to return to London to renew my passport in February or March. 

Celebrity, politician and other noteworthy deaths for 2019 include: Jan-Michael Vincent, Albert Finney, Peter Mayhew, René Auberjonois, James Ingram, Ken Kerchevel, Niki Lauda, Grumpy Cat, Doris Day, Rutger Hauer, Peter Fonda, Robert Mugabe, Jacques Chirac, Chester Williams, James Small, Clive James, Denis Earp,  and Marie Fredriksson. A more complete list is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2019

It was a bad day for aircraft builder Boeing too as the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302  on 10/03/2019 caused the safety of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft to be brought to the spotlight and as at the end of the year it was still grounded. Too many people lost their lives because of this aircraft and confidence in flying took quite a bump. Confidence in America has nose dived too and we all know why that is.

The closure of Reefsteamers is a major shock though, and it came hot on the heels of the 100th birthday of Susan, the only 12AR in the world.

Greta Thunberg has also had her fair share of publicity, and it is difficult to know whether there is an ulterior motive behind her or not.  She certainly has admirers and detractors in her camp but even if she turns out to be a hoax hopefully enough people will realise that our climate is changing and not for the better. A number of animals have gone extinct and we all know who to blame for that.

We certainly live in interesting times, and our Western lifestyles are probably going to bring about our own downfall. At the rate things are going we are heading for a global catastrophe, and the end result of that will not be a good one. Hopefully saner minds will prevail, but somehow I doubt it. 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a peaceful and prosperous 2020, we are now back in the 20’s and that hasn’t happened in ages. 

DRW. 2019-2020. Created 29/12/2019.

Updated: 30/12/2019 — 19:23
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