Two Mining Poems by Stuart Bailey

Stuart Bailey has been kind enough to send us a couple of his poems relating to the local collieries.

WHELDALE DISASTER
 
It was there at the Wheldale Colliery, Castleford
Two seams of coal were being worked in that mine
They were the Beeston and the Silkstone Seams
As the miners started work that day all it was fine
 
It was the morning, Wednesday 22nd February 1922
243 miners descended the pit between 5.15 and 6 a.m.
The Districts they were working were numbers 1, 2 & 3
It was the Silkstone seam worked by boys and men
 
Around 10 a.m. in No 2 District was heard a shot fired
Shortly after that the sound of another shot fired, came
This followed by an explosion when firedamp ignited
Then a blast of wind mingled with coal dust and flame
 
As the miners in other areas tried to make their way out
The rescue workers came to where the explosion had been
They found a badly burnt miner trying to get to safety
Then the body of the only miner who died at the scene
 
As they moved on they attended to men who were injured
At the blast area they found eight men who had been there
They got them to the surface but all were so badly injured
This eight succumbed to their injuries despite hospital care
 
The men who died were James Bibb and Clifford Booth
Then Enoch Holmes, William Hall, John T Anson as well
There was Edward Baker, Joseph Lowe, Arthur Marsden,
James Moreton, the sad news their families they had to tell
 
Then the inquiry looked into the cause of the explosion
Was flames from the firing of the second shot they found
It was Fathers, sons, husbands, brothers who died that day
Like their fathers before them digging for coal underground
 
Stuart Bailey. 11.10.2020
IN THE DARKNESS
 
Beneath an overgrown tree in the cemetery
Half hidden there stands a solitary gravestone
It marks the place where five coal miners lay
In Castleford, are these men’s names known
 
They are Joseph Milner and his brother John
Also, William Oakey and William Tilley too
Lastly with them, there lies George Godwin
They must all be remembered by me and you
 
Was on the Silkstone seam at Wheldale Colliery
They and many others were working on that day
When suddenly on Tuesday the 8th December 1891
A fire started when a lamp fell over, they did say
 
They were working 500yds from where it started
The fire it was between those men and the pit shaft
Fellow miners called and told them of the danger
Sadly, the fire these men could find no way past
 
For some days the fire in the mine was spreading
Around the 12th there was no hope for those men
So, 1,200 miners were laid off without any wages
To put out the fire, the mine it was flooded then
 
The fire was extinguished the day after Christmas
Pumps were started to clear water from the mine
Their bodies were found but could not be recognised
Through the debris bringing them out it took time
 
It was the number stamped on each miner’s lamp
Who each man was, that was the only way to tell
Those five coal miners for eternity sleep together
Was on the coal face, there in the darkness they fell
 
Stuart Bailey. 11.10.2020

Both poems are copyright of Stuart Bailey and are reproduced by kind permission of the author

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