Protestsong du jour: Gresford Disaster

Op 22 september 1934 kwamen bij een explosie in de Gresford Colliery (kolenmijn) in het noordoosten van Wales 226 mensen om het leven. Om 2 uur in de ochtend (ook ’s nachts werd er in de mijnen gewerkt) deed zich een zware explosie voor in de mijn. Alle pogingen de door het vuur ingesloten mensen te redden mislukten. Van de 232 mannen in de getroffen sector wisten er 6 te ontsnappen, de rest kwam om in de vuurzee.

De precieze oorzaak is nooit vastgesteld, maar een officieel onderzoek kwam tot de conclusie dat het management lak had aan de veiligheidsvoorschriften – en dat is dan nog heel vriendelijk uitgedrukt:

It was then decided that the witness Lloyd should be recalled and that the fireman Thomas should be put in again. The two witnesses were recalled. They told a story of recklessness and demoralisation which explained everything. They more than confirmed all the previous testimony, by workmen employed on the coal face, of lamps having been extinguished by gas, blowing the gas about with a banjack, of protests and quarrels about firing shots in the presence of gas. There is no language in which one can describe the inferno of 14’s. There were men working almost stark naked, clogs with holes bored through the bottom to let the sweat run out, a 100 shots a day fired on a face less than 200 yards wide, the air thick with fumes and dust from blasting, the banjack hissing to waft the gas out of the face into the unpacked waste, a space 200 yards long and 100 yards wide above the wind road full of inflammable gas and impenetrable for that reason.

Tot een veroordeling is het nooit gekomen. Het management is tijdens de rechtszitting niet eens gevraagd een verklaring af te leggen.

Gresford Disaster werd kort na de ramp geschreven. Het voorlaatste couplet verwijst naar een poging van het management rapporten te vervalsen.

You’ve heard of the Gresford Disaster
Of the terrible price that was paid
Two hundred and sixty-four colliers were lost
And three men of the rescue brigade

It occurred in the month of September
At three in the morning the pit
Was racked by a violent explosion
In the Dennis where gas lay so thick

Now the gas in the Dennis deep section
Was packed there like snow in a drift
And many a man had to leave the coal-face
Before he had worked out his shift

Now a fortnight before the explosion
To the shotfirer Tomlinson cried
“If you fire that shot we’ll be all blown to hell!”
And no one can say that he lied

Now the fireman’s reports they are missing
The records of forty-two days;
The collier manager had them destroyed
To cover his criminal ways

Down there in the dark they are lying
They died for nine shillings a day;
They have worked out their shift and now they must lie
In the darkness until Judgement Day