Both items contributed by Phil Roderick, 2001
Senghenydd War Memorial
Memorial for the Miners who died May 24th 1901 and 14th October 1913
Here are the names on the Senghenydd memorial for WW1 and WW2.
[The above Charles Francis Raymond of the Kings Royal Rifles was my wife's Great Grandfather. Rfn Y1651 C.F.Raymond fell at Ypres 21st September 1915 and is interned at the Potijze burial ground near St. Yens. He also has Welsh earth on his grave. --- Phil Roderick]
FOR FREEDOM THEY SHED THEIR BLOOD
On opposite side of the memorial before this plaque was put up it says
Their name will liveth forever.
On the side below this plaque for WW2 is written
BYW YW EU HENW YN OES OESOEDD.
There are I know for a fact a number missing as an old fella I know told me his mother refused to let them put his brother's name on there. She didn't want a constant reminder of his death every time she went shopping on the square.
Return to top
A poignant memorial service in Senghenydd has remembered the 81 miners who died in the first pit explosion there exactly 100 years ago, descendants of those who perished at the Universal Colliery on May 24th, 1901 , who made the ultimate sacrifice for coal, were joined at the service by civic leaders and children
Two hundred and twenty children lost their fathers that day - the number of children now enrolled at nearby Nant Y Parc School.The service was held on the site where the explosion had ripped through the mine a century ago. As pupils from Nant Y Parc, Ysgol Ifor Bach, Cwm Aber and St Cennydd Comprehensive school bowed their heads in silence, the distant bark of a dog was the only sound heard. At that time 100 years ago, the blast was heard by all.
As wreaths were laid at the above ceremony, Coun Phillips told the children:
" Be proud wherever you go in the World, to say you come from the Aber Valley where brave men come from and where hardy women were left to look after the children."
And what tough children they were and even hardier mothers.
But 1901 was just the dress rehearsal for the big one, an accident that could have and should have been avoided.
The Universal Pit was a very dry pit and was always an accident waiting to happen.
And when it did ,what an accident, it wasn't the biggest, but for one small Valley it was devastating.
A stranger visiting any of the cemeteries in the area would soon notice that the same date and inscriptions appear on many of the gravestones, and realise that something awful must have happened here.
The date 14th October 1913, the inscriptions - some in Welsh some in English say-
"Bu farw yn Nanchwa Senghenydd" or "Died in the Senghenydd explosion"
Eight have no name on them just the statement UNKNOWN.
Buried as unknown as the bodies were unrecognisable, some have no grave as their bodies have never been recovered.
One mine rescuer was to write about retrieving the bodies in a letter -
"Who is it? Don't know, indeed on we go to the mortuary, walls piled high with coffins; men come forward noses and mouths covered; unwrap the body, calling out to a man with a book, Moleskin trousers patch on left knee, nailed boots, piece on right heel etc etc usually the only means of identification, as faces are unrecognizable. Twenty, so far have been buried unidentified, owing to melting. Funerals take place every day, the sad processions slowly winding their way to the hillside cemetery.The pity of it all that flesh should be so cheap!"
On that date 439 men died many of suffocation, a mine rescuer was to die later.
Not all of those killed were Senghenydd men but the biggest proportion were, others came from Abertridwr and Penyrheol (just down the valley from Senghenydd), Caerphilly, Bedwas, and even Cardiff.
Walking up the valley these days it is hard to imagine what it was like back in 1913, but one short walk home for me from the Windsor Hotel would yield these facts.
Commercial Street 45 men killed, High Street 35 killed, Stanley Street 19 men killed.
Just numbers, but then think, at number 68 Commercial Street lived Elizabeth Twining widowed in 1912, she lost three sons that day, John aged 28, James aged 16 and Evan aged 14. At 84 High Street Rowland Lewis aged 45, Griffith Lewis aged 21, Rowland Lewis aged 19. At 9 Stanley Street Hugh Hughes aged 22, Humphrey Hughes aged 19, house by house a similar story, in all 205 women had become widows 542 children were without a father.
How had it happened? The most likely explanation was that a miner had taken his lamp to the lamp station to be re-lit, and as it was being re-lit, methane released from a fall had iginited causing an explosion which due to the dusty state of the mine was devastating.
At the inquest on why the accident happened the Universal pit managers and owners were found to be in breach of a number of mining regulations.The main ones being failure to sufficiently dampen down the coal dust in the mine, and not having an air fan that was reversible.
Of the charges levied against the mine manager eight were proven, for this he was fined 24 pounds.
One local paper was to headline its view on this fine as-
"Miner's lives at one shilling one penny one farthing"
The last word on the disaster goes to one of the survivors who said-
"My father always said there was more fuss if a horse was killed underground than if a man was killed. Men came cheap, they had to buy horses"
The Universal pit was closed in 1928 and in 1963 the pit head buildings and winding gear were blown up, and finally in 1979 the shafts were filled and capped. The only things now to show that mining ever happened here are the coal slag tips that grace the hills, and the Memorial to those killed in 1901 and 1913 which stands silently outside the local school.
Of the survivors, many never went back to the mines to work, some preferring to join the Army. Between 1914 and 1918 a further 63 men of Senghenydd, just a small village were to lose their lives in WW1.
From Abertridwr down the valley 80 men were killed in WW1.
In those seventeen years from 1901 to 1918 over 600 men of one small valley "The Aber valley" lost their lives.
(Partly based on an entry in the South Wales Echo of 25th May 2001.)
Return to top
Find help, report problems, and contribute information.
Copyright © GENUKI and Contributors 1996