Sunday, 27th January 1884

This is a comprehensive set of reports compiled by Brian Comley; they are in chronological order so can be read by simply scrolling down or by using the links provided for particlar items.

Western Mail of Monday 28 January 1884

This account is taken from the Western Mail, Cardiff (transcribed by Brian B Comley of Porthcawl, the great grandson of John Price, who perished in the explosion), beginning with the edition of Monday 28 January 1884.


Eleven Persons Killed

Supposed suffocation of an exploring party

Mr Daniel Thomas among the number

Details of the Disaster
{from our Correspondent}

Penygraig, Sunday Morning

At 6.40 on this morning the whole neighbourhood of the Naval Colliery, Penygraig, was shaken by an explosion of gas in the two pits, one of which is the down-take and the other the upcast shaft. Eleven officials of the company were down at the time, and I regret to state there is not the remotest chance that any of them are alive. And what adds to the horror of the sad affair is that is almost certain that Mr Daniel Thomas, Albert Medallist of the first class, and owner of the Dinas Collieries, with two others, viz. Thos. Lewis, C.M., under-manager, and Edward Watkins formerly of the Adare Inn have perished also in their gallant effort to save the men below, I am writing in the midst of the most intense excitement, augmented by the probable sad fate of the three gallant men above named.

The officials in the colliery at the time of the explosion were the following:-

  • David Jones
  • John Price
  • John Heycock sen.
  • John Heycock jun.
  • William Williams; all firemen
  • Solomon Edwards, master haulier
  • Oliver John
  • James Seville
  • Thomas Davies (alias "Double Power")
  • Fred. Nugent
  • John Esgunt; all ostlers.

There are employed in the colliery about 400 colliers, none of whom were in the pits at the time of the catastrophe. The firemen had gone down to inspect the colliery and the others to attend to the horses, which number about 65. It is the custom in this, and I believe in all other collieries in the district, to fire on Sunday morning the blasting holes prepared on the Saturday by the miners, Sunday morning being selected for this operation so as to lessen the risk as much as possible. And it is conjectured that the explosion took place when one of the said blasting holes was let off by a fireman. Daniel James, one of the fireman, overslept himself that morning, and was too late to go down with his fellow officials. But he was standing near his own doorway opposite the colliery, and in the act of hurriedly putting on his coat with the intention of hastening after his friends, when the awful explosion occurred. He states that a straight white column shot up from the pit's mouth as from a canon's mouth, its centre full of fire. This was followed by immense clouds of sparks and showers of fiery dust. A similar scene was witnessed by people dwelling in the neighbourhood of the downcast shaft, on the Rhondda side. Most of the inhabitants were in their beds at the time, but in a very short time the whole locality was at the scene of intense excitement, and throngs of men and women were hurrying towards the pits, and the exciting words "Mae hi wedi tanio!" (It has fired) were in everybody's mouth - words which have an awful meaning to the mining population of South Wales. It seems that one of the first to reach the top of the downcast shaft was Mr Rowland Rowland, one of the late managers, and Mr M R Rowland, the head manager at the time of the former explosions. In a short time poor Mr Daniel Thomas, who ever ready to incur deadly peril so as to assist the workmen of the district when such assistance seemed necessary, was on the spot. He lost no time in preparing to descend into the downcast shaft, and the following volunteers descended with him:- Mr Thomas Lewis, C.M., under manager, Thos. Morgan (Tyledu), John Jones, Morgan Howell, David Pascoe, John Ingram, John Lloyd, and Edward Watkins, together with a number of Mr Daniel Thomas's own workmen, including William Jenkins, but all their names have not, at the time of writing, transpired. After descending great distance they found that the guides had become entangled, and it was with the greatest difficulty, and at the most fearful risk to their lives, they surmounted this obstacle. They, however, eventually reached the bottom in safety. All about the bottom of the shaft was the scene of the most tremendous confusion; but without any hesitation, the gallant band, with Mr Daniel Thomas at their head, and each carrying a Davy lamp, directed their steps forward in the direction of the inner workings. The most appalling sights met their gaze in the shape of immense falls which seemed interminable. After the most desperate efforts, Mr Daniel Thomas, Mr Thomas Lewis, Morgan Howell, David Pascoe and Edward Watkins reached the neighbourhood of the stables, which the two first-named entered. All the horses were dead, and under one horse the dead body of one of the ostlers was found, and another under a manger. Steps were immediately adopted to remove the two dead bodies to the bottom of the shaft. After this was done by some of the men, Mr D I Thomas, Mr Thos. Lewis, John Jones. Thos. Morgan (Tyledu), Edward Watkins, Morgan Howell, and David Pascoe, and one or two others proceeded forward in the direction of the interior, climbing over immense falls. John Jones, a powerful young man, had his father among the eleven, and after reaching a distance of 600 yards Mr Daniel Thomas, witnessing probably the last-named's intense anxiety respecting the fate of his father, urged him to turn back. He did as requested. Some time later, when a fresh party entered the workings, they found John Jones and Thomas Morgan (Tyledu) lying insensible in the dust of the roadway. They were immediately dragged back to the bottom of the shaft. The rescuers state that Mr Daniel Thomas returned part of the distance leaning on the arm of Thomas Morgan, when the latter felt Mr Thomas letting go his hold of him, then dropping on the roadway. He himself dropped shortly afterwards. At the time of writing about three hours have elapsed since the last tidings were heard of Mr Daniel Thomas, Mr. Thomas Lewis and Edward Watkins. The rescuers, who have come to bank half dead with the effects of the deadly fumes of the after-damp, despair of finding the above-named alive. As I write, throngs of people are arriving from all part of the valley. Mr Galloway, M.E., and late Deputy-Inspector of Mines, arrived at the colliery at two o'clock from Cardiff, and immediately descended into the downcast shaft. Most of the colliery managers of the district have arrived at the scene. Drs. Evan Davies, Penygraig, and Owen, Clydach Vale, are in attendance. The chief manager of the works is Mr D H Daniels, M.E., Caerphilly, and Mr Thomas Lewis, C.M., both certificated managers.

The owners of the colliery are Mr Moses Rowland, Pisgah House, Penygraig, and Mr William Morgan, Bronwydd, Pontypridd; but neither, it is stated, engage in any part of the management of the works. At the time of the explosion the wooden building in which the ventilating fan is located was blown to pieces. Masons and carpenters were instantly put to work to restore the building, so as to re-start the fan. These hurried operations were under the superintendence of Mr Steward, manager of the Penrhiwfer Collieries of the Glamorgan Coal Company. Mr Moses Rowland and Mr Charles Morgan, son of the other proprietor, are on the scene, doing all in their power to further operations. Mr William Morgan, Bronwydd, is very ill, and it has been thought it would endanger his life were the sad affair made known to him. The younger Heycock, who was nineteen years of age, had simply gone down the pit that morning for the purpose of accompanying his father in his rounds. It is stated that Solomon Edwards had only just reached the bottom of the shaft, when the explosion took place.

Intense indignation is felt with the conduct of the post-office authorities, for, notwithstanding that messages were sent through before ten o'clock to the effect that a terrible explosion had taken place, the Pontypridd office was instantly closed. This was a great public inconvenience, for hundreds of people who have come recently to Penygraig were naturally anxious to wire their friends. Mr Price, the local postmaster, made every effort in his power to call the attention of the Cardiff office but without effect.



One Pontypridd reporter writes:- The Rhondda Valley district was startled on Sunday morning by the dread rumour that a colliery explosion had occurred at Penygraig; and the rumour proved but too true, for at the Naval Steam Coal Colliery, where a disastrous explosion occurred a few years ago, another disaster took place immediately after the descent of Sunday morning's repairing shift. The Naval Steam Coal Colliery is situated at Penygraig, Rhondda Valley, within a distance of about seven miles from Pontypridd, the downcast shaft being close to the Taff Vale Railway (midway between Pandy and Llwynpia Stations), and the upcast in the Ely Valley, a short distance away. There are employed in the colliery about 350 men, so that had the explosion occurred on an ordinary day the consequences might have been terrible in the extreme. The colliery is known to be a fiery one; and a feature in connection with it is that the lights at the top of the pit are supplied by a blower which is tapped with pipes. The pipes were smashed by the explosion, as they were by the last, and the lights were extinguished. The colliery is worked with safety lamps. The ventilation is worked by a fan, which has damaged by the explosion, so that the ventilation is exceedingly weak, if not nearly at a standstill.

The firemen descended about 6.30 o'clock, and the day repairing shift went into the pit shortly after six a.m., before the return of the fireman, so that there were in all only about eleven men in the colliery. At about twenty minutes to seven a fearful report was heard, and a tremendous concussion was felt, not only at the top of the pit but all around Penygraig, Dinas, Llwynpia, Trealaw, &c. The top of the down-cast shaft was torn up, trains were blown about, and one of the guide ropes was twisted round the carriage, so as to render it impossible to take the carriage to the bottom for some hours afterwards. There was immediately a rush of people to the scene, and the appearance of the top of the pit confirmed the fears of all.

The first colliery manager to come upon the scene was Mr Daniel Thomas, Dinas Colliery, who immediately set to work with the people who were gathered round to set things to rights at the top, in order to make an effort to descend the shaft. With the fan at a standstill a descent from the upcast was out of the question; so as soon as the carriage could be got at properly, Mr Thomas and a few men entered, and the cage was slowly, very slowly, lowered. Ere it had gone but a short distance, however,, the twisted "guide" prevented further descent. When about half way down it was discovered that the guide was so badly twisted that the carriage could go no further. The exploring party went into the other carriage and were lowered in it. By about eleven o'clock the bottom was reached, and some directions were shouted by those below. Mr Edmund Thomas, Maindy Hall, a manager of experience, and one of the former proprietors of Gelli Colliery, had by this time reached the top, and he assisted in organising another gang to go down. These explorers travelled some distance in the colliery, finding doors damaged or blown down and some falls. The utmost anxiety prevailed upon the surface, because the exploring party were a long time down. When, however, the bodies of the two ostlers were brought to the bottom of the shaft, and it was reported that the intrepid leader of this party had been seen going over a fall and that he had most probably been lost in the after-damp, the suspense was awful. The carriage was raised, and the moment the returned explorers were in sight, there was a great rush after them. One of them, John Jones, who is a son of David Jones, fireman, was prostrated by the after-damp and, had been obliged to give up the search. He told me he had been down, in company with Mr Daniel Thomas, Mr Thomas Lewis (the under-manager), and Edward Watkins (known as "Ned Adare Inn"); that they had proceeded along the faces some distance, and came back through the level to the return airway, where they found a fall. Having reached that spot he shouted that he was going back, as he felt himself overpowered, although he is a strong man. He was firmly of the opinion that as his companions went on they were suffocated. This occurred about 800 yards from the bottom of the pit. I returned to the pit top, and found that by-and-bye other colliery managers arrived, including, at 2.30, Mr Daniels, the manager of Penygraig Colliery, who was away up to that time. Operations were continued, and a new search was now instituted for Mr Daniel Thomas and his party, with what success must be seen again.


  • Solomon Edwards, 38, married, with children
  • James Seville, 50, ostler, married, children
  • Oliver John, fireman
  • David Jones, fireman
  • John Price, fireman
  • William Williams, fireman
  • John Heycock, sen.
  • John Heycock, jun.
  • Thomas Davies ("Double Power"), contractor
  • William Augustus, ostler
  • Frederic Nugent, ostler



From further enquiries I made at the top of the upcast shaft I found that William Williams, fireman, and Oliver John and James Seville went down here first. This was about 6.25 a.m. Ten minutes or a quarter of an hour afterwards Solomon Edwards went down, and about a minute and a half later he gave the signal "carriage clear," and the carriage, in which he descended, was pulled up. When the carriage was reaching the top the explosion occurred, he having had time to reach the stables. This was about a quarter to seven o'clock.


Here I saw the terrible effects of the explosion for myself. The fan house is wrecked, and blown away. There were brick walls and a wooden roof here. The roof or covering is completely gone, and some of the bricks lie 10 or 15 yards away, near the boilers, while other bricks have been squeezed into the spoons of the fan, so that working the fan without pulling down a portion of the walls is out of the question, and a temporary covering must be made for the fan. The work is, however, being done, and the fan will be started at the earliest possible moment. The engine-house has been badly damaged, and large banks of timber, which constituted the top of the pit. have been severely shaken. The cage is wrecked. Mr Stewart, manager of Penrhiwfer Colliery, has control of the arrangements at the top of the pit at the time I write, and has been here all day. I also understand that Mr M R Rowlands, formerly manager of the Penygraig Colliery, was the first manager to appear on the scene here. He heard a report from his house, but thought at first it was something blown by the wind. He was at the upcast about seven o'clock, if not earlier, and he went from here, over the surface, of course, to the downcast, which he reached about twenty minutes past seven. There, however, Mr Daniel Thomas was before him. The fanman acted as banksman at the time of the explosion. Returning to the downcast shaft, I recommenced my inquiries, and found that "Double Power" came up last night about eight o'clock. The first to go down here in the morning (before the explosion) was an ostler, whose name I could not ascertain, but who is among the names given above. Some time afterwards John Heycock and his son descended. Then in a group went T Davies ("Double Power"), John Price, David Jones, and the other ostler. The explosion happened about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes after they reached the bottom.



Penygraig, Eight O'Clock

Mr Thomas Wales, Her Majesty's Inspector of Mines, arrived here an hour ago, and after an examination of the plans of the colliery, and some of the explorers who, had returned to the bank from the pit, it was agreed to start the ventilating fan. This, when in full work, makes 98 strokes per minute. Mr Wales and the mining engineers present decided to start it at fifteen strokes per minute. The reason for this slowness of speed was the fear that some of the timbers in the workings had caught fire, and that the fan would draw it into flames, and cause another explosion. There is now no doubt that Mr Daniel Thomas, Mr Thomas Lewis, and Mr Edward Watkins have perished. John Jones, one of the men who were with Mr Daniel Thomas, is now, after spending some hours in bed, able to talk coherently, and from what he states Mr Thomas fell early in the struggle to return. The party had gone about 1,200 yards of the intake airway before Mr Thomas gave the command to retrace their steps. Mr Thomas carried a large lamp, and when the return journey was commenced he was the hindermost of the party. When John Jones was in a semi-conscious condition he called out for help. Edward Watkins seemed to think that the cry came from Thomas Morgan, who was in front, and the last thing he saw was Watkins assisting Morgan. Jones says he felt sleepy and perfectly helpless, and fell. When he recovered consciousness he felt himself dragged. He and Thomas Morgan were rescued by two brothers named Henry and Edward Beech, who behaved with uncommon intrepidity. Mr Galloway, who penetrated as far as possible into the in-take working this afternoon, ascertained that even when the fan was stationary between 30,000 and 35,000 feet of fresh air per minute passed down the in-take shaft up the upcast shaft by natural means.

Penygraig, Midnight

Latest news confirms the suspicions that Mr D Thomas and his brave companions must be lost beyond the hope of recovery. Thomas Morgan, a rescuer, found Mr Thomas very weak and carried him a short way towards the shaft, but being exhausted himself had to leave the intrepid explorer behind in the midst of the deadly foul air. The two ostlers are fearfully burnt. One had his clothes completely burnt off. Edward Watkins, overman, Dinas, who is among the lost rescuers, leaves a family of six young children.

Western Mail of Tuesday 29 January 1884.


Recovery of Mr Thomas's Body

Heart-rending Scenes at the Pit's Mouth

Morlan, writing from Penygraig on Monday afternoon, says:- This has been a day full of woe in this locality, the general grief being intensified by the sad fate of Mr Daniel Thomas. Many hundreds of workmen in the neighbourhood depended upon his enterprise for work and  means to support themselves and families. He had, moreover, won the affection of a large section of the workmen of the district by his considerate treatment of all in his employ. He differed from most colliery proprietors by taking a practical and leading part in the management of his collieries. Colliers in the remotest workings never knew what moment of the day Mr Thomas would visit them. He had thus succeeded in making his direct personal influence felt in all parts of the works, both in the interior of the workings and on the surface. He ever took the lead in his own collieries in the performance of hazardous undertakings, and the miners now speak of many an incident in the brief life of the departed which indicated that his heroism bordered on recklessness. He was a "Dinas boy", having been born and bred in the locality, and the inhabitants to a man felt proud of "Daniel Bach" as he was familiarly known. His mortal remains now lie cold and stiff in his late dwelling-house, the house of his parents, where his own boyhood years were spent. The precincts of the house were besieged by hundreds of sympathising and tearful men and women. I observed many of the earliest friends of Mr Daniel Thomas, and the companions of his youth, standing in the passage leading to the chamber of death, weeping bitterly. "The noble fellow," remarked an old collier to me; "he was the best man in Glamorgan, aye, in South Wales." It is difficult to break off from this theme, for I can endorse, from my own personal knowledge of the deceased, all that is said of his good qualities. It is a curious coincidence that he met his death on the twelfth anniversary of his father's funeral, which took place January 27, 1872.

After my last report was despatched on Sunday night it was agreed at the office of the works, with the concurrence of Mr Wales, her Majesty's Inspector, that a party of managers , including Mr M R Rowland, and Mr Hood, Llwynpia, should descend the shaft, with a view of testing the gas. They returned in an hour with the tidings that it was impossible to proceed; that gas in dense quantities was everywhere "like a wall." Some time after the ventilating fan was stopped. This produced some angry comments, some of the workmen alleging that this was caused by the conflicting opinions among the authorities. But it appears that the real cause for the stopping of the fan was that the machinery was out of order. It has remained stationary down to the time of writing. It was full ten o'clock on Monday morning before active operations were again commenced. In a short time the following men descended, under the charge of Mr D H Daniel, Mr M R Rowland, and Mr Thomas Jones, Ynishir, viz.:- Morgan Howell, David Davies, Thomas Morgan, overmen; Henry Beech, Edward Beech, William Phillips, Moses Rees, Isaiah Thomas, John Morgan, and Thomas Jones. The workings were entered, and, under the direction of Morgan Howell, overman, it was decided to cut through a gob wall at a point opposite to that where it was supposed Mr Daniel Thomas and his two companions would be found. At half-past two the communication with the other heading was made, the distance being eight yards. Morgan Howell immediately proceeded along the newly-reached heading, followed by the others. After proceeding about twenty yards along the roadway he came upon the dead body of Mr Thomas, lying sideways in the dust, his lamp still in his hand. The party then proceeded forward in the direction of the interior, and after going in a straight line about sixty yards they came upon the body of Thomas Davies (alias "Double Power"), timberman, one of the eleven who went down the pit on Sunday morning. He was dressed in his evening clothes, and had gone down on the fatal morning to inspect some timber props which had been put up a day or two before. A little beyond where his remains were found the props were still standing. The body of Thos. Davies was left where it was found, the services of all present being necessary to convey out the remains of Mr Thomas. The scene on the top of the pit when his remains were brought to bank was extremely touching. Men, whose blue-scarred faces told of a lifetime spent in the Rhondda mines, wept like children. A vast throng encircled the pit, and every 'vantage point, from which a view of the ascending cage could be obtained, was occupied by a deeply sympathetic multitude. On the Sunday morning Mr Thomas was seen surrounded by his men, standing full of energy on the centre of the same cage, carrying in one hand a short iron bar, and holding between his knees a massive iron sledge, implements that might be necessary below. He and his brave companions were descending into the midst of the most terrible perils that it is possible for the mind of man to conceive. A few short hours before that very shaft through which they were about to descend had emitted the most awful hurricane of smoke and fire, and the same thing might happen again at any moment, for it was evident by the dense smoke ascending through the upcast that smouldering fire burnt below. But the heroic men on the cage did not falter, and they descended into the "jaws of death" as literally as Britannia's immortal Six Hundred on the fields of Balaclava. There is an old welsh proverb which says, "Yn mhob gwlad megir glew" ("Every country breeds brave men"), and one can say that Penygraig and Dinas have now, as on former occasions, proved that Cambria's sons retain still the ancient heroism of the Cymric race. Shortly after Mr Daniel Thomas's remains were brought to bank they were placed on a bier and carried on the shoulders of willing men. The remains were placed in the dining -room and the canvas was then opened. The features bore the expression of calm repose. Thick dust was in his beard, and his face was begrimed.

Later on I had an interview with Mr Thomas Morgan (Tyledu), now of Clydach Vale, who was the last with Mr Daniel Thomas. He states that after the return journey was commenced Mr Thomas complained of great pains in his head. They were walking arm in arm, and feeling almost powerless to walk, when both suddenly dropped to the ground together. Thomas Morgan succeeded in getting up. He had no recollection of Mr Thomas after this. After staggering forward some distance Morgan again fell. He was too weak to get on his legs again. However, up to this time he retained consciousness, and struggled forward on his hand and knees. He is oblivious of everything after this until he found himself being dragged out by the legs. he and John Jones were found by the two brothers Beech on the top of a small fall, locked in each other's arms.

Now it is exceedingly strange as to what has become of Edward Watkins and Thomas Lewis, the under-manager. On Sunday afternoon the exploring party passed over the same road as Mr Thomas and his party had traversed until they came to Morgan and Jones. On Monday those who found Mr Thomas reached by cutting through the gob wall a point behind Mr Thomas and, therefore, reached a part of the workings which he had traversed on his return journey; indeed, they went further than he and his party went, viz. the spot where Thomas Davies was found. Yet the remains of Thomas Lewis and Edward Watkins were not discovered. The roadway where Mr Thomas was found runs into the interior of the colliery, in a north-westerly direction. Within a short distance of where he was found in another road leading to another roadway, which goes back to the shaft. It is feared that Thomas Lewis and Edward Watkins went hurriedly along the north-western road instead of turning to the right into the road referred to, and called "Hezekiah's heading," and that they dropped down dead there. Thomas Lewis passed him hurriedly while he himself was struggling to retrace his steps, and that he called out, "It is all over with us." To-night Mr Edwin Randall (deputy inspector) and Mr Lawrence, M.E., Cardiff, have gone down with an exploring party. The body of Thomas Davies has just been sent to bank by them. It was conveyed to the late home of the departed by a large concourse of people.

Superintendent Matthews and a strong body of police have been on the ground, guarding the approaches to the pits, since the disaster. On Monday afternoon the post office authorities sent from Cardiff telegraphic instruments, and a staff of efficient clerks. In reference to the inconvenience caused on Sunday by the Pontypridd postal authorities, it should be stated the usually courteous and obliging postmaster of that town (Mr M'Murray) has been ill for some time, and has had to delegate his duties to others. It is stated that the inquest will be opened on Wednesday. The name of one of the ostlers found on Sunday was John Rees, Llantwit Major, and not "Esgunt." This was a nickname.



Our Pontypridd reporter writes:- The sacrifice of the life of Mr Daniel Thomas and his companions in the exploration of the colliery gives the present disaster at Penygraig a peculiar place in the history of explosions in this district. Sympathy is always felt for the relatives of miners killed in the terrible explosions which so often devastate the South Wales coalfield when the tales of woe are related. But here we have an explosion killing at once all who were in the pit, and when the explorers go on with their humane and courageous work they meet their doom in the suffocating after-damp. One of those explorers - the intrepid leader of the brave gang - is the lessee and manager of a colliery which gives employment to hundreds in the immediate vicinity of the scene of the disaster. His previous acts of heroism and humanity had won for him a gold medal at the hands of Lord Aberdare on behalf of the Queen, and thousands of golden opinions among his fellow-countrymen. No man could have worked with greater determination to get up from his own colliery the remains of the dead after the explosion there which took place before he took to the colliery, and a testimonial was being got up to show, in some small way, the appreciation of his services in this respect. The general opinion prevailing now is that the money collected should be devoted to the cost of a tribute to the memory of Mr Thomas. He came from a family whose interests are and have been bound up in collieries, and no disaster has been recorded in the annals of the district without the name of a Thomas being in some way connected with the perilous work of exploration and the noble efforts made to rescue any that may be alive. Mr Edmund Thomas, of Maindy Hall, the gentleman who was busiest at the top of the Penygraig downcast shaft yesterday (Sunday), is a brother of the late Mr Daniel Thomas. Mr Isaiah Thomas, another brother, is a manager. The father of these gentlemen was a colliery proprietor and manager, and the son of Mr Edmund Thomas, a young gentleman of the same name as his deceased uncle, is also, like his father, a certificated manager. As has been said, Mr Daniel Thomas was lessee and manager of the Dinas Colliery, and the untimely death of the enterprising man whose energy had been the means of reviving the trade of Dinas has cast a gloom over the neighbourhood. Not a blow was struck at Dinas Colliery on Monday, and save the ostlers, not a man was to be seen about. Mr D Thomas leaves a widow, but no children. Then, the second man in the lost rescuing party was Edward Watkins, the Dinas overman, another man of great courage and firmness. He left this country for America after the Dinas explosion some years ago, and returned about eighteen months since. Bred and born at a roadside Inn, near the Penygraig Colliery - the Adare Inn - he and his family were well known in the district, his brother, Mr Richard Watkins, being the landlord of the Greyhound Inn, Pontypridd. The most intense sympathy is felt for poor Edward Watkins's widow and seven little children, of whom, the eldest is only twelve years of age. Such is the chord of sympathy between sufferers that when yesterday the then probable fate of Watkins was mentioned in a house where there were no relatives of his - but where dwelt a man whose father, an old workman at Penygraig, was among the dead - the tears which would not come before fell fast. Thomas Lewis, the under-manager, at Penygraig, was the other rescuer whose life is now mourned. He was a young married man, 25 or 26 years of age, and his father is an overman at Ton Colliery.

I should have mentioned in my report before that Mr W. Abraham (Mabon), the agent of the Rhondda Steam Coal Miners, was at the top of the pit throughout the greater part of Sunday, and would, doubtless, be there to-day were it not that he is obliged to visit the scene of the recent accident at Cwmamman, Carmarthenshire.



To the Editor of the "Western Mail"

Sir, - I could not help thinking on reading your report of the explosion at Penygraig and the sad disaster which befell the small, but noble, band of explorers, that had they been provided with plenty of milk of lime (slaked lime made into a thin paste with water) they might have done their work more satisfactorily, and without suffering the loss of three of their number, as the lime would quickly combine with the after-damp to form chalk. I would respectively suggest that each gang of explorers be supplied with two or three buckets filled with milk of lime, which they could throw on the roads as they go on. They may also dip their handkerchiefs in the mixture, and then hold them before their faces so as to allow the air to filter through, as it were. The after-damp, or carbonic acid gas, would react on the lime, leaving the air which it contaminated to pass through in a state of purity. Of course they might have a large quantity at the bottom of the pit for supply. The sincere hope that this suggestion will prove useful is my only excuse for trespassing on your valuable space. - I am, &c., T.D.


We shall publish in these columns on Wednesday a portrait of the late Daniel Thomas, accompanied by a biographical sketch by "Morien."

Western Mail, Wednesday January 30 1884.


Further Exploration of the Pit

Writing from Penygraig on Tuesday night our correspondent says:-  The ventilating fan at the upcast was started at seven o'clock this evening after having undergone repairs. It was started at a moderate speed, which was gradually increased, and at the time of writing it was going at a good rate. The bad odour rising from the upcast was something dreadful, and filled the houses in the neighbourhood. Disinfectants were taken down to the stables in the downcast during the day, but the stables in the upcast have not been reached. Parties of  repairers and explorers, under the command of Mr Edwin Randall, deputy inspector of mines, and Mr D.H. Daniels, manager, have been down the pit all day; but none of the dead bodies have been seen. It is hoped that by the morning the fan will have so ventilated the space between the downcast and upcast shafts as to enable the explorers to pass from one shaft to the other, through the whole length of the colliery. It is stated it was lucky the fan was stopped, for its machinery had been thrown so much out of order by the explosion that disastrous consequences might have resulted at any moment by working it in its disordered condition. It is stated that the first to notice its dangerous state was Mr Price, mechanic, Clydach Vale. I ought to mention that it was Mr Rowland Rowland, late manager, who pointed out on the colliery map the exact spot where the explorers should cut through the gob wall to reach the locality where Mr Daniel Thomas was known to have fallen. The distance cut through was seven yards, and the body was found within twenty yards of the opening made. Dr Carsen, assistant to Dr H.N. Davies, examined Mr Thomas' remains, and, with the exception of a few scratches on the face, the body was uninjured. The two ostlers were terribly injured, having been kicked apparently by the horses in their death throes. Fire must have reached the stables, for the clothes of one of the two men were burnt. Every living man has been withdrawn tonight from the colliery, owing to the apprehended danger from the operations of the fan.



[By Morien.]

Mr Daniel Thomas was the third son of Mr Daniel Thomas, who during about 23 years was chief manager under the late Mr Walter Coffin, Llandaff, and Colonel Hunt, London, of Dinas Collieries. The subject of this sketch was born on January 15, 1849, and had, therefore, at the time of his decease just passed his 35th year of his age. His father descended from a race of Welsh farmers in the parish of Llantwit Vardre. His mother, who is still living, was the daughter of Mr Edmund James and Gwen his wife, Ffrwd Amos, whose house was the centre of all that was agreeable then in the society of the neighbourhood. When a child the writer of this sketch heard at the fireside of these happy old people many an entertaining tale relating to Ystradyfodwg and the adjacent localities in the olden time. Mr Daniel Thomas, sen., was a man of uncommon natural abilities, and ruled supreme at Dinas, but was greatly assisted in the management by Mr Jenkin Evans, now of Ferndale, who, in his old age, has recently translated into Welsh, and published it at the offices of Daniel Owen and Co., the philosophic work of Mr George Combes, the phrenologist. The children of Mr and Mrs Thomas now living are Mr Edward Thomas, Brithwennydd; Mr Idris Thomas, Trealaw Hotel; and Mrs Watkins, Brithwennydd Hotel; and Mrs Rees, Glamorgan Hotel, Williamstown. Mr Daniel Thomas, jun., was educated by Mr Lloyd, Merthyr, but now of Pontypridd, a gentleman who has trained for colliery management the majority of the Glamorgan colliery managers. I have not been able to ascertain that Mr Daniel Thomas, jun., gave during his youthful years any striking proof that he was endowed by nature with more than ordinary abilities. He, however, was always deemed a self-willed and resolute youth; one who could form an opinion for himself, and act upon it without consulting anyone. This quality became more strikingly apparent as he advanced in life. But this quality in him did not act as a repellent, for few men had more friends. Success in life often spoils some men. When a man with a weak head gets into a carriage of his own he grows giddy and pompous, and he is ever on the alert for tokens of submission from others. He is a most miserable individual, for he is constantly fancying he is snubbed by those greater than himself, or not treated with sufficient deference by his inferiors in worldly circumstances. Few men are more to be pitied than he. The subject of this sketch was a very different man to men of the above class. He had the gift of retaining the force of all his faculties in the midst of prosperity and successful enterprises, and none feel his loss more keenly than the friends of his youth. I am far from saying he had not his faults; let him who is without any cast the first stone at his memory. At an early age he became assistant to his father in the management of Brithwennydd Colliery, of which his father became proprietor after he resigned his appointment as manager of the Dinas Collieries. Subsequently, his father opened another colliery, called Brithwennydd Drift. In 1870 his father fell ill, and continued in that condition until January 27, 1872, when he died. During the illness of the father, the sole management of the collieries devolved on this son, and he had carried on affairs with so much satisfaction to the old man that when his father's will was opened it was found that the two collieries had been bequeathed to him, but making other bequests to the other children, giving to the young manager the lion's share. This fact indicates in what estimation the old-tried manager of collieries held is young son. Soon after the death of his father the great success in the coal trade set in, and it is no secret that young Daniel during that period reaped a rich harvest. In 1875 the Brithwennydd Pit had become unremunerative. For some reason or another the miners employed there came out on strike. Mr Thomas on Aug. 9, 1875, decided to abandon that colliery.

Shortly after this Mr Thomas joined Mr Hugh Begg (now of Van, Caerphilly) and others to sink for coal on Dinas Ishaf Farm, in the Ely Valley, Mr Begg being acting manager. Great success followed the enterprise, splendid coal being struck. Early in January, 1877, Mr Thomas engaged with his fellow-partners to work the last-named colliery, he undertaking to pay each of them a certain percentage on the gross income of coal. The colliery has continued to work successfully under these terms down to the time of his death, his manager being Mr Howell John, Williamstown, one of his early friends. The number of men employed there at the present time is about 200. In August, 1879, the coal in the Brithwennydd Drift became exhausted, and the place was given up. Previous to this, he, in conjunction with Mr James Thomas, had commenced sinking for steam coal at Ynyshir, the property of the Rev. D.W. Williams, M.A., Fairfield, and Mr Whitting, Weson-super-Mare. After coal had been struck Mr James Thomas paid Mr Daniel Thomas £18,000 for his share in the concern, and the last named retired.

After the disastrous explosion in the Dinas Steam Coal Collieries on the 13th of January, 1879, when so many poor fellows were entombed, it was for some time feared that, owing to the terrible nature of the falls which the explosion had caused in the workings, the colliery would have to be abandoned altogether. Several skilled managers endeavoured to restore things to something like order. But so little success crowned their efforts that only eight out of the 63 dead in the pit were brought out. Great sympathy was felt for the humane proprietor, Colonel Hunt, who, notwithstanding the great loss he had sustained by the explosion, incurred enormous outlay in endeavouring to recover the dead bodies of his poor workmen and opening the collieries. On the 1st May, 1881, Mr Daniel Thomas took the collieries under a lease from Col. Hunt. He engaged a manager of great experience, namely, Mr John Havard, Aberdare. It was soon made manifest that Mr Thomas and his intrepid manager would restore the collieries to working order. By degrees the dead bodies were brought to bank and interred, and lately the number of dead brought out by them was 49, leaving six still to be recovered. A fund had been opened and about £150 subscribed, with a view to present Mr Thomas with a testimonial in recognition of his success in bringing out the dead. This and other money that may be received will not be applied to erect a monument over his grave in the burying ground of Cymmer Independent Chapel. The funeral will take place to-morrow (Thursday), about noon, when there is little doubt an enormous number of people will attend as a last token of respect for his memory.

So successful have been the efforts of Mr Thomas and Mr Havard in re-opening Dinas Collieries that between 700 and 800 tons of coal per day are brought to bank, and sent away by the Taff Vale Railway. A week ago Mr Havard resigned his appointment, but on Monday Mr Wood (Colonel Hunt's Cardiff agent), Mr Edmund Thomas (brother of the deceased), and Mr Galloway sent for Mr Havard, and the result was that he agreed to again take the management of the collieries. He was on the top of Penygraig Pit on Sunday morning when Mr Thomas and his party descended. He refused to accompany them on the ground that it was too soon after the explosion. Some years ago Mr Thomas married Mrs Troyers, widow of Captain Troyers, Cardiff. She is the daughter of Mr Timothy Hughes, farm bailiff, Llancaich, Llanfabon. There are no children of the marriage.

Mr Thomas greatly distinguished himself on several occasions by his heroic efforts after colliery disasters to save human lives. His valour at the Tynewydd entombment of miners was recognised by her Majesty the Queen, who, represented by the Right Hon. Lord Aberdare on the occasion, awarded him an Albert Medal of the first class. On the same occasion he received the rare medal of the Knights Templars of Jerusalem, also the medal of the Humane Society, the three being seen on his manly breast in the portrait, which is a copy of a photograph recently taken. Mr Daniel Thomas paid in wages at the two collieries about £5,000 a month. He was, at the time of his death, negotiating for the purchase of a moiety of interest in the Penygraig Collieries, in which the explosion took place. He was also a shareholder in the Fforch Nest Colliery.

Some anxiety is felt as to the probable effect of his death upon the future of the works with which he was connected. It may be satisfactory to know that Mr Daniel Thomas has left a will, which, I am told, is in the hands of Messrs. Corbett, Griffiths, and Evans, solicitors, Cardiff.

Western Mail, Thursday 31 January 1884.


Two More Bodies Found

Opening of the Inquest

At ten o'clock this morning it was decided by the colliery authorities that a party of explorers should descend into the downcast. The ventilating fan at the upcast had been repaired under the superintendence of Mr Moses R Rowland, the late chief manager. It was started at a speed of 42 revolutions per minute. This speed was gradually increased, and at eleven o'clock on Tuesday night it went at full speed, viz., 98 revolutions per minute. It has continued to go at that speed ever since, and works exceedingly well. The effect of the suction by it from below was that the most sickening smell pervaded the whole neighbourhood in the direction in which the wind was blowing. It as hardly necessary to state that the task of the explorers was a most hazardous one. No one knew this better than the colliers of the locality, who thronged to the neighbourhood of the downcast shaft from the time the explorers descended until their return to bank. The party, who were under the command of Mr D.H. Daniels, manager, and Mr Edwin Randall, deputy-inspector of mines, were accompanied by Mr David Lewis, overman, Ton Ystrad, the father of Thomas Lewis, C.M., overman, who lost his life at the same time as Mr Daniel Thomas. About noon tidings came to bank that the explorers had found the bodies of Thomas Lewis and Edward Watkins, Mr Thomas's overman. About one o'clock the two bodies, tied in canvas, were brought to bank, under the care of Mr David Davies (Rhuthin) and others, and were then conveyed to their late homes, accompanied by a large number of people. Edward Watkins resided near the residence of Mr Thomas. He accompanied the last-named from his house on the fatal morning. It is reported that Mrs Thomas has said, "Edward lost his life by obeying and accompanying my dear husband in the perilous journey. I will take care that neither his widow nor his little ones shall ever be in want of anything." "The wind is tempered to the shorn lambs." This generous utterance of Mrs Thomas has brought tears to the eyes of hundreds in the neighbourhood. The two bodies were found at a spot about fifteen yards from where the two rescued explorers, viz. Morgan and Lewis, were found and about 75 yards from where Mr Thomas fell. Lewis and Watkins had gone, in their bewilderment, into the wrong road. Had they followed the right road they would have reached a spot fifteen yards nearer the shaft than the two explorers who were brought out alive. It appears probable they had become semi-conscious when some 50 yards from the spot where they fell, for the lamp of one of them had been dropped at that distance from where they were found. The other still held his lamp in his hand. Both were lying on their faces in the dust. To-night Mr Burns, Bryncethin, Bridgend, and a party of explorers are down in the pit. It is stated that the main roadway between the two shafts is pretty clear of gas, but that it is dense everywhere else.

This morning Mr Thomas Williams, coroner, Pontypridd, formally opened the inquest. The bodies are lying in the two parishes of Ystradyfodwg and Llantrisant, being the districts of Mr Thomas Williams and Mr E.B. Reece, of Cardiff. Mr Wm. Davies, Court Villa, Tonypandy, was appointed foreman of the jury. The inquest was opened at the Miskin Inn, Trealaw, and then at the Butchers' Arms, Ffrwd Amos, Penygraig. After some formal evidence as to the identification had been taken the inquest was adjourned until Feb. 28, at the Butchers' Arms. The foreman of the jury appealed on behalf of the other juryman and himself for extra remuneration for serving on the jury. -- Mr Thomas Williams stated that he had no power to grant this, but would do what he was able in that direction.. -- Mr Grover said that a similar application was made by the jury engaged in the Bravo case, but the Home Office replied that it had no power to grant the request. -- The Foreman stated that most of the jurymen in this case were tradesmen, and that attending entailed considerable loss upon them. -- Mr Hopkin Knill, one of the jurymen, stated that at the former inquest at Penygraig a promise was given that their application would be considered by the authorities, but they had not heard anything about it since. -- Mr Thomas Williams reiterated his promise to the effect that he would do what he could for them.

To-night the lamp of Mr David Jones, fireman, one of the entombed men, was found near a large fall in the workings.

The funeral of Mr Daniel Thomas will start from his late residence for Cymmer (Porth) at two o'clock to-day (Thursday).

Western Mail, Friday 1 February 1884


Further Recovery of Bodies

On Thursday morning the explorers succeeded in passing from one shaft to the other. In the stable of the upcast shaft were found Solomon Edwards, Oliver John and James Seville, and in another part of the colliery Wm. Williams, fireman, one of those whose duties on Sunday morning was to fire seven blasting holes, which had been prepared on Saturday afternoon. It has been ascertained that the barometer was exceptionally low on Saturday and Sunday morning and that Mr Daniels, manager, had pointed this out to the other officials of the colliery, and urged extreme caution in the management.

One fact in connection with the deeply deplored fate of Mr D.L. Thomas and the other two explorers ought not to go unrecorded. It seems that David Jones, one of the entombed eleven, was an old servant of Mr Thomas's, having spent four years in his employ as fireman. Lately he had gone to the employ of the Penygraig Company. Immediately after the explosion on Sunday morning, John Jones, the son of the said David Jones, rushed towards the shaft bent on saving his father, and labouring under intense emotion. There is no doubt the friendship for his old fireman, and the agony of the son, induced Mr Thomas to make the desperate attempt to penetrate the workings, which resulted fatally to himself and the two other explorers. That David Jones was foremost in the mind of Mr Thomas is seen in the fact that when he found he could not go any further, he called out to David Jones's son, "John my boy, we cannot go further." In less than fifteen minutes after this Mr Thomas fell to rise no more. John Jones and Thomas Morgan also fell close by, but were rescued by a fresh batch of explorers after a desperate effort, during which their own lives were in immediate peril. A little beyond the point Mr Thomas and his party reached, the body of "Double Power" was afterwards found, and there is a probability that Mr Thomas had heard the voice of this man, who was noted for his bodily strength, and that he was bent on reaching him. It is also stated there were indications that "Double Power" travelled in the direction of the explorers.

[Note - This is an unrealistic conjecture. If the atmosphere was such as to asphyxiate the explorers in a relatively short time, Thomas Davies, "Double Power", would surely have died much sooner, as he had been down much longer. Bodily strength would have been of no avail against oxygen depletion and even small traces of carbon monoxide. Reports of headaches among the surviving explorers suggests the presence of carbon monoxide.]



On Thursday afternoon the mortal remains of Mr Daniel Thomas, were interred at the Cymmer Independent Burial Ground in the presence of a vast concourse of people. The day was an excessively wet one, rain falling in torrents and without a moment's cessation from morning until evening. Yet this did not deter the Right Hon. Lord Aberdare from attending as a token of respect for the memory of "Daniel Bach." There were also present Mr Gwilym Williams, stipendiary magistrate, Miskin Manor; the Rev. D.W. Williams, M.A., Fairfield; Mr George Griffiths, Cardiff; Dr. Henry Naunton Davies; Mr Moses Rowland and Mr M.R. Rowland, Penygraig; Mr Thomas Jones, Maundy House, Ynyshir; Mr William Jenkins, Ystradfechan; Dr. Ivor Lewis, Cymmer; Mr M.R. Williams, Bank, Pontypridd; Mr James Thomas, Ynyshir: Mr Mathias and Mr Parker, Ynyshir; Mr Idris Williams and Mr John Griffiths, Porth; Mr John Havard, manager, Dinas; and most of the other colliery managers throughout the valley.

No religious service was held at the house before starting, as is usual at Welsh funerals. But on the night before the various religious bodies held an united prayer meeting at the late home of the deceased, when the Rev. Mr Rees (curate) and the Revs.  -- Richards and T. George attended. The coffin of the deceased was in the drawing-room on the ground floor of the residence, and on the lid were laid very beautiful floral wreaths. One was from Colonel and Mrs Davies, Rompney Castle, and attached was a mourning card bearing the words, "He would dare to lead if others dare to follow," and beneath this the ancient Welsh motto, "A fyno Duw a fydd." In English this means, "What God wills will be," but the beautiful euphony of the original is lost in the translation. Another wreath, composed of frosted flowers with snowdrops, was from Mrs Evans, Ironmonger, Pontypridd. There was a wreath and a fine floral cross from Mr G. Bellisario, 61, Lightburne Place, Cardiff, and a fine wreath from Mrs Rees, Butchers' Arms. At Cymmer Chapel Mr Gwillym Williams, Miskin, placed on the coffin, on behalf of Mrs Williams and himself, a magnificent floral wreath. The workman of all the neighbouring works went to work at three o'clock on Thursday morning, and left at one o'clock for the purpose of attending the funeral. At half-past two the melancholy cortege started. The coffin was of polished oak, and was placed on a plain bier and carried on the shoulders of the workmen. There was not even a pall covering the coffin, but simply the magnificent wreaths arranged in the form of a cross. The procession, notwithstanding the continuous downpour, was nearly half-a-mile in length, and in it were many women and young girls. Next to the coffin walked the brothers and nephews of the deceased. Then came a carriage conveying the widow of the departed and her friends. Other carriages followed, one containing the female relatives of the deceased. Then came the vast throng of working men followed by Dr. Henry Naunton Davies's carriage, drawn by a pair of horses. In this carriage rode the Right Hon. Aberdare, Mrs Thomas (the aged mother), and the Rev. D.W. Williams, Fairfield. Long before the bier reached Cymmer the throng had become largely augmented by people coming to meet the funeral from the lower parts of the valley. At Cymmer Bridge the vast concourse walking in front divided and stood in long lines on each side of the road, and through this the procession slowly passed. From this spot to the chapel the road was lined with deeply sympathetic people the major portion being workmen. The relatives of the deceased were the first to be admitted into the large chapel. Then the general public, including Lord Aberdare and other gentlemen, followed. The coffin was not taken into the chapel, but was left in the lobby.

The Rev. T. George commenced the service by reading a portion of the 9th chapter of Ecclesiastics, after which the Rev. Mr Evans, Bodryngallt, gave out the hymn --

Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty.
Guide me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.

This was sung with wonderful pathos by the vast congregation. The Rev. T. George then offered up a short prayer in Welsh. This being over, the Rev. Mr Evans commenced giving out another English hymn, presumably in order to enable the Lord Aberdare to take part in the service. It was, however, hurriedly conveyed to Mr Evans that his lordship preferred a Welsh hymn to be sung. This was publicly announced by the preacher, who gave out the magnificent Welsh funeral hymn:--

Bydd myrdd o rhyfeddodau
Ar doriad boreu wawr,
Pan ddelo plant y tonau
Yn iach o'r cystudd mawr;
Holl yn ei gynau gwynion,
Ac ar eu newydd wedd,
Yn debyg i'dd eu Harglwydd
Yn dod i'r lan o'r bedd.

It is impossible to convey a proper idea of the touching pathos with which this wonderful Welsh hymn was rendered by the congregation, composed principally of delvers of coal, with their wives and daughters, and many eyes, before the singing was over, bore unmistakable traces of deep emotion. The Rev. Mr Evans then took for his text, Book of Job, xxxvii, 17, "Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?" After an eloquent sermon in reference to the hope of a future life, referring to the late Mr Daniel Thomas, the preacher remarked that those present had lost a noble relation. Mr Thomas must have been a noble man. He proved himself possessed of this characteristic by his valuable services, in common with others, at the Tynewydd accident; by his noble, generous, skilful and successful efforts to get at the mortal remains of his poor fellow-creatures at the Dinas Collieries, and by his readiness and promptitude in descending on Sunday last into the Penygraig Colliery. He had gone beyond the gates through the doors of the shadow of death. Let them prepare to follow there. -- The Rev. Benjamin Davies, Treorchy, also addressed the congregation. He referred to the heroic self-sacrifice which had characterised the conduct of the departed, and intimated that probably a monument would be erected to commemorate his good qualities. -- The treasurer  of the Monument Committee is Mr William Roberts, Penygraig, and the Secretary is Mr L. Jones, Dinas Schools.

After the usual ceremony at the grave, which was lined with brick, the vast throng separated.

It has been made public that Mr Daniel Thomas has bequeathed all his possessions to his widow absolutely. The will was executed in 1875. Mrs Thomas has received a large number of letters; some from people of high position, expressing deep sympathy with her in her bereavement.


Western Mail, Saturday 2 February 1884


Probable Cause of the Disaster

On Friday Mr D.H. Daniels, manager, and Mr Edwin Randall, deputy-inspector of mines for South Wales, explored those parts of the workings where the bodies of the three ostlers and Wm. Williams, fireman, were found on Thursday. It seems that on Sunday morning Wm. Williams and another fireman named Daniel James, who luckily over-slept himself that morning, and, therefore, had not gone down the pit at the time of the explosion, had to fire a blasting hole each. These had been charged on Saturday afternoon, ready for the firing on the morrow. On Friday Mr D.H. Daniels and Mr Edwin Randall found that the hole which it was Wm. Williams duty to fire had been fired off and had shattered the rock. It would have been his duty, in the absence of Daniel James, to fire the other one also. This was situate in another part of the workings, and it is significant that he did reach that hole, which is still charged, with the fuse in the hole, as those who charged it left it on Saturday. Wm. Williams's dead body was found at a spot 70 yards in a straight line from the hole which he had fired. It is, therefore, inferred that the gas fired when the hole exploded, and that he was hurled in the fiery blast which followed to the spot where his body was found. What is inexplicable is that he, an experienced and intelligent man, fired before discovering the fiery condition of the atmosphere of the workings, for it must have been everywhere heavily charged with the fiery fluid at the time. It is pointed out that never before in the history of colliery explosions was it more strikingly proved that on this occasion that atmosphere disturbances are to be observed closely in colliery management. On Saturday night the barometer was exceeding low, and the manager gave special instructions to be most careful in all parts of the workings. On Friday the colliery authorities were engaged in clearing the "sump" of the downcast to enable them to re-attach the other cage. As soon as this is accomplished the 65 dead horses will be brought to bank and buried in the tips, where numerous holes have been made to receive them. The stench passing up the shaft is intolerable to the hundreds of families who reside in the neighbourhood. It is stated that the falls in the pits are but few, and that work will be resumed in a short time; that is, soon after all the bodies have been recovered and interred.

We have omitted to mention that among the colliery managers who have visited the pit are Messrs D. Evans, Bodringallt; W. Jenkins and his assistant (Mr Tallis), of Ocean Collieries; and T. Griffiths, Cymmer.



On Friday afternoon the funeral of Mr Edward Watkins, overman, took place at Zoar Baptist Chapel, Ffrwd Amos. The coffin bore many beautiful wreaths of choice flowers. At the chapel the Revs. -- Jones and T. George officiated. The chapel was crowded with the friends and neighbours of the departed, and the proceedings, as might have been expected, were of the most solemn description. All seemed awed in the presence of a terrible grief. The deepest pity was felt for the widow and seven little ones of the departed, who were dressed in deep mourning. In the chapel burying ground an incident occurred of a most touching description. As the pretty little daughter of the deceased, who is about 10 years of age, was led between friends to look down into the grave on her father's coffin, she became terribly excited. The moment she saw it she sprang back with an expression of terror in her countenance, and uttered several agonising wails and said, "My father, my father." Strong men trembled with deep emotion, and there was not a dry eye in the place. The bereaved family were taken to a cab, where, in the midst of her little orphan children, the poor mother fainted, as she had done previously in the chapel. This family deserve the special kind of attention of the benevolent. The address of Mrs Watkins is Pymer, Dinas.

At the late Mr Daniel Thomas's collieries operations will re-commence to-day (Saturday).

Western Mail, Monday 4 February 1884


Finding of More Bodies

Funerals of the Victims

On Saturday were found the dead bodies of David Jones, John Heycock, sen., and John Heycock, jun. The last named, who was nineteen years of age, volunteered to go down on the fatal morning instead of a younger brother. The two Heycocks were found in separate stalls, being engaged, apparently, at the time of the explosion in visiting alternate stalls, so as to finish the examination quickly. The father and son were untouched by the fire, and the watch of the elder Heycock had not stopped until it run down. David Davies, Rhuthin, wound it, and it instantly went off. David Jones was badly burnt. The only remaining body in the workings is that of John Price. The district in which he was engaged on the morning of the explosion has not been explored owing to gas and obstructions. It is likely that some of the horses will be brought out to-day (Monday).

On Sunday morning some thoughtless person or persons circulated the rumour that another explosion had occurred, and this induced many living at distant places to visit the locality. It is needless to state there was no foundation whatever for the rumour.

It is announced that Colonel Hunt, from whom the late Mr Daniel Thomas leased Dinas Colliery, will arrive at Dinas, and that some new measures with reference to the future of the works will be adopted. Mr David Alexander, Cardiff, will to-day proceed to value the works. It is rumoured in the neighbourhood that Mr Thomas will dispose of her late husband's interest in the collieries immediately.


On Saturday the remains of Solomon Edwards were conveyed by train, and interred at Cefncoed-y-Cymmer Cemetery; those of William Williams to Pontrhydfen, and Oliver John to Pentyrch.

The remains of Thomas Lewis, C.M., overman, were conveyed to Treorchy Cemetery. The funeral was attended by an extraordinary number of people, who walked two or three abreast. The procession was nearly two miles in length. The departed was well known and highly respected by the Ocean workmen, viz., Bwllfa, and many of those workmen attended the funeral as a token of respect for the deceased and his father, Mr David Lewis, who is overman at Ton, under Mr William Jenkins, Ystradfechan.

Western Mail, Tuesday 5 February 1884


Action to be Taken by the Miners' Delegates

The explorers are busily engaged at the colliery, and it was believed that the body of John Price, the only one left in the workings, would be recovered during Monday night.


At the monthly meeting of the Rhondda Steam Coal Delegates, held at the Windsor Castle Hotel, Ton, on Monday, the Llwynpia delegate presiding, the Chairman asked Mabon to bring before the meeting the question as to what action they should take as a district in regards to the Penygraig explosion.

Mabon said it now became his duty to make a report upon this and other matters. Since they met that day month they had been visited by a terrible catastrophe; an explosion had taken place at the Penygraig Colliery. It happened on a Sunday morning. Eleven men were cut down as it were, in a moment by that terrible explosion. They could all sympathise deeply with the relatives of their deceased brethren in their sorrow and join in the wish that something might sometime be found to avoid these terrible explosions which were cutting so many of them down so often, especially in that great and important valley. There were three persons connected with that sad affair of whom mention should be made there, as that was the first monthly meeting since the accident. Mr Daniel Thomas, proprietor of the Dinas and Dinas Isha Collieries, who was well known among them, and had been known for his efforts to save human lives before this occasion. He was awarded an Albert Medal for his bravery in his endeavours to save the lives of their fellow workmen before, although he had to brave death in doing so. Mr Thomas Lewis, under-manager of the colliery, was a comparatively young man, but one of no ordinary abilities; a young man from whom, had his life been spared, they might have expected a great deal. A self-made man -- born, as it were in a colliery -- he had lived for 30 years a collier; and through his own personal endeavours and abilities had risen to the position of colliery manager. He was at that time acting as under-manager at Penygraig; but all their hopes as to his promising career had been nipped in the bud. Another fellow-workman was Edward Watkins. he was a hero who had survived danger in many ways - on sea and land as well as underground; but he had come back safe there to be cut down, like his comrades, in a humane endeavour to save the lives of his fellow-creatures. With regard to the sad occurrence, experience might suggest that there was some indiscretion in the fatal attempt at exploration; and some might ask would not discretion have been the better part of valour even in this sad affair? But they were told to speak gently of the dead, to tread lightly o'er the hallowed ground where their fellow-mortals lie; and they were doubly prompted to do so when they felt, as they did in this case, that what was done was an attempt to save life. And he (Mabon) could not help saying, with the poet --

Let the dead hero's name
Be sanctified to fame,
Embalmed in every rich and fragrant breeze;
In every sunlit clime.
To all internal time,
Consenting lands his deathless deeds rehearse.

There was a probability that something might be done towards erecting a worthy monument in remembrance of those friends. When that question came before them he hoped all would endeavour to do something which would be worthy of themselves -- worthy of the mining population of the Rhondda Valleys. There would be an inquest -- from all indications a searching one, a very searching on -- and it behoved them, in his opinion, to take part in this inquest, as they did in the previous inquest at that colliery, and as they had done in others in the valley. It has been said that because those men who lost their lives at Penygraig were , the majority of them, officials of the colliery, it did not come upon them to take any important part in the investigation. He must say he could not agree with that idea. Those men were all human beings, their lives were as dear to their families as any workman's life was to his. As they had risen above their class they ought to have been of greater value. But no matter whether they were officials or workmen, they were men, and he thought it a duty to take part in this investigation, to try and fathom the cause of the disaster. If they could not find out the cause of these things it was very sad indeed; because a man who went to a colliery where the cause of an explosion was not known carried his life in his hand every moment he was there. But when the cause was found there was a chance of learning a lesson, if not to avoid altogether these explosions. And whatever had been the cause at Penygraig -- whether it could be attributed to negligence on the part of anybody, or whether it was one of those rare things, a pure accident in itself -- they should endeavour to ascertain. The District Committee had recommended that the delegates should be represented at the inquest, and the chairman would probably ask their opinion upon the matter shortly. The explosion naturally lead them once more to the discussion of a matter upon which they passed a resolution sometime ago -- the desirability of establishing stations throughout the Rhondda Valley where Fleuss Life-Saving Apparatus might be kept, and men trained to its use. Unfortunately, the patentee was asking so high a price for the apparatus that the employers had hitherto refused to have anything to do with it. He (Mabon) believed now -- and he said it there solemnly -- if a number of those apparatuses had been in use at Penygraig when the first exploring party went down there was a possibility -- though the probabilities were against it -- that the lives of those who were in the colliery at the time of the explosion might have been saved.  But at all events the first exploring party would have had no need to sacrifice their lives. That being so, it became a question whether the price of the apparatus ought to be a sufficient barrier in the way of its being adopted and stations established. The workmen would, of course, contribute their mite to its cost. Their employers would, he was sure, not be behind hand, and he thought it but reasonable that the landed proprietors who derived such benefits from royalties should contribute their quota. (Hear, hear.)

It was decided that Mabon and Mr Henry Roberts, Penygraig should attend the Penygraig inquest on behalf of the district.

In regard to the Fleuss Apparatus the following resolution was passed:--

That this meeting, believing that the Fleuss Life-saving Apparatus may be the means of saving many valuable lives now lost through the effects which follow explosions of gas, and which are oftentimes more destructive than the primary cause of the explosion itself, are desirous that the agent should endeavour to put this matter before the employers of the valley, in order to induce them to establish stations in the district, where apparatus may be kept and men trained to their proper use.

Western Mail, Wednesday 6 February 1884


Finding of the Last Body

On Tuesday the body of John Price, the last of the men lying in the mine, was found by Mr Burns, Bryncethin, and brought to bank. The funeral will take place at Tonyrefail on Thursday.

Names mentioned in the reports

A most serious explosion occurred in the Naval Steam Coal Colliery, Penygraig, early on Sunday morning the 27th January 1884, resulting in the loss of 14 lives, viz. 11 from the explosion, and three from suffocation, the latter forming part of a rescuing party.The Naval Steam Coal Colliery is situated at Penygraig, Rhondda Valley, within a distance of about seven miles from Pontypridd, the downcast shaft being close to the Taff Vale Railway (midway between Pandy and Llwynpia Stations), and the upcast in the Ely Valley, a short distance away

11 men were killed in explosion but 12 are listed as there seemed to be some confusion in the Western Mail reports.

  • ABERDARE, Right Hon. Lord - (1881 Census RG11/0128/76/40 - 34,35,36 St James's Place Private Hotel, Westminster St James, London; Peer Of Parliament aged 65, born Duffyn Aberdare. (1881 Census RG11/5325/77/2 - Duffryn Mansion, Aberdare; Lady ABERDARE, 54 year old Baroness, born Bromham, Wilts., parents of Caroline Louisa BRUCE, Sarah Napier BRUCE, Norah Anna Blanch BRUCE, Isabel Ellen BRUCE, Eliz Flora BRUCE, Pamela Georgina BRUCE and Alice Mary BRUCE - all "Honorable"
  • ABRAHAM, William (Mabon) - agent of Rhondda Steam Coal Miners (1881 Census RG11/5302/6/14 - 115 High Street, Ystradyfodwg; Miners Agent aged 38, husband of Sarah, father of David, Sarah, William, Mary, Margaret, Rachel, Thomas and Henry John)
  • ALEXANDER, David - Cardiff, valuer (1881 Census RG11/5289/103/14 - 1 Rectory Rd., Penarth; David T. ALEXANDER 40 year old Auctioneer, husband of Mary, father of Blanch M., John A., Herbert G., Grace M., and Frank D.)
  • AUGUSTUS, William - ostler - killed in explosion
  • BEDDOE, Thomas - night fireman
  • BEECH, Henry - Explorer
  • BEECH, Edward - Explorer
  • BEGG, Hugh, - now of Van, Caerphilly, joined Daniel THOMAS  and others to sink for coal on Dinas Ishaf Farm, in the Ely Valley; BEGG being acting manager (1881 Census RG11/5275/44/6 - Van Farm, Eglwysilan; 56 year old Mining Engineer, born Muirkink, Ayr, Scotland, husband of Cathrin, aged 38, born Tonyrefail, and uncle of Menie Begg EVANS)
  • BELLISARIO, G. - 61, Lightburne Place, Cardiff
  • BENNING, Frederick - fanman
  • BURNS, Thomas - mining engineer, Bryncethin, Bridgend, who found the body of John PRICE. Explorer
  • CARSEN, Dr. John - assistant to Dr. Henry Naunton DAVIES; examined remains of Daniel THOMAS (1881 Census RG11/5276/40/36 - Forest House, Cardiff St John; Physician L.R.C.S.J.L.K.2.C.P.J. aged 35, born in Ireland)
  • COFFIN, Walter - Llandaff, former proprietor of Dinas Steam Coal Collieries
  • CORBETT, GRIFFITHS, and EVANS, solicitors, Cardiff. (1881 Census RG11/5276/90/83 - 3 Windsor Place, Cardiff; James A. CORBETT 34 year old Solicitor, husband of Henrietta L., father of Vincent C. and Mary J.)
  • COMBES, George - phrenologist
  • DANIEL(S), Daniel Herbert, Caerphilly - certified manager of the Naval Colliery (Possible - 1881 Census RG11/5300/78/49 - 2 Brynwyndham Ter., Ystradyfodwg; Coal Miner aged 37, husband of Mary, father of David). Explorer
  • DAVIES, Rev. Benjamin - Treorchy (1881 Census RG11/5301/82/34 - 63 Dumfries St., Ystradyfodwg; 40 year old Independent Minister, husband of Elizabeth, father of David J., Llewellyn M., Margaret M., Gwen H. and Richard I.)
  • DAVIES, David - Rhuthin, overman & stoker at the downcast shaft. Explorer
  • DAVIES, Dr Evan N. - Penygraig
  • DAVIES, Col. Harry Harries & Mrs. Ann - Rompney Castle (1881 Census RG11/5289/129/7 - Rompney Castle, Rumney, Mon.; Harry Harries DAVIES 43 year old Ex United States Consul & Inn Keeper, born Llanfrechfa, husband of Ann)
  • DAVIES, Dr. Henry Naunton - (1881 Census RG11/5296/90/4 - Glyn Rhondda House, Llanwonno; Surgeon And General Practitioner I.R.C.P. Land Ed. M.R.C.S. L.L.S.A.L.M., widower aged 53, father of John Samuel, William Thomas, Rebecca Catherine and Blanch Maud)
  • DAVIES, Thomas (alias "Double Power") - described variously as contractor; ostler and timberman, who had gone down on the fatal morning, dressed in his evening clothes, to inspect some timber props. - killed in explosion
  • DAVIES, William - Court Villa, Tonypandy, foreman of the jury for the inquest held at the Miskin Inn, Trealaw, and then at the Butchers' Arms, Ffrwd Amos, Penygraig. (1881 Census RG11/5305/59/19 - Court Villa, Ystradyfodwg; 54 year old Gentleman, husband of Sarah, father of Gwen, Willie and Margaret)
  • EDWARDS, Solomon - master haulier, who had only just reached the bottom of the shaft, when the explosion took place. Aged 38, married, with children. On 2 Feb 1884 remains conveyed by train, and interred at Cefncoed-y-Cymmer Cemetery. (1881 Census RG11/5298/70/60 - Penygraig, Llantrisant; husband of Leucretia, father of Mary Jane, Gwenny, David John, Margaret, Leucretia and Rachel Ann) - killed in explosion
  • EVANS, D. - Bodringallt, colliery manager
  • EVANS, Jenkin - Ferndale, formerly assistant manager to Daniel THOMAS, sen. Jenkin Evans has recently translated into Welsh the philosophic work of Mr George COMBES, the phrenologist, and published it at the offices of Daniel OWEN and Co.
  • EVANS, Mary - Pontypridd, Ironmonger (1881 Census RG11/5296/125/6 - 88 Taff St., Llanwonno; Mary EVANS, widow aged 67 born Llandaff, Ironmonger Employing 6 Men & 3 Boys, mother of Sarah A., Emma and Richard M., mother in law of Minnie EVANS and grandmother of Edwd. D. WILLIAMS)
  • EVANS, Rev. - Bodryngallt
  • GALLOWAY, William - aged 43, late Deputy-Inspector of Mines, from Cardiff (1881 Census RG11/5276/41/38 - 22 Crockherb Town, Cardiff St John; Mining Engineer Practising. widower, father of William A.D., and Christian F.J.). Explorer
  • GEORGE, Rev. Thomas - (1881 Census RG11/5298/27/48 - Pen Pound Row, Llantrisant; Thomas GEORGE, Independant Minister, aged 42 born Abergwiilly, Carmarthen, husband of Mary, father of James T., and William H.)
  • GRIFFITHS, George - Cardiff, possibly partner in firm of solicitors, CORBETT, GRIFFITHS, and EVANS, Cardiff.
  • GRIFFITHS, T. - colliery manager Cymmer
  • GROVER, Henry Llewellyn - Cardiff, Deputy Coroner (1881 Census RG11/5296/172/16 - Clydach Court, Llanwonno; 35 year old Manchester born Solicitor, husband of Margaret, father of Morgan Llewelyn, Gladys Nightingale, twins Caroline and Mary, and Edward Brooket, Henry Montague Gurly, brother of Montague Herbert GROVER and Harriett Nightingale GROVER)
  • HAVARD, John - Aberdare, whom Daniel THOMAS appointed manager of Dinas Steam Coal Collieries, which was re-opened in 1881 following disastrous explosion in 1879, when he leased the colliery from Col. HUNT. (1881 Census RG11/5298/66/52 - Col Hunts Cottages, Penygraig; 43 year old Mine Serv Colliery Manager, husband of Dorothy)
  • HAYWARD, James - labourer (Possible 1881 Census RG11/5306/101/61 - 5 Wengraig Rd., Ystradyfodwg; 28 year old Coalminer from Winfort, Som., husband of Elizabeth, father of John H., James E. and Mary A.)
  • HEYCOCK sen., John - fireman aged 41, father of John HEYCOCK, jun. (1881 Census RG11/5305/127/23 - , 77 Penygraig Road, Ystradyfodwg; husband of Elizabeth, father of Morgan, Mary, Samuel, George, William, Janet and Bethuel R.) - killed in explosion
  • HEYCOCK jun., John - 19 year old fireman, who had simply gone down the pit that morning for the purpose of accompanying his father in his rounds. (1881 Census RG11/5305/127/23 - , 77 Penygraig Road, Ystradyfodwg) - killed in explosion
  • HOOD, William W. - Llwynpia, who descended the shaft, with a view of testing the gas. (Possible 1881 Census RG11/5305/8/9 - William W. HOOD of Glyn Cornel House, Ystradyfodwg; 25 year old Mining Engineer, born Rosewell Nr, Edinburgh)
  • HOWELL, Morgan - overman in the 9 foot seam. Explorer
  • HUGHES, Timothy - Llancaich, Llanfabon, farm bailiff, father of Sarah A. HUGHES, wife of Daniel THOMAS (1881 Census RG11/5298/102/7 - Edmondstown, Llantrisant)
  • HUNT, Colonel - London, former proprietor of Dinas Steam Coal Collieries
  • INGRAM, Alfred - night foreman
  • INGRAM, John - Explorer
  • JAMES, Daniel - day fireman who overslept and did not go down
  • JAMES, Edmund, and Gwen, Ffrwd Amos - grandparents of Daniel THOMAS.
  • JENKINS, William - manager Ocean Collieries, Ystradfechan (1881 Census RG11/5303/87/7 - Ystradfechan House, Ystradyfodwg; 41 year old Mining Engineer born Llanfigan, Brecknock, husband of Kate E., father of Herbert Riches). Explorer
  • JOHN, Howell - Williamstown, manager at Dinas (1881 Census RG11/5298/52/23 - Williamstown, Llantrisant; 35 year old Overman In Coal Mine (Coal Miner), husband of Lydia, father of Mary, Ann and Catherine)
  • JOHN, Oliver - fireman (or ostler). On 2 Feb 1884 remains conveyed to Pentyrch. (1881 Census RG11/5298/71/61 - Penygraig, Llantrisant; husband of Gwenllian, father of Ann and Matthew) - killed in explosion
  • JONES, David - fireman aged 53, who son John JONES was overcome by fire-damp and brought to bank during the rescue attempt. (1881 Census RG11/5305/98/25 - 75 Trafalgar Terrace, Ystradyfodwg; husband of Martha, father of Ann, Margaret, Elizabeth, James, Martha and Rachel S.) - killed in explosion
  • JONES, John - son of David JONES who was killed - overcome by fire-damp and brought to bank. Explorer
  • JONES, L. - Dinas Schools, Secretary of the Monument Committee
  • JONES, Thomas - Maundy House, Ynyshir. Explorer
  • KNILL, Hopkin - juryman at inquest (1881 Census RG11/5305/70/42 - 2 Knills Houses, Ystradyfodwg; 38 year old Builder Contractor Employing 20 Men, born Llandaff, Cardiff)
  • LAWRENCE, Arthur, M.E. - Cardiff (1881 Census RG11/5276/103/5 - Arthur LAWRENCE, Mining Engineer, aged 32, boarding at 39 The Walk, Cardiff St John, born Monmouth)
  • LEWIS, David - overman at Ton Ystrad Colliery, father of Thomas LEWIS, one of the explorers who lost his life
  • LEWIS, Dr. Ivor - Cymmer
  • LEWIS, Thomas - under-manager of Penygraig, a married man, 25 or 26 years of age, whose father, David LEWIS, is an overman at Ton Ystrad Colliery. The remains were conveyed to Treorchy Cemetery. Explorer who died
  • LLOYD, Mr. - Merthyr, now of Pontypridd, who educated Daniel THOMAS, and trained many managers.
  • LLOYD, John - Explorer
  • LYTTLETON, Hon. Alfred - barrister, representing the Home Office (1881 Census RG11/1458/105/11 - Eton College, Eton, Buckingham; 24 year old Student Inner Temple, born London (Visitor))
  • McMURRAY, Alfred J. - postmaster, Pontypridd, who has been ill for some time and has had to delegate his duties to others, presumably Mr PRICE. (1881 Census RG11/5296/132/20 - Disgwilva, Llanwonno, aged 43, Postmaster (C.S. Off); husband of Clara, father of William A, Chas. Hy.)
  • MATHIAS, Mr.
  • MATTHEWS, Jabez - Police Superintendent (1881 Census RG11/5296/131/17 - 7 St Catherine St., Llanwonno; aged 56, husband of Margt., father of Edwin J., Albert J., George G. and Edith A.M.)
  • MORGAN, Charles - son of William MORGAN, Bronwydd, Pontypridd, owner of the colliery (1881 Census RG11/5296/132/19 - Bronwydd Villa, Llanwonno; William aged 60, Coal Exporter (Merchant), husband of Esther aged 57, father of Charles aged 26, Coal Exporters Clerk, and 7 year old granddaughter Lydia E. MORGAN)
  • MORGAN, John - Explorer
  • MORGAN, Thomas (Tyledu), now of Clydach Vale - overman, overcome by fire-damp and brought to bank. Explorer
  • MORGAN, William - Bronwydd, Pontypridd, owner of the colliery but not engaged in any part of the management of the works and who was very ill and had not been informed of the explosion for fear of endangering his life.
  • "Morlan" - a Western Mail reporter or contributor
  • NUGENT, Frederick - ostler aged 45 (1881 Census RG11/5330/81/7 - The Kennel, Llandow; husband of Eliza, father of Annie, Henry, Alfred, Albert and Ernest) - killed in explosion
  • OWEN, Daniel and Co. - Publishers
  • OWEN, Dr. - Clydach Vale
  • PARKER,  Mr. - Ynyshir
  • PASCOE, David - Explorer
  • PHILLIPS, William - Explorer
  • PRICE, John - fireman aged 42 - the last of the men lying in the mine, was found by Mr. BURNS, Bryncethin. The funeral will take place at Tonyrefail on 7 Feb 1884. (1881 Census RG11/5305/98/28 - 65 Trafalgar Terrace, Ystradyfodwg; husband of Elizabeth, father of William J., Thomas H. and Sarah J.) - killed in explosion
  • PRICE, Robert - local postmaster, Pontypridd (Possible 1881 Census RG11/5305/112/54 - Post Office, Ystradyfodwg; Robert PRICE aged 56, Grocer & Sub Post Master, husband of Sarah, father of Jane and Elizabeth)
  • PRICE, Mr. Clydach Vale - mechanic
  • RANDALL, Edwin W. - Deputy Inspector of Mines for the South Wales District
  • REECE, Edmund B. - of Cardiff, coroner (1881 Census RG11/5287/96/17 - Eason Villa, Newport Rd., Roath; Coroner & Solicitor aged 41, husband of Mary P., father of Edmund L.B., Lewis F.B. and Edward T.B.)
  • REES, Gwenllian - Glamorgan Hotel, Williamstown, dau. of Daniel THOMAS, sen. (1881 Census RG11/5298/48/15 - Glamorgan Hotel, Llantrisant; aged 34, wife of Moses REES,  Innkeeper, parents of Edmund, Joseph, Margaret, Sarah, Mary and Daniel)
  • REES, Rev. John - curate (1881 Census RG11/5301/9/30 - Mary St School Cottage, Ystradyfodwg; John REES 35 year old Curate Of Ystradyfodwg, born Kidwelly, Carmarthen)
  • REES, John "Esgunt", Llantwit Major - ostler - killed in explosion
  • REES, Rachel - Butchers Arms (1881 Census RG11/5305/112/53 &54 - Butchers Arms, Ystradyfodwg; Morgan REES 52 year old Inn Keeper and wife Rachel aged 48 born Llansamlet, parents of Thomas M., and Rachel M.)
  • REES, Moses - Explorer
  • RICHARDS. Rev.
  • ROBERTS, Henry - Penygraig. to attend inquest with Mabon, representing the Rhondda Steam Coal Miners
  • ROBERTS, John - ripper at the Upper Pit
  • ROBERTS, William - Penygraig, Treasurer of the Monument Committee
  • ROWLAND, Moses R. - Pisgah House, Penygraig, owner of the colliery and former head manager but not engaged in any part of the management of the works, aged 40 (1881 Census RG11/5298/43/5 - Williamstown, Llantrisant; Colliery Manager (Miner), husband of Sephorah, father of Rowland, Moses, Gwilym and Sephorah) Explorer
  • ROWLAND, Rowland - former manager, aged 62 (1881 Census RG11/5305/100/29 - 60 Trafalgar Terrace, Ystradyfodwg; Colliery Agent, husband of Jane, father of Esther M, Rowland and Gwilym) Explorer
  • SEVILLE, James - ostler aged 50, married with children (Possible - 1881 Census RG11/4034/13/20 - 65 Little Moor Lane, Oldham, Lancashire, England; husband of Mary, father of Hannah, James, Betty, Elizabeth and Mary) - killed in explosion
  • SIMONS, William - Merthyr, for the proprietors of the colliery (1881 Census RG11/5316/140/48 - Gwaunfarren House, Merthyr Tydfil; 67 year old Barrister At Law, born Pembrey, Carmarthen, husband of Clara Maria, father of Mary Clara Louisa, William Vasil Landale, Alice Maud Maria, Blanche Edith Selwyn, Robert John Cobden, Charles Edward Bright, Catherine Evelyn, Frederick Dyke, Phebe Eliza Jenny and Emma Scobell)
  • STEWARD, Mr. - manager of the Penrhiwfer Collieries of the Glamorgan Coal Company
  • TALLIS, Mr. - assistant manger Ocean Collieries
  • THOMAS, sen., Daniel - father of Daniel THOMAS, descended from a race of Welsh farmers in the parish of Llantwit Vardre, was for about 23 years chief manager of Dinas Collieries under the late Walter COFFIN, Llandaff, and Colonel HUNT, London. Manager and proprietor of Brithwennydd Colliery. Opened another colliery called Brithwennydd Drift. Daniel THOMAS, sen. died 27 Jan 1872.
  • THOMAS, Daniel - "Daniel Bach", lessee and manager of Dinas Collieries, aged 35, leaves a widow, but no children. Born 15 Jan 1849, 3rd son of Daniel THOMAS. His mother is the daughter of Mr Edmund JAMES and Gwen his wife, Ffrwd Amos. Daniel was married to Sarah A. HUGHES, widow of Captain TROYERS, Cardiff - she is the daughter of Mr Timothy HUGHES, farm bailiff, Llancaich, Llanfabon. Daniel THOMAS assisted his father in the management of the Brithwennydd Pit which was abandoned in 1875. He was also a shareholder in the Fforch Nest Colliery. Buried at Cymmer Independent Chapel Burial Ground on 31 Jan 1884. (1881 Census RG11/5298/102/7 - Edmondstown, Llantrisant; Mine Servant Colliery Inspector, husband of Sarah A.) Explorer who died
  • THOMAS, David P - Llantwit Vardre, mining engineer
  • THOMAS, Edmund - Maindy Hall, former proprietor of Gelli Colliery, brother of Daniel THOMAS (1881 Census RG11/5302/164/91 - Maendy Hall, Ystradyfodwg, Collery Proprietor (Mine Serv) aged 50, husband of Catherine, father of Margaret, Fred, Matilda, Robert, John, Gwen and Bessie)
  • THOMAS, Edmund - nephew of Daniel THOMAS
  • THOMAS, Edward - Brithwennydd, son of Daniel THOMAS, sen.
  • THOMAS, Idris - Trealaw Hotel, son of Daniel THOMAS, sen. (1881 Census RG11/5306/54/34 - Trealaw Inn, Trealaw Rd., Ystradyfodwg; Inn Keeper aged 25, husband of Harriett, father of Daniel, Elizabeth and Margaret)
  • THOMAS, Isaiah - brother of Daniel THOMAS. Explorer
  • THOMAS, James - Ynyshir, with whom Daniel THOMAS had commenced sinking for steam coal at Ynyshir, the property of the Rev. D.W. WILLIAMS, M.A., Fairfield, and Mr. WHITTING, Weson-super-Mare
  • TROYERS, Captain - Cardiff, late husband of Sarah A. HUGHES wife of Daniel THOMAS.
  • WALES, Thomas E. - Her Majesty's Inspector of Mines for South Wales (1881 Census RG11/5361/34/3 - Cae Bailey, Swansea Town; Government Inspector Of Mines aged 54, husband of Mary, father of Henry Thos., Emily, Margaret E., Montague E. and Ernest)
  • WATKINS, Edward - Pymer, Dinas., overman, (known as "Ned Adare Inn"), formerly of the Adare Inn, where he was born, near the Penygraig Colliery, who leaves a family of seven young children, the eldest aged 12. Buried at Zoar Baptist Chapel, Firwd Amos on 1 Feb 1884. Explorer who died
  • WATKINS, Mary - Brithwennydd Hotel, dau. of Daniel THOMAS, sen. (1881 Census RG11/5306/66/58 - Brithd Hotel, Brithwaunydd Rd., Ystradyfodwg; aged 39, wife of Watkin WATKINS, 49 year old Public House Keeper, parents of Fredrick and Gwen)
  • WATKINS, Richard - landlord of the Greyhound Inn, Pontypridd, brother of Edward WATKINS (1881 Census RG11/5299/109/4 - 1 Tram Road (Greyhound Inn), Llantwit Vairdre; Licensed Victualler aged 37, husband of Martha)
  • WHITTING, Mr. - Weston-super-Mare
  • WILLIAMS, Rev. David Watkin, M.A., - Fairfield (1881 Census RG11/5293/125/1 - Fairfield House, Eglwysilan; 64 year old Clerk In Holy Orders Without Cure Clergyman, born London, husband of 21 year old Mary C.Moslyn WILLIAMS from Bala; Visitors - Charlotte Moslyn RENWICK and nephew Theophilus R. HAMLEN)
  • WILLIAMS, Gwilym - Miskin Manor, stipendiary magistrate (1881 Census RG11/5297/18/32 - Miskin Manor, Llantrisant; 41 year old Stipendiary Magistrate (Oth Loc Off) born Aberdare, husband of Emma E., father of Jestyn, Enid M., Arthur S. and Leoline)
  • WILLIAMS, Idris
  • WILLIAMS, Morgan R. - Bank, Pontypridd (1881 Census RG11/5296/125/6 - 90 Taff St., Llanwonno; 41 year old Bank Manager (Serv), husband of Elizabeth, father of Katherine, Gertrude, William R., Beatrice A., Emily A., and Ivor)
  • WILLIAMS, Thomas - Troedyrhiw House, Merthyr Tydfil, coroner (1881 Census RG11/5310/86/22 - Troedyrhiw House, Merthyr Tydfil; 41 year old Solicitor & Deputy Coroner, husband of Marie Agnes, father of Mary M.K., Lilian Leigh, Eva S.L., Thomas J.E., and nephew Frank P. LOVERIDGE)
  • WILLIAMS, William - fireman aged 60. On 2 Feb 1884 remains conveyed to Pontrhydfen. (1881 Census RG11/5305/97/23 - , 86, Trafalgar Terrace, Ystradyfodwg; husband of Ann, father of David, Noah, James, Ann, uncle of Mary WILLIAMS and brother of Gwenllian ROSSER) - killed in explosion

The Inquest

On Thursday the inquest on the 14 men who were killed at the Penygraig explosion, which occurred on the 27th of January last, was resumed at Penygraig. The coroners present were -- Mr. Thomas Williams and Mr H. Ll. Grover (deputy coroner). Mr Thomas Williams stated that the inquest would be nominally on the body of Thomas Davies, but the inquiry really applied to the 14 men who lost their lives in connection with the disaster.

The Hon. Alfred Lyttleton, barrister, was in attendance representing the Home Office, and Mr. Thos. Wales, Her Majesty's Inspector of Mines for South Wales and Mr Edwin Randell, the deputy-inspector. Mr. W. Simons represented the Colliery Company. Mr William Abraham (Mabon) was also in attendance representing the miners of the district, and Mr. Wm. Davies, Court Villa, Tonypandy.

Mr. Thomas Williams opened the inquiry by briefly sketching the nature of the evidence which would be brought forward.

Sergeant Price gave formal evidence of identification of the body in reference to which the inquiry was held.

Dr. Evan N. Davies gave evidence as to the nature of the injuries the deceased had sustained. In answer to the Coroner, Dr. Davies said that in no instance did he discover that the burns which many of the deceased had sustained were caused by powder. The only one whose death was directly attributable to violence was Fred Nugent.

By Mr. Simons.-- He could not say positively whether the injuries Heycock the elder had sustained were burns or abrasions. His hair was not burnt, but the face and hands might have been burnt by a passing flash without touching the hair.

David P. Thomas, mining engineer, Llantwit Vardre, proved having prepared the tracing of the plan of the colliery produced. The spot where each dead body was found after the explosion was marked on the tracing.

By the Deputy-Coroner.-- He had been surveyor to the Penygraig Company two years. He went monthly underground to survey and make additions to the plan in accordance with the progress made in the workings.

David Davies, stoker at the downcast shaft of the Penygraig Colliery, said he was at work at the top of the colliery at the time the explosion occurred. The men descended between 6 and 6.30 a.m. He acted as banksman on the occasion. Nothing attracted his attention from the time they descended until a report came through the shaft at about 20 minutes to 7 o'clock.

By Mr. Simons.-- He did not see any flames coming up the shaft.

Fred. Benning, fanman, deposed that he had occupied that position about four years. He was at the fan close to the upcast shaft on the Sunday morning of the explosion. He had been there all night. He remembered four of the men going down that morning. About 6.20 three went down, and about 6.30 Solomon Edwards descended. About 12 minutes to 7 o'clock a loud report came out of the pit, and in a few seconds afterwards he saw the pit full of sulphur. He did not see any fire. Some of the things about the pit's mouth were blown about, and a wall falling knocked him down, and the debris held him fast for a little while. He had acted as banksman that morning, and had let down the four men. The fan had gone just as usual all Saturday night and Sunday morning. The fan made the same number of revolutions, viz. 98 per minute, whether men were down or not. There was no indicator in the fan engine-house indicating the number of revolution made. He calculated the number made by his watch.

Mr. Daniels, in answer to the Coroner, stated that the fan was one made on the premises on the Guibal plan.

The witness, continuing, said the covering over the pit's mouth was not removed during the preceding night. He entered in a book every three hours the number of strokes per minute made by the fan during those hours. He did so on the night and morning preceding the explosion. (Book produced.)

By the Hon. Mr Lyttelton.-- The last man came up from the pit about 8 o'clock on the preceding night.

By Mr. Simons.-- He knew his duty, but did not know the rules by heart. No powder was to go down, nor a man under the influence of drink. Never, to his knowledge, allowed any man to violate the special rules of the colliery.

Thomas Beddoe, night fireman, stated that he was employed at the upcast shaft. He had been there two years and a half. He was down in the pit at 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the day preceding the explosion. He made a complete examination of the workings, and did not leave the colliery until 8 o'clock at night. He entered the result of the examination in a book. The report was to the effect that the roads and airways were in a good condition. There was a small blower, but otherwise the mine was in a good condition. Blowers were found in Nos. 1 and 2 headings some days before. There was a little accumulation of gas. On Saturday, about 11 o'clock a.m. a brattice was broken down, and an accumulation of gas took place, but it was cleared by 7.30 p.m. He did not find gas in any other portion of the mine. During the last three months he had seen gas in different parts of the workings. He (witness) had to do with firing shots in the mine. No shots were fired on Saturday. On that day he had met Mr Daniels (the manager), and he requested witness to be very careful, as the barometer was very low. There was a shot to be fired that night, and the men requested him to do it, but he declined in consequence of the state of the barometer. Shots were fired with a heated wire. This wire was applied to the fuse in the hole to be let off. Before firing, the condition of the atmosphere of the colliery was always examined with a Davy lamp. He remembered the men turned out of No. 2 shaft in March last year.

By Mr. Simons.-- It was the duty of a fireman to fire the shots. He never fired when there was an indication of gas.

By the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton.-- The brattice referred to above was knocked down by a fall from the roof. Shots were fired in the main heading when there were as many as 60 men in the pit. He remembered a flash of fire once when a  shot was fired at a spot about 20 yards from the place where William Williams, who was killed, had to fire a shot on the morning of the explosion. There were cracks in the roof in the neighbourhood, and they were well known to everybody, and were still to be seen there. He believed it was a dangerous place to fire, and that was the reason he refused to fire. Shots were fired there after he (witness) refused to do so.

By the Hon. Mr. Lyttelton.-- The cracks referred to extended from the spot where the shots were which he refused to fire, to the spot where the shot was which Wm. Williams fired, and which it was supposed caused the explosion.

By Mr. Simons.-- On the occasion referred to, when a flash took place, there were 11 shots to be fired. He (witness) fired one, his butty another, and a third went off unaccountably. His butty went and told the overman of this, and he sent ordering them not to fire any more shots. This was said to the butty and not to him. Two of the holes were than cleared without being fired. The other six shots were fired on the day following. It was customary to fire the shots between two shifts -- after the departure of one turn and the coming in of the other.

By Mabon.-- It was the safety fuse that was used.

James Hayward, labourer, was employed on the incline in the 6 foot seam in the return, and afterwards on the double parting in the 9 foot seam, clearing a fall. The condition of the mine was very good when he left it at 2 o'clock on Sunday morning. No shot was fired when he was in the colliery.

Morgan Howell, overman in the 9 foot seam, stated that he went down the No. 2 shaft about 8 o'clock on Sunday morning with Mr. Daniel Thomas and the other explorers. He then described their experiences until the time Mr. Daniel Thomas, Thomas Lewis (overman), Edward Watkins, Thomas Morgan, and John Jones left him and the others, and proceeded father than they could. He requested Edward Watkins to tell the above named to return, as he and the others were going back. Only John Jones and Thomas Morgan returned alive. He himself became insensible, but was rescued by the men who had followed in.

Alfred Ingram, night foreman, said in reference to the third shot going off of its own accord, and referred to by Beddoe, that he had frequently during his experience known shots to go off under similar circumstances.

David Davies, overman, stated that the air in this colliery was generally good.

By Mabon.-- One of the old hard headings open at the time of the former explosion was still open.

By the Coroner.-- That heading was straight from the pit. It was not used now. It was clear of gas with the exception of a small blower. He was in the habit of visiting himself. There was a small fall in it, but nothing dangerous. He was not aware that the workmen who last examined the workings on behalf of their fellow-workmen could not go into it owing to obstructions.

The inquiry was then adjourned until 9.30 this (Friday) morning.

The inquest on the bodies of the men killed at the explosion at Penygraig Naval Steam Coal Colliery on the 27th of January was resumed at the Butchers' Arms, Penygraig, on Friday, before Mr. T. Williams, Coroner, and Mr. H. Ll. Grover, deputy-coroner, who acted jointly as representing the two districts in which the colliery lies (the upcast shaft being in the parish of Llantrissant and the downcast in the parish of Ystradyfodwg).

The Hon. Alfred Lyttelton. barrister, represented the Home Office; Mr. W. Simons, Merthyr, appeared to watch the proceedings for the proprietors of the colliery; and Mr W. Abraham (Mabon) watched them on behalf of the Rhondda District of Miners. Mr. T. E. Wales, the Government Inspector of Mines, and Mr. E. W. Randall, the assistant inspector, were present.

The foreman of the jury was Mr. W. Davies, Court Villa. There were a considerable number of people in the room during the hearing, and the proceedings were eagerly followed by all present.

Mr. Thomas Burn, mining engineer, Bryncethin, Bridgend, gave evidence upon the condition of the pit, and said he saw no reason why a shot should not be fired on Sunday morning, provided the ventilators were all right, and an examination showed that no gas was present.

John Carson, assistant to Dr. Davies, deposed to the nature of the injuries of Solomon Edwards and David Jones. Mr. David Thomas and Edward Watkins he also saw. The cause of death of the last two was suffocation.

Daniel James, day fireman, had been there 15 months fireman. Knew the shot found fired after the explosion. It was in the main heading. He had prepared it. Could not say why Beddoe had not fired the shot on Saturday night. Did not fire shots himself. There was a shotman at the colliery. Examined the cavity referred to every morning, and got up on the timbers to do so. Never found gas there or in the cracks which he examined.

By Mr. Grover.-- Had put off dozens of shots not far from that hole before the explosion. There was a shot fired in the roof there on the Sunday previous to the explosion. It was fired by Wm. Williams.

By Mr. Simons.-- Never found any accumulations of gas in this district; small blowers, but nothing to occasion any danger.

By a Juror.-- It was my duty to go down on the morning of the explosion, but I overslept myself a quarter of an hour.

Replying to a question suggested by Mabon, witness at first said he did not remember whether he had told anybody that the gas had fired at that hole before. Ultimately he said Wm. Williams did tell him that the hole fired with him once.

John Roberts, ripper at the Upper Pit, gave further details as to the mode of conducting blasting operations at the colliery.

Daniel Herbert Daniel, certified manager of the Naval Colliery, said he had been there seven months. The mine was not more gaseous than some others he had seen in the Aberdare Valley. Asked by Mr. Coroner Williams to state what collieries, he said Cwmneol and Cwmamman Collieries, years ago. Went down twice or three times a week, and sometimes every day; it would depend upon circumstances. He produced the official reports of the colliery, showing the ventilation, &c. The total intake at the last record, on the 16th of January, was 88,000. On the morning of the explosion he was away at Caerphilly with his friends. He had gone on the Saturday evening. Immediately returned -- as soon as he could get a conveyance -- on receipt of a telegram from Mr. Williams. He went down the colliery on Sunday evening. Went down with Mr. Burn on the 31st, and saw the place where the shot had been fired. Thought the explosion was consequent upon the shot. The only time he heard of that place being fired by Williams was about four months ago, when the matter was reported to Thomas Morgan, and he reported it to him (witness). Did not know how it occurred. Warned Morgan about it, and he said he told the men not to fire again. Eleven holes had been made in the roof at that spot, as it was absolutely necessary to rip the top, owing to the roof having come down so low as to render it difficult for a horse to pass under. It was the firing of two of those holes that Morgan reported. Witness did not always know when shots were fired; the firing was left principally to the direction of the under-manager.

David Davies, overman, who had charge of six dynamite balls which were ready for use in the pit, said he had searched for them since and had been unable to find them. There were no signs of them having exploded. After the explosion the door of the place in which the dynamite was stored was found to have been blown open.

Mr. E. W. Randall, Assistant Inspector Mines for the South Wales District, described his visits to the pit previous to the explosion, and said he had been in the mine repeatedly since that event, and entirely agreed with Mr. Burn and Mr. Daniel as to the wreckage of the mine. The gas was in the first instance fired by the shot; but no very large quantity was fired there.

Mr. Williams.-- Having regard to the surrounding circumstances, more particularly the cavity in the top and the cracks, do you think it was prudent to fire a shot there? -- Witness: I would not have fired a shot there, of course, knowing the circumstances.

Coroner.-- Not after the explosion, I mean -- Witness: Knowing of the crack, I would not.

Mr. T. E. Wales, Government Inspector of Mines, said: I have inspected the colliery since the explosion. It was on Monday, the 28th of January, and on the 27th February (Wednesday last), and found that, as well as from the evidence given at this inquest yesterday and today, I attribute the explosion to the firing of the shot by Wm. Williams on the main level. I believe the gas which was ignited first passed from the old works on the north and west side of where the shot was fired. In my opinion, it was most injudicious on the part of the manager to allow shot-firing in those parts of the colliery spoken to by the fireman in their evidence. But to allow shot-firing on the main level after Beddoe had refused to do so some four months ago, was to my mind, most reckless conduct on behalf of the owner and manager. In my evidence at the inquest held on the bodies of the men who were killed in this colliery a few years ago, I stated that shot-firing should be strictly prohibited in all collieries working the South Wales steam coal. Had that recommendation been carried out this explosion and consequent great loss of life would not have occurred.  I would strongly recommend that shot-firing be strictly prohibited in the working of the colliery in future. I hope the present sad calamity will act as a warning to such managers as are now allowing shot-firing in working the South Wales steam coal. If such a dangerous practice be allowed it will sooner or later in all probability result in similar calamities.

By Mr. Williams.-- Ripping could be done by hand, as it was done in some collieries in the district, or they must take up the bottom.

By Mr. Simons.-- In new headings, where they drove through worked-out places, not where they drove through new places, he meant that firing should be prohibited. Ripping by hand would be a slow process, but he did not consider it impracticable. It would be expensive.

By Mr. Middleton.-- I approve of the system of ventilation, but would have preferred the lamp-station in another position (indicated on the plan).

The Verdict.

The room was cleared, and when, an hour and a half later the public were re-admitted, the following written verdicts were handed to the coroner:-

"We are agreed that the cause of Thomas's death was accidental. It was caused by the explosion. We are also agreed that the explosion was caused by the shot fired by the late William Williams, but we beg to add that the manager should have given the shotman more explicit orders in firing the shots at that particular time and place."

Replying to Mr. Williams, the jury said the same verdict applied to the whole of the ten men killed by the explosion.

Mr. Grover asked what their verdict was with regard to the death of Mr. Daniel Thomas and the other explorers.

The jury returned a verdict of "Death by suffocation resulting from the explosion."

The inquiry then terminated.

28 Dec 2002 - Gareth Hicks