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They ran for their lives.

Byline: By Ray Marshall

On the morning of March 30, 1925, the men working in the Montagu Pit were going about their work when there was a bang, a smell of black damp, (methane gas) and shouts of "Run!"

Two men, Matthew Errington and W, Guthrie, had drilled and placed charges in the face which brought the expected fall of coal. But then water began to trickle through.

The charge had bridged the thin gap between the old flooded Brockwell Seam and the View Pit. There were 107 men and 41 boys in the pit that day.

Alma Wheeler, MBE, tells the story of the disaster from memories she discovered among her father's possessions.

I AM the daughter of Bill Wheeler and although I had always been very aware that there had been a disaster at the Montagu Pit in Scotswood, Newcastle, it wasn't until I moved from our family home at Roberts Street, Scotswood, in 2004, that I came upon my dad's memories of that day.

He had worked in the pit with his father since he was 14, leading the ponies as a lad and then a hewer in later years.

He hated it. The dark, wet and cold; the fear of the unknown; constant talk of black damp. It was daunting until the day the talk became reality. At 10.30am on March 30, 1925, black damp and water escaped from the old Paradise Pit which hadn't been worked for almost 80 years. Hewers in the Bored Flats area holed into the old Pit Three and million gallons of water and gas escaped into the Montagu.

Word sore was a smell of the black damp and the word "Run" rang out. They ran. He said he had never run so fast in his life, grabbing young lads and old men on the way, sadly leaving behind their pit ponies, and 38 men and boys who were lost.

Friends and neighbours were killed and he would volunteer to go down to bring up the dead because rescue wasn't an option. The pit was flooded and it took months to pump out. Some loved ones weren't brought out until January 1926.

The management were taken to task. They had been aware that the old workings were close by but plans had been mislaid and old miners' concerns were ignored.

My dad vowed never to go down the pit again. He left, taking a lump of coal and his sad memories with him

He went on to open Scotswood Assembly Rooms, a roller skating and dance hall on Scotswood Road and the names of all those lost hung in the dance hall until the day it was pulled down in 1966, they then went to Roberts Street, never to be forgotten.

Service will remember the dead

A memorial service will take place in St Margaret's Church, Armstrong Road, Scotswood, on Wednesday at 7pm as Scotswood Village Residents' Association affectionately remember the 38 men and boys who lost their lives in the Montagu Colliery on March, 30, 1925. Everyone is welcome to come along and join in commemoration of the 80th year of this disaster.

Those who lost their lives that day were William Halliday, John Murthwaite, John Marten, 16, Ridley Terrace, Mathew Errington, James Nixon, Joseph Nixon, Robert Heslop, Charles Simpson, Isaac Booth, John Thompson, Robert Thompson, Fred Dent, George Hetherington, Matt Hetherington, Christopher Batey, Thomas Batey, Ralph Carr, Robert Havelock, William Trewicks, John Trewicks, William Fewer, Edward Jackson, John Lea, William Potts, Sam Evans,

William Thompson, William Johnson, William Lyons, Alex Learmouth, James Steel, Richard Rodgers, William Guthrie, Thomas Danskin, Thomas Letcham, John Salmon, DG Dixon, John Fitzpatrick, Charles Gray.

For further information call 2743196 or 2742173.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 26, 2005
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