1901 Disaster

The first disaster took place on the 24th May 1901.  Mercifully it happened at the end of the night shift when many of the miners had been brought to the surface.  There were 82 left underground at the time of the explosion.  Of these only one survived, William Harris whose survivors still live in the village today.  Fifty pit ponies were also killed.  The real tragedy of this explosion was that the lessons learned at such a cost of human life were never used to prevent the scale of the 1913 explosion.

Professor W Galloway of Cardiff University, a former Inspector of Mines had been asked by the Home Secretary to report on the explosion.  The report showed that fire, coal dust and air produced a deadly mixture which could be ignited without a methane gas explosion.  Senghenydd was a hot, dry, dusty pit with temperatures some 25 degrees higher than surface readings.  The quantities of dust were greatly increased because of the method of loading coal drams and because of the open framework ends of the drams.  Galloway urged all owners to thoroughly water roadways to prevent the danger of explosion and to spray all dusty areas.

In 1911 the Coal Mines Act collected together a number of regulations for safe working learned from bitter experience.  The Act covered control of electrical equipment to prevent sparking, watering of dusty areas and also for the need of all mines to have reversible fans so that clean air could be provided in cases of emergencies.  This Act demanded that the fans be reversible by 1st January 1913.  The mine owners at Senghenydd asked for and secured an extension which was to run out on 16th September 1913.

At the time of the explosion, the fans were still not capable of being reversed at Senghenydd.  There can be little doubt that if the full terms of the Mines Act had been operational at Senghenydd in 1913 the death toll would have been significantly smaller.