Colliery Mystery at Denaby – Lads Untimely Death

July 1907

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 27, 1907

Colliery Mystery at Denaby.
Lads Untimely Death.
Was The Prop Set?
Serious Discrepancy of Evidence.

Michael Mannion (19), of Cadeby Yard, Mexborough, was on Tuesday so seriously injured by a fall of roof while following his employment as a filler in the Denaby mine that he died at the Fullerton hospital the following day.

The circumstances were peculiar, and presented such a mystery that Mr D. Wightman (coroner) and the jury, that the lengthy enquiry held at the Institute Denaby, on Friday last, failed to bring about a satisfactory solution. The difficulty that faced the jury was a serious discrepancy of evidence given by John Liversidge, the deputy, and William Taylor, the collier in charge of the working place, where the lad met with his death.

Liversidge, it appeared, saw two slips whilst on his round or inspection, and ordered Taylor to prop the danger spot. Taylor, in evidence, swore that he put up the prop as instructed, but in examination had to admit no trace of it could be found when the fall of coal was removed after the accident.

The deputy, recalled, said he couldn’t account for it, except by thinking that Taylor did not set the prop, though previous to leaving the spot, he had seen Taylor take the prop with the intention of doing it immediately.

The Jury brought in a verdict of “accidental death” and agreed that the evidence was not conclusive enough to seriously blame anyone in particular.

Messrs C. Bury and A. H. Barnett, representing the Colliery Company, and Mr J. Mellors, H. M. Inspector of mines, were present at the enquiry.

Michael Mannion, father of deceased gave evidence of identification. He said his son left home about half-past one last Tuesday to go to work as usual. One of the deputies came to witness about 9:45 p.m. and told him of the accident. He went to the hospital, and found the boy alive but unconscious. Deceased died about 8 o’clock the next day.

John Liversidge, afternoon deputy said he inspected the place of the accident about 6:45 p.m. Deceased was there filling a tub from a new fall of coal, which had been dropped by the morning men. Witness examined the place thoroughly in the presence of the collier, William Taylor. Witness found the place perfectly safe, with their exception of two slips he discovered that afternoon. He called Taylor’s attention to them, and told him to set a prop with a good long laid on it – to hold both slips, which were not more than a foot apart. Witness heard of the accident about 8.20, and went and found the deceased had been got from under a fall. He was not sensible, and was sent out at once by the ambulance to the hospital. Witness had examined the place since, and thought that if the prof had been properly set, it would have prevented the accident.

In reply to the Inspector, witness said that when he ordered a prop to be set. Taylor went and fetched a prop, which witness saw him take towards where he was working. Witness thought , from past experience, and Taylor’s movements and language, that the latter was going to set the prop. When witness examined the place after the accident, Taylor said a bump had come and sent the crocker out. When witness asked Taylor whether he had set the prop he replied “Yes, but the fall had burst it out.” It struck witness when he first saw the slips at a prop ought to have been set by Taylor before witness got there. The props were in tailors pass-by in his working place. Witness did not think it necessary to go back to see Taylor set the prop, as he acted so promptly in going and fetching the prop.

The Foreman of the Jury asked whether in a case of this description it was the duty of a deputy to stop and see a prop set?

Witness thought not, but in reply to the coroner admitted that it was his duty to see a prop set, if it was necessary to set one instantly.

William. Taylor, collier, said the deceased was his filler. Witness did not notice the slips before the deputy came. The deputy found them, and told witness to set the prop straightaway – to be sure and set it. Witness got a prop and set it thoroughly at the place indicated. Later a bump came and knocked the Cocker out. A fall of about three or four tons came immediately, hitting deceased and knocking him against a prop, without covering him. The fall came from the two slips, which were about four or 5 feet apart. The deputy must have seen witness rear the prop up before he went away. He went when he saw witness in that time setting the prop.

By the Inspector: It was roof coal that killed deceased. There was no trace of the prop the day previously. Witness saw the fall broken up and properly removed, and admitted that no signs of the prop could be found. Witness could not account for the prop being missing, but he was confident he had set it, though he believed what the other miners had said that no one had removed it. Witness knew that the lad’s life depended on his attention to the working place. He knew the timbering place. Witness further said it was his intention to set a further prop before the deputy came.

The Coroner directed the attention of witness to the deputy’s evidence that he (Taylor) ought to have set a prop before he came. Witness said he had set two, and would have set another directly the coal had been removed.

The deputy, recalled, pressed for an answer, said he didn’t believe the prop had been set by Taylor, because it was never found after.

Taylor said that was because no one was looking for it.

The inspector said there was certainly a mystery somewhere. The man Taylor had been actually seen taking a prop to the place. But the prop had not been seen since. What had become of it was a mystery.

The Coroner said he could not help the jury any more. There were contradictions in the evidence, which he could not equalise in any way. There was no doubt the poor lad had been killed by the fall. And if the consequences were to be attributed to anybody it must be between the two men, the deputy and Taylor. The latter said he did not see the slips before the deputy came. But the deputy came in order Taylor to set the prop, and to make the place safe. At this point the difficulty arose, Taylor said he found a prop eight or 9 yards away, whilst the deputy said it was 24 to 26 yards. Taylor further said that deceased saw him rear the prop, but the deputy said he only saw him take it in. Then with regard to the bump and the fall, Taylor said it knocked the Cocker out and down came three or four tons of material, called by the inspector, top or roof coal. This struck the lad and knocked him against a prop, inflicting injuries from which he died.

He (the coroner) was not going to attempt to give a solution to the jury. If he came to the conclusion that the lad had been accidentally killed, it was for them to consider whether there was anybody to blame or not, and if so who.

The Jury retired, and on returning the foreman said they were agreed that the man had been accidentally killed. They were further agreed that there was a serious discrepancy of evidence between the deputy and the collier in charge, but putting all things together, they could not seriously blame anyone, as he thought that the prop might have been possibly mislaid or lost in the confusion that ensued after the accident.

The Coroner: That amounts to a verdict of accidental death. There was a mystery which you are not prepared to stroll, of the evidence is not sufficient to justify you in coming to a conclusion. The safest plan is to leave it alone