Pit Heroes – How a Denaby Deputy Died

April 1916

Mexborough Times, April 15, 1916

Pit Heroes
How a Denaby Deputy Died
Under Managers Gallantry
A Thrilling Story

All the lengthy annals of pit heroism probably do not provide a finer story than that which was unfolded an inquest held at the Denaby main hotel on Tuesday, touching the death in the Denaby main mine of Joseph William Millington,aged 32, colliery deputy, of 53 Balby Street Denaby Main.

The inquest was conducted by Mr Frank Allen, and Mr William Wright was Foreman of the jury.

Sarah Jane Elizabeth Millington, 53 Balby Street, Denaby main, said diseased was her husband, who was a colliery deputy. He went to work on Friday night, was brought home on Saturday morning

The Accident

James Smith, 17 Firbeck Street, Denaby, miner, said he was at work in the Crossgate loft, Montagu district of the Denaby mine on Friday night. Two other men were with him and they were engaged in making a covered way to raise the roof. Above the girders the ground was all broken and hollow. There was a large cavity, and falls were constantly occurring there. He had worked on that job five or six weeks. There was a hole in the present covering about 3′ x 2′ 6 inches to let the dirt down.

The accident happened about midnight, and deceased and Benjamin Moriarty were above the covering, engaging in fixing the new girders. There was no warning of the fall, which consisted of broken ground, some of which came through the hole. The fall contained about 15 tubs of dirt. Witness called assistance, and got to work to clear the dirt away. The fallhad knockedMoriarty down through the whole, and he lay half buried in the dirt. Witness took him out of the pit. The place had been quiet all the shift until the fall occurred.

Search for the Deputy

Fred Adamson, 43, Bolton Street, Denaby main, said he was going down the same road, when his attention was drawn to the accident. He went to the place and proceeded to the low side of the fall. He shouted to Millington,he said and witness came to the conclusion that he was under the fall. He therefore blocked the hole above and searched the fall. He could not find Millington, though he was engaged for half an hour or three quarters. He sent for Mr Mills the under manager, and in the meantime he tried to find a way into the hole above, but could not do so without unsealing the aperture he had blocked. He did so, and when a tubs of dirt had come through witness and a man named Gill were able to get into the hole above, where they found Millington, who was pinned against a support. Millington was conscious, and said “get me out” they found it impossible to do anything and came down. Mr Mills went up, and was up about a quarter of an hour. Several falls occurred while he was up. Mr Milnes went up again, and when he came down a second time he said Millington was dead. Mr Mills had been hit by the falls, and wasknocked out. Witness was present during the whole of the operation and at seven o’clock he assisted Mr Mills to extricate the body which was pinned by the head.

Mr Danby: was it part of Millington’s duty to go there? – No

I suppose this job was of a dangerous character, and he was assisting for that special reason? – Yes

Have you thought of any other way that this job could have been tackled? – I cannot think of any other way, Sir.

You thought you were tackling it in the safest way? – Yes

While Mr Milnes was up there, was even risking his life? – Yes, sir, he was.

A Tragedy

George Henry Milnes, Denaby house, Denaby main, under manager of the Denaby mine, said he was called out of bed at about one o’clock on Saturday morning, and went down the pit. He found the conditions described by the previous witnesses. He went through the hole, and found Millington pinned by the head and arm against the runner. The rest of his body being free. Witness tried to rescue him, and was in the act of freeing deceased and when another fall came and suffocated deceased, pressing his throat against the bar. But forthat, it was possible that Millingtonmight havebeen got out alive. Witness had been in thehole half an hour when this occured. He came down after Millington was dead, and they began to work more systematically and cautiously. While witness was in the hole he was hit by falling dirt.

Mr Danby: from the position in which you found them, did you think he had any warning of the fall? – I don’t think so. He was completely taken by surprise or he would have ducked and got under the cover of the timber.

Could you attack of this job in any other way? – I do not think so.

Brave Men

The coroner, summing up, said this was a very tragic accident. They had heard the whole story, and they would see that although the operations were being carried out under a contract, diseased had general supervision. That, however, did not compel him to the post at which he died. He might well have avoided the post of danger, and being content to supervise the operations from below, leaving personal risk to others. He had however a higher conception of his duty, and he felt it incumbent upon him to go up into the cavity to see that the men were not running unnecessary race.

Moriarty was very lucky to have come off as well as he did. He (the coroner) hoped that he would speedily be restored. He understood that Mr Mills underwent considerable risk, and was at one stage of this incident, quite knocked out by the incessant falls of dirt. Mr Mills did not know much about that, but he understood from Mr Danby, the inspector of mines, that Mr Mills was at one period himself pinned by the arms, and he had enjoyed an extraordinary piece of good fortune to escape the fate of Millington. Adamson deserved a good deal of credit also for the steps he took. He could not close that enquiry without drawing attention to the devotion of Mr Milnes, and without expressing his appreciation of the bravery of his attempt to save life. He did not succeed, but it was the intention that counted. He (the coroner) did not think that Mr Milnes could well have done more.

There was no suggestion on the part of anyone that the work upon which these men were engaged was being done in any improper way. It was a job involving considerable risk, and the men engaged upon it took what precautions they could, but unfortunately they were not sufficient.

Mr William Wright, foreman of the jury, said the jury desired to associate themselves heartily with the coroner’s admiration of the courage that had been displayed in this case. It was a pleasure to the jury to hear such a story of bravery and self-sacrifice.

Mr H.W.Smith, on behalf of the colliery company, said he would also like to associate himself with expressions of sympathy and admiration to which the coroner and the jury had given utterance.

A verdict of “accidental death” was returned.

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