Sep 02

On Sunday 7 October 2012 we celebrated Morley Miners Sunday and our morning service was led by Ian Dring of the International Miners Mission (IMM).  In the afternoon we organised a special service, held underground ‘at the coal face’ in the class room at the National Mining Museum (NMM), to commemorate the worst disaster at Morley Main Colliery when a gas explosion killed 34 men, 11 pit ponies and left 30 others injured. The underground service generated far more interest than we had expected with coverage in both local and national press and on Radio Aire and regional TV news. The service was attended by the maximum permitted group size of 40 with some people  having to remain on the surface. The  memorial was led by Ian Dring who gave a gospel message and the congregation included local MP Ed Balls, local civic leaders, relatives of some who died, retired miners,  representatives of  mining organisations,  members of Morley History Society,  ladies from Morley Elderly Action Craft Group (MEA), members of the IMM committee and senior staff from the NMM. The ladies from the MEA Craft Group had made a banner embroided with the names of each of the deceased and this was unveiled during the service and the names read out, the banner will hang in the Town Hall as a permanent memorial.

Lunch was provided at 12.45pm on the surface at the museum and as part of the lunch Mrs Senior, great granddaughter of William Both, presented the museum with a modified Davy Lamp and the original patent documents for the modification. The lamp was made by Ackroyd and Booth in the Beacon Works at Morley. The need for the modification was prompted by William Booths experience of the Morley Main disaster; he was working on the surface in the lamp room at the time of the accident.


Members of the IMM committee

Mrs Senior with the modified lamp

Presentation of the lamp to the Museum Director

Members of the MEA craft group with the commemoration banner

The service also included the Ballad of a Miner’s Widow which was published some years after the disaster:

They came to call for me last Monday morning
When I was hanging washing on the line.
They looked down at their boots a lot and wouldn’t meet my eye.
And only said “You’re wanted at the mine”
I knew he was dead but funny, I could only think
How fresh the clothes would smell if it stayed fine

They carried all the bodies to the Royal
All laid in rows neatly as could be.
Some were burnt, some were crushed, some had only choked,
But none of them was very nice to see.
And it was only by the belt he always used to wear,
That I could tell which one belonged to me.

They’ll find some lying weasel for the inquest,
Or some poor lad who’s frightened for his place.
Who’ll claim he smelled tobacco just an hour or two before
And swear the men were smoking at the face.
For it only takes a single match to switch the owner’s blame
And some dead miner bears the whole disgrace

There will be enough insurance for the funeral
A proper place to rest, the least he’s due.
Some money from the parish or perhaps they’ll start a fund,
But after that I don’t know what we’ll do.
For I don’t supposed at twenty-nine I’ll find another man,
For younger widows they’ll be looking too.

And you’ll say it wasn’t such a big disaster,
It only made the papers for a day.
I’m sure the wives who’re weeping will find comfort in your news
So tell them that and then see what they say.
And ask them who’s to feed the children, where they’ll pay the rent,
And ask how much the owners mean to pay.