Lake Macquarie History

Shared Stories: Experiencing tragedy

Experiencing tragedy - Dudley Colliery

Tragedy was a regular feature of work in the mines.

On Monday 21 March 1898 at 9.20am a huge explosion was heard as far as in Belmont and a rumbling underground in Newcastle. Coal dust filled the air at Dudley Colliery for more than 15 minutes.

Once the air cleared the extent of the damage was visible. The cage had been propelled from the bottom of the shaft to 10 metres above ground. The pithead roof had been partially blown off.

Local residents ran to the pithead to assist and wait for news. Miners and horses were trapped inside the mine.

The body of Thomas Dorrity was found on the first day of rescue efforts.

Ralph Snowball made the difficult journey by horse and wagon to Dudley Colliery. He photographed people waiting for news on 21 March and the raising of Dorrity’s remains on the 22nd.

The difficult and dangerous task of clearing the pit shaft and searching for survivors continued despite flooding and fires burning underground. Ten of the 15 bodies were recovered after two weeks of rescue efforts. The Dudley Colliery accident continues to have the highest death toll of mine accidents in the region.

The accident was caused by gas pooling below ground igniting and exploding. Mine accidents of this kind were common, shared experiences for mining communities internationally.

Dudley 21.3.98
Dudley Colliery 22.3.98 T. Dorrity’s remains

Ralph Snowball
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection
Unknown donor

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