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Story Of Hamstead Mine


Death! Death! O Death, what is it?
Why, horrors, you cannot know,
When entombed like the Hamstead miners,
To whom fire was a terrible blow.

They left their homes both hearty and strong,
To gain the bread for their wives and young,
They planted a kiss on their faces sweet,
But fate destined them no more to meet.

They chatted together, whilst wending their way,
In twos and threes on this fatal day,
With smiling faces, they reached the pit,
Descended the mine, for work quite fit.

They commenced to work with willing hands,
To get the coal for distant lands,
But an enemy, without any warning,
Forbade them return to their homes in the morning.

It burst in all its fury and power,
And gained in strength each hour by hour;
Some gained the pit’s mouth, in safety clear,
Others were entombed from their loved ones dear.

The news soon spread o’er far and wide,
Whilst mothers, wives and children cried,
Hoping their loved one would safely return,
For who was missing they soon would learn.

Crowds soon thronged to the scene of disaster,
As the storm-winds blew and the rain came faster,
Clad in their shawls, with faces white,
Many hearts were grieved at the sickening site.

Mothers were there, watching and praying,
Wives were their, their grief displaying,
Whilst children were tugging their mother’s skirts’
Clad only in their thin little shirts.

Meanwhile the fire below was gaining in power,
As the miners below struggled hour by hour,
To reach the pit shaft of safety near,
But the fiery furnace checked their onward career.

They were filled with terror that few men know,
When the young grey haired, like old men grow,
‘ Twas one of those moments when men live o’er,
The part of their lives that has gone before.

On top the crowd had grown so dense,
Whilst smoke was pouring up the shaft intense,
Willing hands were ready to risk their lives,
For the sake of their comrades, children and wives.

The cage with bird descended, to test the air,
But no human could live down there;
So aid was sent from farther away,
Would they save them? time alone would say.

Those gallant rescuers arrived in great distress,
Fresh from their own work, clad in dirty dress,
Ready and daring at duty’s call,
Midst hell fires to give their all.

Those Barnsley and Normanton men descended,
Through this fiery furnace their way they wended,
Their head gear heavy, they had to strain,
And the heat was scorching their physical frame.

Both Welsby and Whittingham went hand in hand,
“ Into the jaws of death,” to find this band,
Of strangers to them, but loved ones dear,
They were Britons at heart, in deed, without fear.

They fought with the flames and deadly heat,
And were forced to make a hasty retreat;
But, alas! poor Welsby’s strength gave way,
On that fiery bed fighting in death he lay.

Whittingham, with anxious haste, failing strength,
Dragged, half carried his comrade some length,
Till forced by his own failing power,
To save his life in timely hour.

Poor Welsby is dead, he gave his all,
We as a nation for him will mourn,
And when you are asked a brave deed to tell,
Remember the story of how Welsby fell.

What must be done, hours were fleeting by,
No one would now this hell of fire defy,
Whilst women stood with faces ashen grey,
Waiting for news of their loved ones each day.

Hours passed by, days came and went,
Whilst willing workers their labours spent,
Reversing the air current through the mine,
Twas hope against hope, toil against time.

At last on the fifth day of disaster,
The fans were started the fumes to master,
Whilst policemen cleared the bank of the pit,
Rescuers once more descended quite fit.

Slowly but surely they fought their way,
Among the fumes they had claimed its prey,
They found poor Welsby’s body dead,
Bereft of its soul, to eternity fled.

Miners now volunteered to descend down below,
For the fans were successful as you will know;
They cleared the falls with anxious haste,
No time for thought, no time to waste.

They slowly but surely fought their way,
On this the sixth but fatal day,
A sudden hush on the party fell,
Of this sad scene words fail to tell.

These poor miners had met their fate,
As death claims all soon or late,
They had found them on their faces lying,
As long as they could the fumes defying.

Brothers, sisters, help the poor suffering mother and wife,
The task will be hard to battle with life;
And when you are old and in life’s decline,
Remember the story of the Hamstead mine.


  • The HAMSTEAD MINERS MEMORIAL TRUST is a registered Charity No.1098711
  • We welcome information and photographs on Hamstead Colliery and Great Barr