Harriseahead Inrush of Water March 1924 Researched by John Lumsdon

Harriseahead colliery is situated between Packmoor and Mow Cop, it was flooded on Monday and 72 miners who were at work below ground at the time had an extraordinarily lucky escape. There was an exciting scene as the men struggled through the breast-high water towards the shaft bottom and drawn to the surface. Another 17 or 18 made their way out by a footway or drift. But for the remarkable courage and coolness displayed by the whole of the men in the face of a dangerous situation. It is probable that the accident would have been attended by loss of life. As it was, all the men were got safely out of the pit, without any panic and within an hour of the inundation.

It was about the middle of the morning shift that the inrush of water occurred. There are about 150 miners employed at the Harriseahead colliery, and three shifts are worked, the morning shift being the largest. From some cause, which has not yet been determined there was a sudden inrush of water and owing to the steep gradients of the workings, it poured with great force to the pit bottom, and quickly rose to a height of four feet. An alarm was immediately raised, and as word of the flooding was quickly passed from mouth to mouth, the men were advised to remain calm and to make their way with all practicable speed to the cage. They had to struggle through the still rising flood to the cage where they were drawn up without mishap. The men presented a bedraggled and pitiable sight as they emerged from the cage at the top, but they were all cheerful and glad to have come out without being cut off by the water. They were given a change of clothing or hurried off to their homes.

The depth of the pit is about 260 yards. It is evident that close to one of the working places, there had accumulated a considerable pocket of water, the presence of which had not been suspected. Water is still running into the pit bottom and although pumping has been proceeding since Tuesday morning, there still has not been any appreciable reduction so far as the depth of water. Probably at least a week will elapse before the water is removed, meanwhile, the pit is completely stopped. One man gave a graphic account to the local newspaper, he said; I was in my working place, when suddenly I heard a strange rumbling sound. I concluded it was a rush of water somewhere. Directly afterwards all the men were warned to leave the pit immediately and to do so as calmly as possible. We all realised then that the pit was becoming flooded, and in order to save ourselves from being cut off, as we did not know the depth of the flood at the time, we hurried as quickly as possible towards the cage. It was a difficult job to get there, as we had to fight our way through the water, which in my case was up to my armpits. I am glad to say that there was no loss of life, but it was one of the luckiest escapes I have ever known in the pit, and I have been a miner for a good many years.

Heroes Honoured

In February 1925 at the Victoria Hall, Kidsgrove, in the presence of local dignitaries and inhabitants of the town and district, awards for bravery and gallant conduct on the occasion of the flooding of Harriseahead colliery on March 10th last were made to Mr. Paling Baker and Mr. Harry Wilson. At great personal risk, the two men rescued Edwin Booth of Mow Cop who was working in a distant part of the mine when the inrush of water occurred. It was necessary to wade breast deep through the rising water to affect a rescue. The award consisted of a bronze medal and a certificate of the Order of Industrial Heroism (instituted by the Daily Herald) to each of the two men and also a certificate to each of the two men from the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, which was founded in September 1908. Mr. Sam Finney, (Secretary of the North Stafford Miners Federation) presided. After briefly referring to the incident for which the awards were to be made, said they were very thankful that the lives of the men at Harriseahead colliery were not lost in the flood which took place, and their hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness to the two men whom they had met to honour that evening. The certificates were worded as follows: Order of Industrial Heroism presented as a mark of respect and admiration to a brave man who in a moment of peril thought more of others than of himself.Subsequently Mr. Sam Finney presented other certificates framed in oak, awarded to Mesers Baker and Wilson by the trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, which read as follows. Presented by the trustees in recognition of heroic endeavours to save human life March 10th 1924. He serves God best who most nobly serves humanity.

London Gazette His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Edward Medal to: - Mr Pailing Baker, Colliery Manager, and Mr Harry Wilson, Miner, in the following circumstances: -

On 10th March 1924 an inrush of water took place at the HARRISEAHEAD COLLIERY in Staffordshire. The majority of workmen had already left the mine, but it was found that one man named Booth was missing. He had been working alone about 130 yards from the bottom of the shaft, and representations were made to Baker, the manager, that it was impossible to rescue him. The bottom of the pit was three parts full of water and water was still rising. Baker, however, was resolute; he called for volunteers and Wilson was one of five men who responded and descended into the mine by a foot rail. The rescue party reached a ventilation door, which they dared not open owing to the pressure of water behind it and they therefore prepared to retire. Baker, who had followed, insisted that Booth could not be left, but Wilson was the only man who volunteered to continue the work of rescue. Baker and Wilson managed to force the ventilation door and allow the water to escape gradually. They then waded to the place where Booth was working; reaching him after great difficulty and all three men were eventually drawn to the surface. Both Baker and Wilson ran a great risk of being trapped under the low roof in the mine. They could not tell to what height the water would rise and if it had reached the roof both the rescued and the rescuers would have lost their lives. Both Baker and Wilson displayed exceptional courage and resolution.

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