Imágenes de página

each of the party came up, he was surrounded by a group of anxious inquirers. All their reports were equally hopeless; and the second explosion so strongly corroborated their account of the impure state of the mine, that their assertions for the present seemed to be credited. But this impression was only momentary. On recollection, they remembered that persons had survived similar accidents, and when the mine was opened, been found alive. Three had been shut up during 40 days in a pit near Bya ker, and all that period had subsisted on candles and horse beans. The proposition to exclude the atmospheric air from the mine, in order to extinguish the fire, was therefore received with the cries of " Murder," and with determinations of opposing the

, proceeding. Many of the widows continued about the mouth of the John pit during the whole of Monday night, with the hope of hearing the voice of a husband or a son calling for assistance. On Tuesday the 26th of May, the natural propensity of the human mind to be gratified with spectacles of horror was strongly exemplified. An immense crowd of colliers from various parts, bat especially from the banks of the river Wear, assembled round the pits, and were profuse in reproaches on the persons concerned in the mine, for want of exertion to recover the men. Every one had some example to relate of successful attempts in cases of this kind--all were large in their professions of readiness to give as. sistance; but none were found to enter the inflammable jaws of the mine. Their reasonings and assertions seemed indeed to be a mixture of those prejudices and conceits which cleave to work men whom experience has afforded a partial insight into the nature and peculiarities of their profession, and not to be grounded on any memory of facts, or to result from a knowledge of the connexion between causes and effects; and on this account, as soon as the leaders of the outcry could be brought to listen with patience to a relation of the appearances that attended this accident, and to hear the reasons assigned for the conclusion that the mine was on fire, and that the persons remaining in it were dead, they seemed to allow the impracticability of reaching the bodies of the sufferers till the fire was extinguished, and consequently the necessity of smothering it out by excluding atmospheric air from the mine. On Wednesday the 27th of May, at the clamorous solicitation of the people, Mr. Straker and the overman again descended the John Pit, in order to ascertain the state of the air in

damp. We are not acquainted with any means of preventing the formation of this gas; but it certainly might be prevented from accumulating, by ventilating the mine properly. If the usual method of fires, &c. be insufficient, nothing would be easier than to pump the air out of the mine, by means of an engine : and this would secure a perfect ventilation at all times, anless we suppose the workmen enlpably nego }igent." VOL. II. Nem Serirs.


[ocr errors]

the workings. Immediately under the shaft they found a mangled

. horse, in which they supposed they perceived some signs of life; but they had only advanced about six or eight yards, before the sparks of the flint were extinguished in the choke-damp, and Haswell, who played the mill, began to show the effects of the carbonic poison, by faltering in his steps. Mr. Straker therefore laid hold of him, and supported him to the shaft. As the baneful va. pours had now taken possession of the whole of the mine, and they found it difficult to breathe even in the course of the full current of the atmospheric air, they immediately ascended. But the afflicted creatures, still clinging to hope, disbelieved their report. Wishful, therefore, to give as ample satisfaction as possible to the unhappy women, Mr. Anderson and James Turnbull (a hewer of the colliery, who had escaped the blast) again went down. At 30 fathoms from the bottom they found the air exceedingly warm: to exist without apoplectic symptoms for more than a few yards round the bottom of the shaft was found impossible, and even there the air was so contaminated as to be nearly irrespirable. When they ascended, their clothes emitted a smell somewhat resembling the waters of Gilsland and Harrowgate, but more particularly allied to that of the turpentine distilled from coal tar. The report of these last adventurers partly succeeded in convincing the people that there was no possibility of any of their friends being found alive. Some, indeed, went away silent, but not satis- . fied; others with pitiable importunity besought that measures to recover their friends might even yet be adopted and persevered in; and many, as if grief and rage had some necessary connexion, went about loading the conductors of the mine with execrations, and threatening revenge. Some were even heard to say they could have borne their loss with fortitude had none of the workmen survived the calamity; they could have been consoled had all their neighbours been rendered as miserable and destitute as themselves! From such a multitude of distracted women, unanimity of sentiment could not be expected-no scheme of proceedings could be invented fortunate enough to meet with the approbation of them all. In the evening of this day it was, therefore, resolved to exclude the atmospheric air from entering the workings, in order to extinguish the fire which the explosion had kindled in the mine, and of which the smoke ascending the William pit was a sure indication. This shaft was accordingly filled with clay about seven feet above the ingate or entrance from the shaft into the drift; and the John pit mouth was covered over with loose planks.

Many idle tales were circulated through the country concerning several of the men finding their way to the shafts, and being recovered. Their number was circumstantially told-how they subsisted on candles, oats, and beans--how they heard the per

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

sons who visited the mine on the day of the accident, and the Wednesday following, but were too feeble to speak sufficiently loud to make themselves heard. Some conjurer, too, it was said, had set his spells and divinations to work, and penetrated the whole secrets of the mine. He had discovered one famishing group receiving drops of water from the roof of the mine-another eating their shoes and clothes, and other such pictures of misery. These inventions were carefully related to the widows, and answered the purpose of every day harrowing up their sorrows afresh. Indeed, it seemed the chief employment of some, to make a kind of insane sport of their own and their neighbours' calamity.

The morning of Wednesday the 8th of July being appointed for entering the workings, the distress of the neighbourhood was again renewed at an early hour. A great concourse of people collected

some out of curiosity, to witness the commencement of an undertaking full of sadness and danger-some to stir up

the revenge and aggravate the sorrows of the relatives of the sufferers, by calumnies and reproaches, published for the sole purpose of mischief; but the greater part came with broken hearts, and streaming eyes, in expectation of seeing a father, a husband, or son, “ brought up out of the horrible pit?"

As the weather was warm, and it was desirable that as much air might pass down the shaft as possible, constables were placed at proper distances to keep off the crowd. Two surgeons were also in attendance in case of accidents.

At six o'clock in the morning, Mr. Straker, Mr. Anderson, the overman of the colliery, and six other persons, descended the William pit, and began to traverse the north drift towards the plane-board. As a current of water had been constantly diverted down this shaft for the space of ten hours, the air was found to be perfectly cool and wholesome. Light was procured from steelmills. As the explosion had occasioned several falls of large masses of stone from the roof, their progress was considerably delayed by removing them. After the plane-board was reached, a stopping was put across it on the right hand, and one across the wall opposite the drift. The air, therefore, passed to the left, and number six was found.

The shifts of men employed in this doleful and unwholesome work, were generally about eight in number. They were four hours in and eight hours out of the mine: each individual, therefore, wrought two shifts every 24 hours.

When the body of number six was to be lifted into a shell, or coffin, the men for a while stood over it in speechless horror: they imagined it was in so putrid a state that it would fall asunder by lifting. At length they began to encourage each other “ in the ' name of God” to begin ; and after several hesitations and resolutions, and covering their hands with oakum to avoid any unpleasant sensation from touching the body, they laid it in a coffin, which was conveyed to the shaft in a bier made for the purpose, and drawn "to bank” in a net made of strong cords.

When the first shift of men came up, at ten o'clock, a message was sent for a number of coffins to be in readiness at the pit. These being at the joiner's shop, piled up in a heap to the number of 92, (a most gloomy sight,) had to pass by the village of Low Felling. As soon as a cart-load of them was seen, the howlings of the women, who had hitherto continued in their houses, but now began to assemble about their doors, came on the breeze in slow fitful gusts, which presaged a scene of much distress and confusion being soon exhibited near the pit; but happily, by representing to them the shocking appearance of the body that had been found, and the ill effects upon their own bodies and minds, likely to ensue from suffering themselves to be hurried away by such violent convulsions of grief, they either returned to their houses, or continued in silence in the neighbourhood of the pit.

From the 8th of July to the 19th of September, the heart-rending scene of mothers and widows examining the putrid bodies of their sons and husbands, for marks by which to identify them, was almost daily renewed; but very few of them were known by any personal mark--they were too much mangled and scorched to retain any of their features. Their clothes, tobacco-boxes, shoes, and the like, were, therefore, the only indexes by which they could be recognised.

At the crane twenty-one bodies lay in ghastly confusion: some Jike mummies, scorched as dry as if they had been baked. One wanted its head, another an arm. The scene was truly frightful. The power of the fire was visible upon them all; but its effects were extremely various: while some were almost torn to pieces, there were others who appeared as if they had sunk down overpowered with sleep.

The ventilation concluded on Saturday the 19th of September, when the 91st body was dug from under a heap of stones. At six o'clock in the morning the pit was visited by candle-light, which had not been used in it for the space of 117 days; and at eleven o'clock in the morning the tube-furnace was lighted. From this time the colliery has been regularly at work; but the 92d body has never yet been found.

All these persons (except four, who were buried in single graves) were interred in Heworth Chapel-yard, in a trench, side by side, two coffins deep, with a partition of brick and lime between every four coffins.



[ocr errors]

[From Eustace's Tour through Italy.] BEYOND Torre d'Annonciato the road turns a little from the sea, and crosses the ancient Palus Pompeiana, once perhaps a marsh, now a rich plain, raised and fertilized by the very ashes which buried the unfortunate Pompeii. We stopped at a farmhouse in appearance, and alighting in the court, found ourselves in the quarters of a legion of Roman soldiers: the destination and date of this edifice, its form and colouring, the names and jests of the soldiers scribbled on the walls, fresh as if written yesterday, are objects sufficiently curious to interest without the aid of architecture, of which this building cannot boast; it is an oblong square, with a portico on all sides, supported by Doric pillars of brick plastered over and painted alternately red and yellow, with the exception of the two in the middle of each side, which are blue; behind are numerous apartments, about fourteen feet square.

Immediately behind the barracks are two theatres, one small, and supposed to have been covered, the other large ; both these adifices were lined with marble, beautifully paved, and in every respect highly finished. The pavement of the arena of the smaller theatre is entire; and engraved on it, in a line parallel with the stage, are the following words in large brass letters:

M. Oculatius, M. F. Verus 11 Vir pro ludis. In other respects, these theatres are exactly of the same form as the Teatro Olimpico of Palladio at Verona: having, like it, a narrow proscenium, and three entrances (one large, the other two less) to the stage from the scenery behind. In the larger of these fabrics the seats rest on the side of a hill, above which was a colonnade or portico communicating with a public walk, or rather forming a part of a forum. The side of a hill was indeed peculiarly favourable to the arrangements of an ancient theatre, and seems to have been frequently chosen for the purpose. These theatres, when discovered, were nearly entire; they have since been stripped of their decorations, but still retain all their great characteristic features.

The street, which runs from the neighbourhood of the soldiers' quarters to the gate is narrow, that is, only about thirteen feet wide, formed like the Via Appia at Itri and other places, where it remains entire, of large stones fitted to each other in their original form, without being cut or broken for the purpose. There are on each side parapets raised about two feet above the middle, and about three feet wide. The pavement is furrowed by two deep ruts, which show evidently that the carriages always kept the wame line, and that the wheels were about four feet asunder; of


« AnteriorContinuar »