Wigan World - Forgotten disaster

A COUPLE of years ago, the 100th anniversary of the Maypole Pit Disaster (75 men died) was marked. Next year will see the centenary anniversary of the Pretoria Pit tragedy (344 died) will be rightly remembered.

But you don’t hear much of a disaster at Edge Green Pit in Ashton, which claimed the lives of 27 miners, including a father and son, Fred Heyes, 50, and 23-year-old Bert.

An explosion ripped through No 5 district early on the morning of November 11, 1932. Rescue teams were quickly down the pit, but it was no use. Dozens of other miners working not far away escaped injury altogether. As word of the explosion spread, shawled-women and silent men gathered at the pit head waiting for news. The dead wrapped in red and grey blankets were carried out and a saw mill building was turned into a temporary mortuary.

It was the first accident at Edge Green Pit for 30 years. The Pretoria Colliery Disaster claimed the lives of dozens of Wigan miners.

In those days, deaths in mines were common-place. That’s one of the reasons the writer George Orwell came to Wigan. One of his missions was to tell the world about the unacceptable number of deaths in mines and thus persuade owners to make pits safer.