Lithgow Valley Colliery 1886

In February and April 1886 there were two separate accidents at the Lithgow Valley Colliery, New South Wales, resulting in the death of eight miners in total.

At 6pm on Sunday 14 February, in response to a report that the mine was on fire and producing thick smoke, three men, manager John Doig, miner William Rowe, and banksman Charles Younger went to investigate. Joined by William Martin, they proceeded down the tunnel and were overpowered by smoke in the main heading and retreated some distance.

A detailed account of the second accident was given in evidence at the Coroner’s inquest by one of the survivors, Charles Norwood. He described how on Monday 19 April volunteers organised into four parties of ten men worked six hour shifts. Starting at noon, volunteers were engaged in attempting to subdue the fire by applying high pressure steam to it for 80 hours, erecting brattice, clearing debris and ‘using their coats to beat back the flames’. This failed and the fire increased in intensity as it was fed by the entry of oxygen into the tunnel. Then water was used, but only sparingly, as supplies were limited.

Some of the men (including Thomas Mantle and Thomas Rowe), stopped work, retreated a short distance to a cool place and sat down to prepare for their ‘crib’. According to Norwood, they heard a thunder-like roar approaching them ‘appearing to crush down on them’.The men seized hold of each other and someone called out We’ll die together!

This accident claimed the lives of 8 people, these were: Charles Younger, Isaiah Hyde, John Doig, Joseph Buzza, Lancelot Allison, Thomas Mantle, Thomas Rowe, William Rowe

Other Information

The information on this disaster has been obtained from the article by Clive Beauchamp, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, published in the Journal of Australasian Mining History, Volume 8, September 2010.