A Tunnel of Darkness

A miner from Ashington discovers his wife's infidelity. left alone he faces an uncertain future when the pit is set for closure. the strikes of 1969 force him to relocate to South Yorkshire where he meets a young school teacher. who pushes the young man to make a better life for himself.


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The rescue team had been specially trained to deal with this kind of accident. Firedamp was caused when a build up of methane gas and coal dust was ignited by a falling rock either on a rail track or something that would create a spark; this would trigger explosions, roof falls, and smoke or even fire. Every eventuality had to be prepared for. They would only have their flashlights and head lamps to find their way through the tunnel of darkness. Each man would attach themselves to a luminous coloured rope so that they could navigate themselves through the tunnel. They also had to wear an oxygen mask and carry a tank of oxygen on their backs these would only last thirty minutes each so it was imperative to breathe easily so that the oxygen wouldn’t run out. Someone would have a cart with pieces of wood for shoring up a collapsed roof; spare oxygen tanks stretchers and other medical equipment. Each man had a walkie talkie so that they could talk to each other in the dark in the event of gas detection. The men got into the tubs and checked the maps of the tunnels before the tubs got under way.


The night shift workers had went to where the sound of the explosion was but dared not venture into the darkness in case there was gas. They shouted down the tunnel then listened for a response; there was none.

The rescue team could hear the sound from the shift workers and headed towards them.

They reached them a few minutes later and asked them to keep back for the time being in case there was gas in there.

The twelve men proceeded down the tunnel using a meter that could detect the presence of gas. Jim Gales the team leader asked the men to switch on their walkie talkies and to put on their oxygen masks. They were 700 yards into the tunnel when Jim told them there was smoke up ahead. They had to be very careful as they edged along because of debris that had fallen from the roof. The cart had to be lifted over big obstacles.

They came across the first body after twenty minutes he had suffocated with the gas. The men behind reached into the cart and took out a yellow plastic body bag. The man’s body was gently lifted into it. They left the body then moved on.

 They came to a blockage of large carbiferous rocks. The men grabbed their picks and shovels and quickly removed the obstruction. They turned right to find the coal face blocked off again the twelve men removed the larger rocks by hand  to clear a space so they could shore up the sided and the roof to prevent further cave ins the men changed their oxygen tanks before going forward. One of the men tripped and split his head on the rocks below him. The men pushing the cart went into the medical kit and tied a bandage around his head to staunch the flow of blood.

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