ralph mine disaster text

At 7:20am on Saturday 12th September 1914 a devastating explosion rocked the Ralph Mine, with forty-three men losing their lives; the second highest death toll in New Zealand’s mining history.

The explosion made the ground shake and quivered and the roar was heard from miles away. A huge volume of smoke rose from the mine's main shaft, (located where the model poppet head now sits on Main Street, Huntly) followed by an immense tongue of flame that rose 100 feet above the pithead. There was a hissing noise like an engine letting off steam. This was the explosion forcing air out of the mine. A cage weighing about one ton shot up from the shaft like a bullet from a gun and became lodged in the poppet head 70 feet above the ground.

Tragic as the disaster was, it could have been far worse. It was pay Saturday and only officials and maintenance men and gone below ground, with a party of 62 men going onto the mine instead of the usual shift of some 160 miners.

Men were trapped below and rescue work was hurriedly arranged. The first rescue party was ready to descend within half an hour of the disaster, but was forced back by dense smoke and overpowering fumes with the second rescue party facing a similar problem. Finally rescue work began and continued throughout Sunday and later that day eighteen bodies had been recovered.

By nightfall another eight bodies had been recovered, but these were not brought up the shaft until the number of wives and mothers, who had waited for hours hoping that their loved ones were found alive, had departed. Two weeks passed before the forty-third and final body had been found.

A Royal Commission was set up to investigate the disaster, which found the cause to be an explosion of accumulated firedamp (flammable gases found in coal mines) which ignited on contact with the naked flame of a miner's lamp. The inquiry proved willful neglect by directors of the Ralph Mine and much tighter safety regulations were put in place.

 

Ralph Mine - Main Street Huntly - 1914
Ralph Mine - Main Street Huntly - 1914
The first rescue crew to go underground in search of their lost colleagues can be seen here with lamps and canaries to hand.
The first rescue crew to go underground in search of their lost colleagues can be seen here with lamps and canaries to hand.
Scenes following the Ralph Mine Disaster
Scenes following the Ralph Mine Disaster

Victims of the Ralph Mine Disaster

William Allen [18]
Thomas Baker [37]
Thomas Berry [29]
William Blenkinsopp [37]
John Bowler [29]
William Brocklebank Senior [52]
Hutchinson Burt [19]
William Burt [26]
William Burton [27]
Thomas Casson [21]
James Darby [59]
John Dixon [?]
William Gowans [42]
John Greener [48]
William Hincho [37]
James Holden [58]
Fawcett Seymour Hopper [31]
Alexander Izatt [17]
Henry Jackson [24]
John Jackson [32]
Samuel Jackson [54]
John W. Jones [49]
William Kelly [36]
Daniel Lyons [62]
Charles Maloney [21]
John Martin [29]
William Mayland Junior [18]
Theophilus Molesworth [29]
Robert Munsey [63]
William Patterson [44]
David Paterson [36]
Henry (Harry) Peckham Senior [47]
Hugh Ransome [39]
John (Jack) Robinson [37]
William Roper [36]
Arthur Ruston [28]
John (Jack) Skellern [36]
William Slavin [18]
William Smith [62]
John Steele [40]
Fred Taylor [29]
Jacob Thompson [18]
John Whorskey [36] 

ralph mine text 100

100 years on, various clubs and Huntly community members came together to remember the impact the Ralph Mine disaster on Huntly.
A model poppet head was unveiled in Main Street near where the original Ralph Mine once stood 100 years ago along with a head stone bearing all 43 names of the men that perished. 
The Huntly Lions Club raised more than $100,000 to build the model poppet head which now sits boldly in the centre of Huntly next to the BNZ on Main Street.