Thursday, 13 February 2014

Elias Jones & William Morris Remembered

Now bare with this one
It's a bit of a slog
But, I hope it makes for an interesting read

In the corner of the churchyard, overlooking the Ukrainian village is a nondescript Victorian gravestone. It is the resting place of Elias Jones, who was only 44 when he died. His widow Margaret died in 1929 at the age of 83 and is buried with him.The inscriptions on the gravestone are all in Welsh.
 The family lived in Bonc terrace, which is the row of cottages up High Street.and their story would have been lost to me and indeed to  Going Gently's sister blog
If it wasn't for Ceri Watson, Elias' great great grand daughter, who contacted me after reading my village history blog.
Ceri , who lives in England, wanted me to chase up a surviving relative of hers in Trelawnyd and after I had done so, she sent me details of her great grandfather , a miner who died in a local mine accident in 1890.

Ceri also sent me this photo which was taken outside Bonc Terrace around the 1920s.  it shows Margaret Jones ( her great grandmother) Margaret's son Edward Hughes Jones , his daughter 
Myfanwy  and her son Tecwyn.. I think the photo is delightful
The story of Elias' death was documented in the local newspaper, and I think it is worth adding the text here....the fact that over 2000 mourners turned up at the Church for Elias' and his fellow miner 
William Morris' funeral literally boggles the mind, given the fact that the capacity of theChurch is only around a hundred.
                              FLINTSHIRE OBSERVER 15/5/1890
                       SHOCKING ACCIDENT – TWO MEN KILLED
About 12.30 p.m. on Thursday last ,Elias Jones age 44 years, of Newmarket [now Trelawnyd] ,and William Morris age 32 years, of Stabian ,Newmarket,were employed at the Derwynne shaft at Talacre and Gronant Mines, getting timber up out of the shaft ,and were in a cage made for the purpose and  which was hanging on a new hemp rope worked by a hand-winch. Thos. Roberts, of Prestatyn, was stationed in a level in the shaft  for the purpose of signaling to the men on the surface ,and as he was in the act of speaking to the two deceased men who were about 10 yards lower than he was, the rope without any warning  or visible cause broke and they both fell a distance of 50 yards to the bottom of the shaft.
When help arrived Elias Jones was found terribly mangled and dead, William Morris was not much mangled  but died directly the rescue men reached.
William Davies Esq. opened an inquest at the Crown Inn, Newmarket, on Saturday and simply took evidence of identification and adjourned the inquest until 11am on Saturday next, at the Red Lion Inn, LLansa , for the attendance of Dr C.N. Foster, the Inspector of Mines, who wrote to say he was
not well enough to go underground before the end of this week
Elias Jones leaves a widow and 5 children , and William Morris was a widower and leaves two young children orphans. The funeral took place at Newmarket Churchyard on Sunday afternoon [May 11th] ,when nearly two thousand people from the surrounding neighbourhood attended the funeral as a mark of sympathy , and a collection was made at the entrance of the churchyard for the widow and the orphans. The service at the graves was conducted by the rector, Rev. E Davies
The next week The Flintshire Observer devoted almost 3 columns to the inquest, including a plea for a public subscription to be set up  and a poem (in Welsh) dedicated to the 2 men. Here are some extracts
“Captain Henry Ellis [ one of 3 men representing the Talacre and Gronant Lead Mine,+ solicitor] said he was the underground agent of the mine and had been employed there ten years. He could not, of his own knowledge ,say how the accident had occurred. The rope produced  was used in the Derwen shaft and was attached to a stage and to a winch at the top for the purpose of lowering men into the shaft. The deceased men were working on the stage when the accident happened, they were taking out the old pit work…… the first he heard of the accident was  about 12.30 pm, on Thursday  8th, when Thomas Roberts told him that he was afraid that  two men had fallen down the pit, and he had arranged  for assistance to go to the deceased. There were two ropes and two winches used – one for drawing out the pitwork ,and the other for raising or lowering his men at work. ….. the broken rope was bought in January last , and first used in April, but as a guy rope ,no weight being attached to it. It was first used to take out pit work four days before  the accident occurred ,and was in good condition then… the stage on which the men worked measured  4ft by 3ft and was hung by chains from each corner four yards long, and attached to an iron ring above, to which the rope was fastened. … for first three days they were taking out pumps.. shaft was not timbered.. after the rope was lowered down the shaft the first day ,it was not wound up again. The rope broke at a point about eight feet above the iron ring to which it was attached.

It was established that the pumps would have weighed 12-15 cwt, the stage and 2 men about 2cwt- the rope was made to hold 28cwt.
They had been blasting some castings 6 or 9 yards from the shaft, but at that point the rope was 70 yards down the shaft – the men would have climbed out of the shaft via ladders whilst this was taking place and the rope hanging down.
It was possible that the rope had struck the irons, but this was unknown.
Peter Evans, miner, said he had thought the rope was alright for the job, and knot properly made . he had been  working on the stage  himself and had trusted his own life to it. He had seen some pumps oscillating in the shaft as they were being drawn up, but he did not know if any stones had gone down the shaft since this particular rope had been used, or if any pumps had hit the rope – had they done so it would have damaged it. It was possible for the pump to hit the rope, if allowed to do so. The rope had not struck against a sharp edged rock as it was being drawn into the lodge, the recess was from 2 -3 yards high.
The Verdict “  the  unanimous  verdict of the jury is that the deaths of Elias Jones and William Morris occurred by the breaking of the rope, but there is not sufficient evidence to show how this took place.”

Anyhow we survived the big storm. A bit of damage was done to the Ukrainian village
But all the animals live to fight another day....I am working tonight
So will have a lazy day today.....I will clean up tomorrow


  1. That was very interesting and sad. Typical for the day; 'The rope broke', (Manager:) 'Oh, that's alright then...wasn't our fault'

  2. Good to have the tale on the record.

  3. A sad tale John. I was reminded of the disaster at Sixbells Colliery in 1960, a lot of men died in that one, though none of my family. I was at school when it happened and I have a memory of hearing the explosion but I don't know if it is a true memory or not.

  4. Coal mining is awash with tragedy. Not many pits escaped.

  5. My dad lost an uncle in the coal mines in the seventies. My entire dad's side of the family have been coal miners. Such a dangerous job :(

  6. Sadly Wales has known many such disasters....but we have seen in very recent history of men trapped due to collapse all over the world. I believe it takes a brave person to do this type of work. Me? I could never be enclosed underground or underwater.....the histories of the cemetery residents are interesting..."long may they be remembered"

  7. Glad that you lived through the storm to tell the tale of the tombstone. It was interesting. Thank you.
    Laze away!

  8. Anonymous2:08 pm

    What a lovely old headstone and how nice you were able to provide a link between relatives.

  9. " Terribly mangled and not much mangled"...delightful turn of phrase!
    Jane x

  10. Very interesting!

  11. Tragic story John. Here in Nova Scotia we have similar stories regarding the coal mines many lives lost.

    Not much damage to the 'village'....good to hear. Rest easy.

  12. A tragic story, but an interesting read.. Thank you for sharing. Happy to hear the storm was survived!

  13. Thank you for the story, John. They will not be forgotten when we tell their stories.
    I have a Welsh connection that I am trying to find out more about. My great uncle Moi Parry came to Canada and started a business in Peterborough Ontario- most likely in the 40's or 50's. He married my grandmother's sister Myrtle and they did have several children. He was a big man and full of mirth and mischief. I belief he may have been a blacksmith by trade.
    Barb from Canada

  14. It is interesting to read a news report from the days when all the facts were presented and it was assumed people were intelligent enough to read the report and make their own conclusions. There were no yammering reporters to tell you what to think in their 30-second report.

  15. Wonderful John. I only wish todays obits told the whole story as this one did. And the photo was amazing. Loved especially how grandmamma is holding on to the child. I hold my own GK's the same exact way in all photos. I think it because we are always wanting to just protect them from life as much as we can

  16. I remember reading about the Gresford pit disaster near Wrexham and the Pretoria one near Bolton (Westhoughton) when I lived in the UK. I have also read George Orwell's 'Road To Wigan Pier.' It's rather humbling to think how our ancestors built Britain into such a mighty empire. Thanks for remembering these people John.

  17. Thanks for sharing the story John. They must have been very well respected to have so many people turn up for the funeral. Lovely photo of four generations.

  18. Such a sad story John - how many such stories lie behind grave stones in our graveyards.
    Glad to hear you survived more or less intact down there - or should I say across there.

  19. for the want of a good rope... :(

    I agree; the picture is lovely!

    And now I must go visit the sister blog...


  20. I always visit our local churchyard when I go "home". So much history and I find I can fathom out quite a lot from the headstones. I wonder what happened to the orphans. Many Welsh children came to Canada through the 'Home" scheme, I am sorry to say not all were treated well.

  21. Donna O'Shaughnessy's comment reflects my own. The grand mother, despite her great age, holds onto those little hands just as I would.
    Such a sad recount.

  22. What an interesting tale, John; there's a lot to be learned from old headstones.
    Awful, awful weather - I'm in Cornwall and only hope we get an amazing summer to compensate in some small way.
    Do you speak with a Welsh accent, John? I only ask 'cos I always read your posts with a Welsh accent! Every time! (I'm doing it now while I'm typing. . . .) Look you!

  23. Fascinating bit of history. I regret that in 100 years, we have entirely lost track of my grandmother's English and Welsh family. I know they are there, but no of none of them. I'll have to work on this one day.

  24. That's sad, but I am caught up in the names Myfanwy and Tecwyn. I love the old photo.


  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Cro Magnon took the words out of my mouth. The most recent tragedy in our community was a mere 22 years ago; 26 lives were lost. The cause was safety violations by the owners, leading to a methane explosion.

    My grandfather spent his working life in the pit, was nearly killed in one explosion. He always called his escape his sweepstakes luck and that's why he never bothered buying lottery tickets.


I love comments and will now try very hard to reply to all of them
Please dont be abusive x