At 11am on Thursday, September 22, the annual memorial ceremony for Wrexham’s greatest tragedy, Gresford Colliery disaster, takes place at Miner’s Wheel Memorial in Pandy.
The disaster affected the whole of Wrexham with almost every village in the county borough losing someone.
Picture the scene…
It’s a Friday evening on September 21, 1934. Miners are descending into the Dennis section of the Gresford Colliery to begin their shift. It’s particularly busy as many of them are ‘doubling up’ so they’ll be free to watch the Wrexham match on Saturday afternoon. Sadly, only six of them shall return.
At 2:08am Saturday morning (September 22), an explosion tore through the colliery, killing countless miners in the process.
Edward Williams, Engine Attendant at the Dennis recalled: “It came nearer like thunder and then the place was all black. You couldn’t see anything.”
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‘Just like hell’
Over 200 rescue workers were sent down in an effort to rescue the miners. All they recovered were 11 bodies – three of them belonging to the first rescue team. One of the rescuers described that mine as being ‘just like hell’.
Once news reached town, crowds began to gather around the mine – women and children waiting for loved ones who will never return.
After 40 hours of toiling it became clear to the rescuers there was nobody alive left to save, so they decided to close the shafts at 6pm Sunday afternoon.
The Gresford Colliery disaster was one of Wrexham’s greatest tragedies…but what’s often overlooked is the aftermath of the disaster and the effect it had on the victims’ families and fellow workers. The explosion left 200 widowed, 800 fatherless and 1,600 jobless.
This was in a time where women weren’t provided with the same opportunities as men. Losing a husband left more than a grieving widow…it left a widow with the responsibility of providing for herself and her children without a source of income.
The rest of the men employed at the mine were forced to look for other jobs – often to no avail. The future seemed bleak for Wrexham; survival alone would become a struggle for many. It would be six months until the mine re-opened.
The tragedy became national headline news and even received recognition from the King. Word travelled about the struggling families and a relief fund was established to aid those in need. More than £550,000 was raised in total, however the lives lost could never be replaced.
Remembering, 88 years on…
This year marks 88 years since the 266 men and boys lost their lives.
The annual memorial service to mark the Gresford Colliery disaster takes place on Thursday, September 22 at 11am at the Miner’s Wheel Memorial, Bluebell Lane, Pandy. This is a short informal service, which everyone is welcome to attend.
Wrexham Mayor Cllr Brian Cameron said: “The Gresford disaster affected the whole of Wrexham, with almost every village in the county borough losing someone. “It’s an incredibly sad part of our history in Wrexham, and one that we will never forget.”