The great Bill Mayo, local historian and photo collector, has recently been digging in his files and found a few mystery images, like the one above of a local mines rescue team.
We have periodically covered such rescue teams here before – they were naturally a matter of pride and honour, and they of course did vital and dangerous work: in short, they were courageous, selfless and honourable men.
I’ve waited a few weeks to feature this one as it’s a real work of collaborative history research between the young David Evans and Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler – and, as ever, I thank both of them as without their sagacious input, this blog would be bugger all, frankly.
Originally, David wrote:
This unusual image is from the collection of old photos and memorabilia that local historian Bill Mayo has garnered over the years. It measures some 20 inches by 15 inches and is mounted on card. It has evidence of having received photographic treatment and embellishment in the past.
It appears to show a mine rescue team from Walsall Wood Colliery, and the style of the wagon in the background seems to suggest a time around Word War One, or before.
I wonder when, and for what reason, both the lorry and the rescue teams were photographed together?
In the background of this blog, there is a continuous buzz of debate between the contributors: as new threads emerge and evolve, David, Peter, Andy and others shoot emails back and forth that I’m copied into. It’s fascinating, dazzling and often hard to keep up, but the process of this debate is always productive.
Following such an exchange, Peter came up with the following, and thinks the image is unlikely to be Walsall Wood, but more likely on the Cannock Chase Coalfield (as the legend on the truck suggests):
I speculate that the picture that David has obtained of the rescue team can be explained by a clip from the Lichfield Mercury of 1913. In the picture the team has six members and maybe the driver on the right. The chap in the left background may be Joshua Payton, the Superintendent of the Hednesford Resue Station which had been set up in compliance with the Coal Mines Act of 1911.
The Act of 1911 included, amongst many other things, the duty of all coal owners, to whom the regulations applied, to make adequate provision in the manner laid down for the establishment of rescue work in mines, and for the maintenance of rescue apparatus.
‘Briefly, it meant that rescue stations had to be provided so that all mines were within a radius of 10 miles of a station, unless they employed less than 100 men or were specially exempted from the provisions of the regulations. Some years later, the limit was raised to 15 miles…
Brigades consisting of no less than 5 persons employed at the mine and who have been selected on account of their knowledge of underground work, and trained in first-aid were to be formed and maintained at every mine.
Where the number of underground employees is less than 250, one brigade to be formed; from 250 to 500 two brigades; from 500 to 800, three brigades; and over 800, four brigades… The owner, agent, or manager of a mine where the total number of underground employees is less than 100 shall be deemed to have complied with this provision if he is acquired the privilege of calling for a brigade from a central rescue station.
No brigade deemed competent until it has undergone a training course approved by The Secretary of State. (This would be at the Hednesford Station and under Josua)
The order also directed that sets of portable breathing apparatus in the proportion of two sets to each rescue Brigade.
I expect this to be contentious. If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment here, or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot Com.