Did you know the last canary retired from service in 1980 in Queensland? While they had not been carried underground by miners for many years, they were still valued members of the Queensland Mines Rescue Service. They even played a role in tunnelling in World War 1!
31st July, 1972, 3am, 10 miners and 7 rescuers were killed in an explosion at Box Flat Mine, Ipswich. Another 12 were seriously injured. 3 of the men killed were working on the surface adjacent to the mine entrance.
Mr Hardie: “I recollect a suck back of material towards the tunnel mouth followed by a huge ball of bright red flame which shot out and illuminated the area for hundreds of feet”. By the following morning bulldozers moved in to seal the mine, forever entombing 14 of the victims. A memorial service was held against the backdrop of billowing black smoke. For miners and residents the disaster is still fresh in their minds 41 years on.
The road to Bowen was completed, including alignment, bitumen sealing and 5 bridges. Shire Engineer Mr G Davidson and his men declared it complete on the 6ht of February, 1969.
Collinsville and Scottville had their Jubilee Celebrations on March 19, 1969. The Collinsville Co-operative Store closed.
Full permanent water supply became available with the advent of the Collinsville Powerhouse.
First sewerage connections with the original sewerage scheme were made and then completed in 1971.
The Collinsville Historical Society was formed.
Underground Firemen… one of the most dangerous jobs held by mankind:
In early Industrial coal mines gas detection was carried out using the wet sack and candle method: “Covering himself with a sack cloth saturated with water, the fireman advanced towards the place where firedamp (mostly methane) existed, and creeping on his belly, held a long pole before him with one or more lighted candles at its end. This ignited the firedamp and produced an explosion more or less violent according to the quantity of gas accumulated. As the flame ran along the roof, the fireman lay flat on his belly until it passed over him. When the operations of the fireman were completed, the rest of the colliers entered the mine and the motion of air caused by their working prevented the gas from collecting during the day” (A History of Coal Mining in Great Britain, 1882).
In some areas the role of fireman was allocated to convicted criminals. If the fireman survived (unlikely) he would be pardoned.
As we know, gases underground pose incredible risk to our miners. Attempts to ventilate coal mines and remove gas pre-date even the Industrial Revolution. From 200AD, evidence of sophisticated coal mining operations have been uncovered in China. By the 4th century AD, the Chinese were using coal, and by the 9th century had developed the ability to use coal in the smelting of iron.
Archaeologists in the Henan Province have uncovered a coal mine from 210 ADwith a relatively impressive technical level. The mine had 2 shafts, 50 metres deep and 2 tunnels 250 metres. Most interesting, however, were the rudimentary methods developed for dealing with gas. Before cutting coal, the miners would push a bamboo, which was hollowed and cut sharp at one end, into the coal layer to extract the gas.
Interested in learning more? Come and visit the Coalface Experience!
The Collinsville Fire Station was built in 1972. On the 30th of June 1972 the fire phone line was connected to the Fire Station. The first Fire call was made on the 7th of July about a grass fire near the Shell fuel Depot on the corner of Station St and Mt Coolon Road. The senior auxiliary firemen were: Syd Richards, Terry Wilkinson, Eddie Starkey, Allan May, G Batchelor, Doug Ferguson, Les Coleman, Frank Monaghan, Harry Watts & Geoff Buckley.
Did you know…
The first major mining disaster in Australia occurred at Bulli Colliery, south of Sydney. On the 23rd of March, 1887, an explosion tore through the Bulli Pit, killing 81 men and boys. An inquiry found that a lamp ignited methane gas which started a series of rolling coal dust explosions. At the time the mine was being worked by Union miners alongside untrained labour. All significant mine safety issues were managed by the mine owner with little or no worker input.
An investigating newspaper reporter discovered naked lights and unlocked lamps had been used where considerable quantities of explosive methane gas was known to exist. He wrote: “The company had such a system of terrorism that men are afraid to exercise the right given them by law.” Miners who had raised safety issues were among those victimised.
All the dontated relief money went into consolidated mine revenue, rather than assisting the 50 widows and 150 orphans for who it was collected.
Have you seen the display about Queensland mining disasters at the Coalface Experience? The worst coal mining disaster in Queensland happened at Mt Mulligan on the 19th of September, 1921. This northern coal mine, situated west of Cairns, was often described as a gas-free mine. Flammable gasses had never been detected in the mine and carbide lamps were used by the miners. At 9:25 am a large explosion was heard from the mine. As the women and surviving men rushed to the mine entrance the scene was devastating. Heavy black smoke rolled from the mine openings and debris lay up to 40 metres from the entrance and grass smouldered from the blast of coal dust and flame. It was quickly clear that every one of the 75 men underground were killed.
Following the Mt Mulligan disaster a separate Coal Mining Act was introduced in Queensland to bring in measures to protect coal miners. In this Act provision was made for the appointment of Mines Inspectors, the use of Safety Lamps and the banning of naked lights underground, and rules for the application of stone dust. Sadly, it was too late for the Mt Mulligan miners.
Mt Mulligan holds a special place in the hearts of many Collinsville locals. In 1957 the Mt Mulligan mine closed and many families moved to Collinsville for employment in the State Mine.
In the image below is a photo of Mt Mulligan school before the disaster. Most of the children pictured lost their fathers on that terrible day.
For more info about Mt Mulligan, visit the Coalface Experience: www.coalfaceexperience.com.au
Did you know… the 1930s were an exciting decade in Collinsville. The town was growing quickly to accommodate the families arriving. A few interesting facts:
In 1930 the Commonwealth Bank opened and Collinsville and Scottville received reticulated water. In 1934 the hospital became a nurse training school, while in 1936 the Catholic School, St John Boscos opened. Impressive growth for the era of the Great Depression. Sadly this era also saw the burning of the Scottville Hotel (pictured) in 1932 on 5th Avenue.
There are some great recollections about this era in the Interactive Timeline