IN THE SHADOW OF THE SHAFT
Gresford Colliery Mining Disaster 1934 North-East Wales Britain
Author: Daryn Davies
My life is meandering to a sad and definite close. As I sit here in my favourite armchair the rain dances on the windowsill. I know every rotten crevice in its frame. I should, for I sit here every day looking through this opaque window, memories flooding back like some overburdened river ready to burst it’s banks. These memories are perpetually haunting, forever in black and white……..just like that fateful day.
We grew up as neighbours. My late father was a miner, as were most of the men in this community. His father was a miner also, a true gentleman, who delighted in the joys of being with his family. However, we all knew about the dangers of working in the mines, but that is all we had. Food and clothing were necessities of life; thus the risks had to be put to one side.
As I sit here today alone I reflect on the neighbourly community which once existed here. Doors were always open, everyone had a smile on their face, and although life was hard, it was always full of vitality. Now those happy times seem to be lost forever, as I sit here with my doors firmly bolted, with the advice of the local, "Neighbourhood Watch", providing a timely counterpoint to those by gone days.
We married in 1932, happy days indeed! The whole community came together. It was such a simple affair, but we were so looking forward to being together, raising a family and spending the rest of our lives together. The sun shone so brightly on that day, I was so happy. All we wanted was to be together forever.
We lived with my brother and his family, unable to afford a place of our own to start with, but we were determined to find somewhere to raise a family. He loved his garden, and when we moved into this house he was joyous, the garden was his Eden. For it had enough space to grow endless amounts of vegetables and flowers. He spent many an hour in his garden, for it was his pride and joy. It was a real community affair; the produce was shared amongst family and friends. We were so happy.
Happiness always ends though. My mourning days will never cease, how could they? A story requires a full stop to signify closure. Only eleven bodies were recovered, the earth has yet to yield the remaining corpses. My gravestone has yet to be inscribed, like a blank canvas waiting for the artist to make his first tentative stroke. Thus, I have to sit here year after year, imagining what kind of stone I would like. I must have drafted his obituary in my mind a thousand times, but it never seemed right without his body to accompany it.
Pat, Rose, Margaret and Lillian visit the same nightmare as myself. They understand what it is like. I feel bitter, no I don’t, I just feel empty. Most people grieve for their dead, and that time is definite in most cases. However, in this instance this process is an infinite one. I know he is dead, trapped beneath that very thing that brought food to our table, put clothes on our backs, and kept us warm in the most desperate of Winter frosts.
We never had any aspirations when we were younger. We didn’t hanker after materialistic possessions. We were just happy and contented with our lot. We loved each other dearly, and that love kept us warm and protected us through the hard times, and believe me, we did live through some very difficult days.
We shared a dream, that of having a family. We tried and tried…. if only he knew. I wish I could have told him, he would have been so proud. But how could I? I only discovered the news two weeks later. I cried with joy and sorrow. It was both the proudest and saddest day of my life.
George jnr.was born, in the shadow of the shaft. I was sure his father was there to witness the event. I felt a presence at the birth, a glow, as if he was a guardian angel protecting me from the ills of the world
I was a single mother bringing up a child, and I found it my duty to ensure that I did it to the very best of my ability. Thus, I made a decision I had to work. It wasn’t easy, but everyone in the community rallied around to help. I wanted my late husband to be proud of me, I know I always felt proud in his presence.
I vowed from a very early time that George jnr would never go down the mines. I encouraged him to broaden his horizons. It was difficult, as family traditions are hard to sever. He was like his father, proud and strong, and he told me that he wanted me to feel proud of him whatever career path he decided to follow. I was a proud mother and wife; my family was always at the centre of my world.
He decided to embrace a trade, joinery was his chosen mode of work. His apprenticeship was with, "Evans & Co.", in the town, where he worked hard just like his father. He had the same proud air and elegance of his late father…I wish he could be here now as I think he would be looking at his son the same way I do, with such feelings of pride.
George was a good son. He never brought trouble to the door. I doted on him and I knew he felt the same way. However, I knew he bore a heavy heart, to not know your father must be a heavy burden for any child. He was insatiable in his quest for knowledge about his father; he wanted to know every minute detail about him. I suppose I would have felt the same way if I was in his position, but how could I be sure? I wanted the best for him, and that meant being over protective, a motherly trait he resented
The fever took him, not me. I am still here, yet the two most precious people in my life have passed away. I have a gravestone for my son, a temple at which I regularly visit. It tugs at my heartstrings when I visit, but I do find comfort in talking. He is there, and he listens to me, my comfort amongst this sea of troubles.
The fire in the grate has been reduced to a flicker, it’s life force almost extinguished, mirroring my sad story. The warmth, which once penetrated my life, has now diminished, and I have resigned myself to my fate. I have been lucky, I have lived a full life, my memories being constant companions in the shadow of the shaft.
© All Rights Reserved