It was an honour to attend an event to mark the 1866 Oaks mining disaster today. A statue was unveiled to commemorate the worst mining disaster in England. 361 men and boys were killed in a series of explosions at the colliery.
The inquest after the disaster led to debates in the House of Commons demanding a commission on mining safety. Hansard reports one MP saying:
“The Oaks Colliery had not been inspected for some years before the accident. He held, therefore, that the present inspection of mines was not sufficient. The number of Government Inspectors was only twelve; there were 3,000 pits; and who would allege that twelve inspectors, without; any sub-inspectors to aid them, were sufficient for the purposes of inspection?”
The men and boys at the colliery joined the list of 2468 miners who died in mining accidents between 1865 and 1866 – a staggering loss of life.
Now Barnsley has a permanent memorial to remember a time in economic history when colliery owners were not held to account for the “fearful sacrifice of life in mines.”
Every year trades unionists around the world remember those workers killed in industrial accidents on Workers Memorial Day. Each year we commit remember the dead and fight for the living. I silently made that pledge again today.