“The Huskar Pit was a coal mine on the South Yorkshire Coalfield, sunk to work the Silkstone seam. It was located here in Nabs Wood, outside the village of Silkstone Common, in the then West Riding of Yorkshire.”
Bob, the elderly ex-coalminer in orange overalls and hard hat was explaining to a class of recalcitrant school pupils, that I was teaching local history to. They are of a generation that has grown up without the dominant industry being mining in their town. Their parents, if they work at all, will be in retail warehouses and supermarkets not several miles underground working a seam as I did when I left school.
If the children bother to speak to their grandparents these days, they might hear stories from “down the pit”, but many will have died young from emphysema. I was made redundant and used the money to study and eventually became a teacher. All that hard work rewarded with a class of bored teenagers with no work ethic or interest in their heritage.
“In 1838 Huskar was used for ventilation. It had a vertical shaft to the surface and a drift shaft leading to Nabs Wood where we are stood now”.
“On 4 July 1838 heavy rainfall struck the area. A number of miners, just boys and girls really, tried to escape via the day-hole to Nabs Wood. The stream, over there burst its banks and a torrent of water entered the shaft”.
Embarrassingly, there was still an air of indifference about the children. “Sorry, this interests me how?”
“Newton” I shouted.
Bob persisted: “Twenty-six children died that day. They drowned. How old are you young lady?”
“The youngest that died was seven years old. Sarah Newton was just eight. Any relation?” Finally, they were listening.
Published in Issue #17