9 June 1899, 30 mineworkers die in a dynamite explosion at the Kimberley Mine.
9 June 1940, Foundation stone for the new Catholic Cathedral laid.
DID YOU KNOW
Kimberley’s second worst mining disaster happened a few minutes after 09h00 on Friday 9 June 1899 when the dynamite magazine at the 1480 feet level of the Kimberley Mine (Big Hole) exploded. Initially it was believed that 18 miners had been killed, but the toll climbed as firstly, a further six bodies were found under debris, and another six men would die from horrific injuries. Some 42 miners had been injured in the explosion.
The mine manager, Mr Thomas Jackson Woodburne, was underground at the time of the explosion, and said that there was a massive concussion, two “shocks” and a “rush of air” at the time. The explosion also blasted the electrical light system and plunged the entire area into darkness. Dust and smoke soon rose from the shafts as the miners all tried to escape. The two “shocks” were two explosions, the second following shortly after the first, and the second was the one that caused the most damage, many of the dead and injured being blasted some 200 feet from the site.
Woodburne controlled the immediate aftermath and rescue parties were soon on the scene bringing blankets, stretchers, medical supplies and brandy. When the survivors were brought out they were all in a state of shock. Many had severe injuries and all were suffering from fume and smoke inhalation. Many too, had severe burns. Among the many rescuers underground were assistant General Manager Alpheus Williams, engineer George Labram, as well as Doctors JE McKenzie and EO Ashe.
Other Kimberley doctors rushed to assist at the compound hospital, making preparation for the influx of injured that would soon arrive. Many volunteers assisted quite admirably. A Mrs Cruickshank, a relative of the compound manager and being a trained nurse, was one of the first helpers to arrive.
The dynamite supplies underground were all kept on different levels and are in cases kept stored in locked sheds, there being regulations to guard against any accident. This particular shed at the 1480 feet level had five cases of dynamite, the day’s supply for blasting.
“There doesn’t appear to be any serious damage to the mine at all, so far as we can see at present.” said Woodburne, “We have no idea how it happened. Whether it will ever be found out it is impossible to say.”
Bravery underground, always to the fore in such incidents, saw at least one African miner bring our 14 other miners who were all in such a state they could not help themselves.
One of the most fortunate of the survivors, and who was at the site where the explosion occurred, was miner and South African champion bowler “Bob” Sumner.
It had been a terrible day.
The inquest into the disaster, held shortly afterwards, could not conclude as to how the dynamite magazine exploded.