When I first visited Kaitangata's Northern Cemetery, it was after seeing the gravestones at the old cemetery in town. There you can find a collection of stones placed to the side of the graves after a clean-up of the cemetery in the 1960s. Many of the stones commemorate the victims of the 1879 mine explosion and I have alread told the story of that disaster in this blog.
My recent visit to Kaitangata's Northern Cemetery had me looking for the gravestones that I recalled displaying words like "accidentally killed." I was also looking for men who died young, possibly in the mines.
There were quite a few.
A gloom was cast over Kaitangata on Sunday when it became known that William McAllister was dead. The deceased was a well-known and popular young man, and was only married about five weeks ago to Miss Coulter, daughter of Mr Wm. Coulter, Mayor of Kaitangata. It appears that he met with an accident in the mine a week last Friday, he was hurrying along the drive, with a small lamp attached to his cap, when he came in violent contact with one of the bars that support the roof, and this smashed the lamp and partly drove it into the scalp. It was not thought to be anything in the nature of serious at the time, but complications set in and he died about 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. The deceased is a son of Mr Neil McAllister, up till very recently underviewer in the Kaitangata mine. He was about 25 or 26 years of age and of splendid physique. He was a keen footballer, and was goal-keeper for Kaitangata for several seasons. He had a sociable disposition and well liked by every one. Much sympathy is expressed for his young widow, as well as parents and relatives. -Clutha Leader, 16/7/1912.
DEATH OF W. McALLISTER.
The adjourned inquest on the death of Wm. McAllister was held in the Court-house, Kaitangata, on Wednesday July 24th, Mr R. Souness, J.P., Acting-Coroner, with the same jury as last week.
David Burnett Murray, constable stationed at Kaitangata, stated that at 9.30 a.m. that day he received a telegram from Messrs Hosking and Cooke, solicitors, Dunedin, stating that they were forwarding a report on the result of the examination of the specimens from the post mortem; and by the 11 o'clock mail the following report from Dr Marshall McDonald: "I have to report that as a result of examination of the tissues removed by me from the body of Wm. McAllister, Kaitangata, it was found that the scalp wound, the ear and the lung, and pleura, were all infected with the same germ, namely Staplylococlus Pyogenes Aureus. This germ is commonly found in infected wounds, but rarely in pneumonic lungs. Repeated tests were carefully made by Dr Champtaloup and were identical in every case. This leaves no doubt that the pneumonia arose as a septic condition, resulting from the infected wound of the scalp and therefore resulted from the accident. (Signed) V. M. Macdonald."
The Acting-Coronor said this amply bore out the evidence of Dr Fitzgerald. The jury then retired, and in a short time returned. Mr Wm. Duncan (foreman) announced the verdict as follows: — "That the said William Ferrier McAllister came by his death through septic pneumonia, caused by a wound to his head while at work in the Kaitangata mine."
Mr E. R. Green, Inspector of Mines, was present at the inquest, and Mr Grigor represented the relatives of the deceased. -Clutha Leader, 26/7/1912.
The police have received intimation to the effect that a man named Adam Thomson, 53 years of age, was killed by a fall of coal in the Kaitangata mine on Monday night. The coroner has been informed, and an inquest will be held in due course. -Otago Daily Times, 25/10/1904.
A sad accident happened in the Kaitangata mine on Monday night, whereby Mr Adam Thomson, a very old and much respected miner, lost his life. It seems that a small fall of coal had taken place, and while Mr Thomson was endeavouring to get out of the way he tripped and got caught by the leg, and before he could be got out another large fall came down and completely covered him. Mr Thomson was of a very genial nature, and having been a long time in Kaitangata will be much missed by his fellow workmen. Much sympathy is felt for Mrs Thomson and her family in their sad bereavement. -Clutha Leader, 28/10/1904.
THE DEATH OF MR JORDAN.
(By Our Special Reporter.) KAITANGATA, February 23.
An inquest was held in the courthouset his afternoon, before the deputy-coroner (Mr W. Wilson) and a jury of six, with Mr Thomas Sharp as foreman, on the death of Robert Stephenson Jordan, suffocated in the Castle Hill mine on Wednesday. Mr J. J. Stilling watched the proceedings for the Ocean Accident Insurance Company. Mr E. R. Green (Inspector of Mines) and Mr Robert Lee (managing director of the Kaitangata Coal Company) were also present.
Willian Carson, underviewer, said he was a first class certificated mine manager. On February 22 witness saw deceased, about 9.30 a.m., in the Castle Hill mine. Witness was called out that day because of a fire taking place in the vicinity of the furnace. Witness reported it to deceased, who came down. Witness produced a plan showing the scene of the fire. Witness and deceased went into the furnace level, turned up the north return airway, and up the stenton to the place marked "H" on the plan. Witness left deceased there with a safety lamp. Witness went about 100ft further to try and locate the fire. At the point "H" witness and deceased came to a body of smoke tapering from the roof to within 1ft of the pavement. Witness left deceased and crawled on his hands and knees underneath the smoke, but discovered nothing. Witness tried to get back, expecting to find deceased at the spot where he left him. Witness's light went out when he was coming back, and he could not see deceased's lamp. Witness also had an electric torch, which he flashed without seeing anything when he got back. About 10ft away from the point where deceased was witness heard a moan. He was by that time feeling the effects of the smoke. He then became unconscious, and could remember nothing more till he came back to consciousness at a spot to which he had been dragged. Witness and Michael Green and Richard Kitto went back to find deceased, whom they found lying on his back, apparently dead. Artificial respiration was resorted to, and continued about an hour, but without effect.
To Mr Green: There were three canvas screens in the furnace level and two in the stenton. When deceased, Green, and witness discussed the fire it was agreed to take these screens down, and thus take the air in the furnace level along to the furnace. Witness did not expect this to be done while he and deceased were inside.
To the Foreman: Witness had no doubt that it was the smoke coming back that caused deceased's death.
To Mr Lee: If, in coming out, witness had gone at all different from the way he did he, too, would have been suffocated.
Michael Green, deputy in the Castle Hill mine, said he was with Mr Jordan and Mr Carson between 9 and 10 o'clock. He explained to deceased how the screens for regulating the air were situated in the mine. Witness's instructions from deceased were to erect a screen in the return air-way at the spot marked "L" on plan, and pull down the screens in the furnace level so as to direct the air into the furnace level from the return air-way. Witness had the screens taken down in accordance with instructions. When witness opened the top screen he heard someone call, "Oh, oh." Witness thought it was Carson, and he thought he heard someone scrambling on the coal. Witness went to his assistance, falling twice. In the second fall witness's hand struck Carson on the face. Witness caught him by the shoulder and pulled him out. Witness felt the effects of the smoke. When Carson came to they went to find deceased. They re-erected the screen previously taken down at the point marked "K," thus forcing the air into the return way, and the smoke back to the shaft. They found deceased at the corner of the stenton, lying on his back.
To a Juryman: Witness thought it was quite right, in order to stop the fire, to take down the screens, but deceased and Carson should not have gone there. There was a discussion as to taking down the screens, but it was not mentioned that they would go in. Witness could not have reached deceased without re-erecting the screen.
To Mr Lee: Witness considered he was to take down the screens at once after the discussion. The only way he could account for their going in was that they had forgotten the instructions they gave him. The effect of taking down the screens was to reverse the air, and the smoke was driven back to deceased and Carson.
To Mr Stilling: It would be about half an hour between his finding Carson and deceased.
To a Juryman: Witness had no difficulty in getting back after the screen was re-erected.
William Carson recalled, did not remember definite instructions being given to Green to remove the screens, but remembered the agreement that such should be done. They did not think the screens would be removed before they came back.
To Mr Lee: Witness was under the impression that Green knew where deceased and he were, and would not then remove the screens.
The inquest was adjourned till 7.30. On resuming.
Richard Kitto, roadsman, Castle Hill, gave evidence that he was sent for by Michael Green on the 22nd inst. He was with Michael Green at the point marked K on the map when they heard someone cry out. They tried to renew the screen when they heard this cry, and, that failing, tried to get the persons out. Michael Green and witness both came on to Carson, and they pulled him out. Carson was unconscious for two or three minutes.
To Mr Stilling: Carson and Green were suffering from smoke, and witness had to pull them down the stenton. Green told witness at the stenton that Mr Jordan had told him to take down the screens, two of which he already had down.
Dr Fitzgerald said, he was called down to see deceased in the mine. On examining the body he found life extinct. The whole front of the body, from head to foot, was burnt, also the back of the head and the back to the level of the shoulders. Marked evidences of' lividity were present about the face, also a certain amount of frothy secretion coming from the mouth, and later on blood. Although the body was burnt there were no evidences of burning on the clothes. The body would be burnt with the heat. In witness's opinion the cause of death was suffocation.
To Mr Stilling: Witness knew deceased about 13 years, and would describe him as a man of robust constitution.
The Jury retired for about 12 minutes, and returned with a verdict that deceased met his death in the Castle hill mine through suffocation, and that the misadventure came about by a misunderstanding between deceased and Michael Green as to the precise time when the air current should have been diverted, and that no blame was attachable to anyone. The courthouse was packed during the afternoon and evening. -Otago Daily Times, 22/2/1905.
Accidents and Fatalities.
DUNEDIN, This Day. John McGhee, a miner, aged 35, was killed by a fall of coal in the Kaitangata mine last night. -Inangahua Times, 16/5/1911.
A MINER'S DEATH.
EVIDENCE AT THE INQUEST.
By Telegraph. — Press Association. Dunedin, Last Night.
An inquest on the body of John McGhee, aged 29, who was killed by a fall of coal in the Kaitangata mine on Monday evening, was held to-day. The medical evidence was to the effect that deceased had a scalp wound eight inches long, cutting the scalp to the bone. The skull was also fractured and death must have been almost instantaneous. Other evidence showed that the body was recovered about 15 or 20 minutes after the fall took place. The coal fell from a height of from seven to ten feet. Deceased was regarded as a careful, practical and experienced miner. When the accident occurred deceased and two others were falling coal into boxes. No shots were fired on that shift, but two or three were fired earlier in the day. The section where the accident occurred was generally regarded as a very safe place. It was examined by the deputies at 1.30 p.m., and was then quite safe. The jury returned a verdict that deceased met his death by a fall of coal, and added a rider that the working together of three or four men in a mine increased the danger to the workmen. Deceased leaves a widow and two children. -Taranaki Daily News, 18/5/1911.
FATALITY AT KAITANGATA MINE.
A sad fatality occurred at Kaitangata mine on Monday evening. A young man named John McGhee was working in what is known as Terry's tip section, in a class of work which is known in mining parlance as pillar and head coal, and is recognised as hazardous and dangerous. At about (?).45 he was engaged filling the last box previous to adjourning for crib time when a lump of coal, over a ton in weight, came down on top of him, killing him instantly. The unfortunate miner was completely buried when asistance was procured and the rescuers were hardly able to locate the place where deceased was buried. Strange to say the lamp, although smashed completely, was burning when deceased was rescued.
Deceased was a thoroughly competent miner and had been engaged in the Kaitangata mine for about five years. Previous to coming to Kaitangata he had been mining on the West Coast. He was a genial, cheery-hearted young man, who won respect from all and made many warm friends. A few years ago he was one of the best forwards in the Kaitangata Rugby team. He leaves a widow and two young children, and to them the sympathy of the town goes forth in their untimely bereavement.
Deceased's widow is a daughter of the late Fred. Fuell, who for many years was town clerk at Kaitangata. The remains were interred in the Northern Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon, about 400 persons attending. The Rev. W. T. Currie officiated.
THE INQUEST. An inquest was held at Kaitangata on Wednesday, before Mr C. E. Yates, J.P., Acting-coroner, and a jury of six. Mr D. P. Clements was foreman. Constable Murray represented the Crown. Mr R. R. Grigor appeared on behalf of the relatives of deceased, Mr R. R. Stewart on behalf of the Company, Mr K. R. Green for the Mines Department, and Mr J. Sim for the Miners' Union.
Evidence of identification was given by Wm. McGhee, brother of deceased, and Dr G. W. Will deposed to his examination of the body. Life was extinct when he arrived at the pit. There was a scalp wound about 8in long and fractured skull, but there were no indications of internal injuries. The blow would have been certainly sufficient to cause death at once.
James Nelson (miner) said that he was working with deceased when the fall occurred. Deceased was found buried under two boxes of coal. From 15 to 20 minutes elapsed between the fall and the releasing of the body. There were no signs of life when deceased was released. Falls were not frequent — they generally had to shoot to bring the coal down. There were no shots that night in the shift. There was always a certain amount of risk in the work of taking out pillar and head coal, but he could not say if the place where McGhee had been working was dangerous.
To Mr Grigor: Deceased could not have done anything to cause the accident.
William Carson, mine manager, deposed that all precautions had been taken for safety. It was generally a very safe section of the mine. In his opinion nothing could be done to make such places safer. The places were examined by the deputies before the shifts went in. There was evidence on the roof and on the fallen coal of a rough parting.
Albert Tripp, deputy, deposed that he examined the place at 1.15 on the 15th, and it was quite safe. On that day he had only fired one shot in that section. It was fired about 1.45 p.m. The shot would be 7ft to l0ft from where the fall took place, and he did not think it caused the fall.
Evidence was given by Robert Newburn, Harry Hansen, and Walter Anderson. Hansen in his evidence said three shots had been fired during the shift, the last about 1.45.
After a brief retirement the jury returned the following verdict: — "Deceased met his death by a fall of coal in the Kaitangata mine." The jury added the following rider — "That the working together of three or four men in a mine increases the danger to the workmen." -Clutha Leader, 19/5/1911.
FATALITY AT KAITANGATA MINE.
JOSEPH CARSON KILLED.
An accident happened in the Kaitangata coal mine yesterday, whereby one man, Jos. Carson, brother of Mr W. Carson, mine manager, was killed, and three other men injured. There had been a fall of coal, and some of the miners were engaged timbering the fall when a big stone, which they could not remove before, fell, dislodging the timber or "pig sty" and pinned down Carson and Rodgers. Carson received a bad cut in the groin, and bled to death and W. Rodgers sustained bruises, but when cleared of the debris was able to walk. McBride was slightly injured. The accident happened in Barclay's drive of the mine early in the afternoon. It is reported that J. Mackie had two ribs broken.
Deep sympathy is felt for Carson's relatives. He was a popular young man, and his young widow is left with a child — the only one — a few weeks old. -Clutha Leader, 18/8/1911.
From our own correspondent.
One of those distressing accidents which too often accompany the play or actions of children happened to a little boy named Walter Robert Forrest on the New Zealand Coal and Oil Company's railway siding at the south end of Eddystone Street, Kaitangata, on Tuesday afternoon. The little lad, six years, was the son of Mr and Mrs Alexander Forrest, Catherine street, but resided with his grandparents, Mr and Mrs Alexander McMillan, Eddystone Street South. The Coal Company's siding is laid along the street, starting from the intersection of Berry and Eddystone Streets, and runs down past Mr McMillan's home to the dead end at Start Street. There is always a good number of railway waggons kept on this siding and on the afternoon of the accident five empty trucks were at the bottom end of the siding. On leaving school the deceased lad, in company with a companion named Thomas Hansen, proceeded to the home of the grandparents. The lad laid his school bag inside, and then jumped on to a truck in search of loose straw which may often be found in the empty trucks. He obtained a footing on the iron footplate at the end of the truck, but, on reaching further to look over into the truck he slipped and fell back on the buffer, and from there on to the railway. His head struck the rail, and his young chum, seeing that the boy was in a serious condition and getting no answer to a question, quickly ran for assistance. Dr Cairns was communicntcd with, and was on the scene of the accident within a few minutes, but the little boy was found to have broken his neck by the fall, and death must have been instantaneous. As the doctor was satisfied that the little fellow's death was purely the result of an accident he was prepared to issue a certificate, and on that condition the coroner, who had been informed of the facts of the case, therefore deemed it unnecessary to conduct an inquest. The deceased boy was of a bright and lively disposition, and was the idol of his grand-parents, with whom he lived. Much sympathy is felt for the parents, grand-parents and relatives at the untimely death of the little favourite. -Clutha Leader, 15/2/1918.
A very kind and thoughtful action took place in the Taratu mine (states the Kaitangata correspondent of the Clutha Leader), where the miners each filled a box of coal to be credited to their fellow employee, Mr A. Forrest, who could not attend his work through the accidental death of his little son at Kaitangata last Tuesday afternoon. -Otago Daily Times, 19/2/1918.
Electric Telegraph—Press Association DUNEDIN, September 8. Crushed between two small trucks in the Kaitangata coal mine, Ronald Stewart Forest, aged 14 years, received a broken neck and died almost instantaneously at about 7 o'clock to-night.
Forrest was employed in the mines. He resided in Kaitangata. -Pahiatua Herald, 10/9/1938.
The adjourned inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of the lad Ronald Stewart Forrest, aged 14, who was killed while working among railway trucks at Kaitangata on September 8, was concluded before Mr A. E. Russell (district coroner) and a jury at Kaitangata on Thursday. Constable Watts conducted the inquiry on behalf of the police. Mr E. B. Adams watched proceedings on behalf of the relatives, Mr J. C. Mowat on behalf of the Kaitangata Coal Company, and Mr Hadcroft represented the Mines Department.
Dr W. L. Dodds gave evidence as to being called and finding life extinct. Examination showed that the cause of death was a fracture of the cervical vertebrae of the neck and also of the spinal cord and the base of the skull, death being instantaneous.
Robert Richardson Carson, trimmer at the screens at the mine, said that on September 8 he was on afternoon shift, and later in the evening, in company with deceased and Jack Stephenson and Victor Bowmar, he went to shift a number of full wagons from the screens down the dummy line. All then returned to their usual occupations, and he was assisting to bring down some empty wagons towards the screens. Deceased was assisting him and was told to take the front wagon, a large LA. Witness could not see what deceased did from where he was, as he was walking behind the truck to put the brake on. They had to pass a number of other trucks on another line. He did not hear deceased put his front brake on, but when they were passing the stationary wagons on the down grade he heard a groan, and knew that something had happened, he rushed round, and found deceased jammed between the two sets of wagons. Bowmar called out to deceased, but there was no answer. The shift boss was called, and ordered that the doctor be sent for. The yard was well lighted. In reply to questions witness said deceased wore glasses, and was wearing them at the time. It was customary for the three of them to do the job every night. The gaps in the trucks on the “nut” road must have been due to being run in at different times. He did not think there were too many trucks on the “nut” road. He was 16 years old.
Evidence was also given by Victor Bowmar (16) and John Stephenson (22), who said he had no idea there were any gaps in the trucks on the “nut” road.
Samuel Coulter, pit-head man, said part of his duty was supervision of the boys and men working about the yard and screens. He heard the boys call out, and went down the yard and saw deceased. Owing to the weight of the wagon deceased could not easily be released, and a jack was necessary for the purpose. This was the first serious accident in the yard to his knowledge.
Frederick Carson, mine manager, produced a plan of the yard showing the position of the trucks on September 8. He was called to the yard, and found deceased suspended between two wagons, with his feet about 6in off the ground. He assisted to release him. This was the first serious accident in 60 years in the yard. He would not say there were too many trucks in the road. They would be lowered at different times, but not coupled. There was clearance to let the wagons past on the other road. It was quite safe riding on the brake, but the deceased evidently had his back to the other trucks. He had been on the job for nine months, and the wearing of glasses would be no disability. To Mr Hadcroft witness said the company was quite prepared to do anything for the safety of the work. They considered there was no danger, and therefore nothing had been done to alter the position.
Evidence was also given by Constable Watts. A report by Messrs Fred Crook and M. Hansen (workmen’s inspectors) was handed in. This stated that they had visited the scene with the Inspector of Mines and the mine manager, and in their opinion it was a pure accident.
The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. It added that it was of the opinion that the trucks had been left in a dangerous position, and considered that the attention of the Minister of Mines and the Chief Inspector of Mines should be drawn to the fact of young boys being employed in such dangerous work. -Evening Star, 26/9/1938.
(From Our Own Correspondent.)
On Thursday night a very sad accident happened in the Kaitangata mine, whereby a young man named Allan McKinnie lost his life. It appears that he had not long resumed work after having his lunch, when his trucker (who followed shortly after) noticed that his light was out. He called out to McKinnie, but, getting no answer, he concluded that something was wrong, and at once gave the alarm. When discovered, he was quite dead, a large stone l0ft in length had fallen in from the side, and, striking him on the side of the head, had pinned him to the ground, death being evidently instantaneous. As giving some idea of the weight of the stone, it took the united efforts of four men to remove it. An inquest was held on Saturday, the verdict being, "Accidental death, no blame attachable to any one." McKinnie was a true type of a Scotsman, 26 years of age, and arrived in the colony about twelve months ago, along with some other young men from the same part, who are terribly cut up at the untimely end of their young comrade. Of a quiet disposition, and of an industrious turn of mind, he was a great favourite with all the young men with whom he came in contact. Outside of the circle of his own mates, he was best known to the public as a footballer, and as an exponent of the Association game he was one of the very best that ever left the shores of Old Scotland. He had no relations in the colony but leaves a father and mother and sisters and brothers in the old land to mourn their loss. The funeral took place on Sunday, when a large concourse of people turned out to pay their last respects to the deceased, the funeral being one of the largest on the records of Kaitangata. -Clutha Leader, 7/2/1905.
THE KAITANGATA FATALITY.
An inquest touching the death of Robert Donaldson was held at Kaitangata on Thursday in the Masonic Hall by Coroner Cruickshank, and a jury consisting of Messrs C. E. Yates (foreman), W. Wilton, D. Alexander, Peter Souness, P. A. Brady, and A. Weston. Mr A. R. Barclay appeared for this relatives of the deceased, Mr W. C. MacGregor watched the proceedings on behalf of the company, and Inspector McIntosh (Inspector of Mines) was also present.
Alexander Forbes, miner, said he was a brother-in-law of deceased, and identified the body. Deceased was 20 years of age, single, and had been 10 weeks in Kaitangata. He came from Merryweather, Newcastle, New South Wales, and had been employed at mines there from the time he left school. He had never complained about the danger of his work as a trucker at Castle Hill, except that he did not like the "cuddy" or the chains. His father and mother were living at Merryweather, and deceased assisted his parents, sent them money, practically all he earned. Witness had only received 25s for board from deceased during the time he had been in Kaitangata. Deceased has two brothers at home, one 15 and the other 11 years.
Evidence was also given by Daniel Bonnie, Robert Kitto, John McNeil, Alexander Bennie, James Donaldson, William Carson, and Dr Fitzgerald.
The evidence showed that the accident occurred at 12.30, first aid was administered on the spot, but at 2 o'clock before the sufferer was removed from the mine, owing to the absense of anything in the shape of ambulance material.
The jury returned the following verdict: "That deceased met his death by a runaway truck in Castle Hill mine, caused by the breaking of a chain and that no blame is attachable to any one." A rider was added that the company should procure a stretcher and a supply of bandages and blankets at both mines. —Free Press. -Otago Daily Times, 19/8/1905.