The Avondale Mine Disaster

Language: English

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Brano raccolto da George Korson da un minatore di Antracite della Pennsylvania
Edito su CD nel 1997
Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miners

Sung by Juhn J . Quinn at Wilkes-Barre. Pennsylvania, 1946. Recorded by George Korson.

'The Avondale Mine Disaster' recounts the anthracite industry's first major tragedy in which 110 men and boys were lost. of early collieries, the Avondale was ventilated by means of a furnace built on the bottom level , its flue running up the height of the shaft. This shaft , leading to the breaker above. was the only outlet.

The fire started early in the morning of Septem­ber 6. 1869. when the flue partition caught fire. The flames roared up the shaft and fired the breaker. Men and boys, their only avenue of escape cut off, and the air currents stopped. fought a desperate battle against gJses. Rescue work began immediately after the fire was extinguished. A box with a slot top containing a dog attached to a lighted lantern was let d wn into the shaft to test the air. While the dog survived. the light in the lantern was snuffed out by black damp.

However the mere fact that the dog had come back alive held out a slender hope to hundreds of anxious people that their loved ones might still be alive. Volunteers went down the shaft, only to return immediately gasping for air. Even after this experience, Thomas W. Williams and David Jones

Two Welshmen brave, without dismay,
And courage without fail,
Went down the shaft without delay
In the mines of Avondale.

When they reached the bottom, they signalled for a pick and shovel, but died before using them. After the gases had been cleared, a crew descended to the bottom where they found the bodies of the two heroic Welshmen and those of the other victims.
The excitement caused by the disaster had not yet subsided, nor had the grief been assuaged, when a ballad appeared which told the tragic story. Nobody
knew its origin or its composer, though different
names appeared on the penny broadsides which sold by the hundreds. Everybody sang it- and shed a tear for the widows and orphans. It was a favorite of the
itinerant miner-minstrels and for more than a quarter of a century was the most popular ballad in
the region. Its vogue spread beyond the hardcoal fields and variants have been found by folk song collectors as far distant as Newfoundland.

For further information see: George Korson ,
Minstrels of the Mine Patch, University of Pennsyl· vania Press, 1938, pp. 180·191.

Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miners
1.Good Christians all, both great and small,
I pray you lend an ear,
And listen with attention while
The truth I will declare;
When you hear this lamentation,
I will cause you to weep and wail,
About the suffocation
In the mines of Avondale.

2. On the sixth day of September, Eighteen sixty-nine,
Those miners all then got a call
To go work in the mine;
But little did they think that [day]
That death would soon prevail
Before they would return again
From the mines of Avondale.

3.The women and their children,
Their hearts were filled with joy,
To see their men go to their work
Likewise every boy;
But a dismal sight in broad daylight,
Soon made them turn pale,
When they saw the breaker burning
O'er the mines of Avondale.

4. From here and there , and everywhere,
They gathered in a crowd ,
Some tearing off their clothes and hair,
And crying out aloud ­
"Get out our husbands and our sons,
Death He's going to steal
Their lives away without delay
In the mines of Avondale."

5. But all in vain, there was no hope
One single soul to save,
For there is no second outlet
From the subterranean cave.
No pen can write the awfuJ fright
And horror that prevailed,
Among those dying victims,
In the mines of Avondale.

6 . A consulation then was held,
Twas asked who'd volunteer
For to go down this dismal shaft,
To seek their comrades dear;
Two Welshmen brave, without dismay,
And courage without fail ,
Went down the shaft, without delay,
In the mines of Avondale .

7.When at the bottom they arrived,
And thought to make their way .
One of them died for want of air,
While the other in great dismay,
He gave a sign to hoist him up,
To tell the dreadful tale,
That all was lost forever
In the mines of Avondale .

8. Every effort then took place
To send down some fresh air;
The men that next went down again
They took of them good care;
They traversed through the chambers,
And this time did"not fail
In finding those dead bodies
In the mines of Avondale.

9 . Sixty-seven was the number
That in a heap were found .
It seemed that they were bewailing
Their fate underneath the ground;
They found the father with his son
Clasped in his arms so pale.
It was a heart rendering scene
In the mines of Avondale .

10. Now to conclude , and make an end,
Their number I'll pen down-
A hundred and ten of brave strong men
Were smothered underground;
They're in their graves till this last day,
Their widows may bewail,
And the orphans' cries they rend the skies
All round through Avondale!

Contributed by Dq82 - 2019/11/11 - 12:09

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