Saturday 23 June 1894 saw a disaster at the Albion coal pit in South Wales when some 300 miners lost their lives. The Albion Steam Coal Company had begun sinking a new pit in 1884 at Ynyscaedudwg Farm. Two shafts – each 19 feet in diameter – opened in August 1887. They were 33 yards apart and sunk to a depth of nearly 2000 feet. Two men had lost their lives during the shaft sinking in March 1886 with four more dying in November 1886. It was some eight years later – on this day in June 1894 – that the mine was the scene of the, up to then, worst ever disaster in the South Wales coal fields. At 4 o’clock on this Saturday a massive underground explosion brought about the death of 290 men and boys. 16 men escaped alive from the pit but 11 died soon after. Only 2 of the 125 horses underground survived. Almost everyone in the community lost someone in the disaster. The colliery was reopened within two weeks of the explosion. An inquest opened in August that year heard differences of opinion between the owners, the inspectors and the witnesses. The jury concluded that an explosion of gas was accelerated by coal dust, but it failed to agree on the cause. In September 1894 a Government appointed barrister scrutinised the evidence and reported to the Home Secretary that, in his opinion, the explosion was caused by the blasting of timbers which ignited an accumulation of gas, which ignited the coal dust. He concluded that the risk was increased by dangerous working practices, including blasting of timbers during shifts, inadequate watering of the mine to lay dust and a new Saturday shift patterns which meant that there was no interval for clearing dust between shifts. He recommended prosecuting the Albion Coal Company, but eventually only fines of £10 against manager Phillip Jones and £2 against chargeman William Anstes were imposed.
Thursday 24 June 1948 saw the beginning of the Berlin Airlift – one of the first major international crises of what became known as the Cold War. The Soviet Union had blocked the railway, road, and canal access to those sectors of Berlin that were under allied control. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to start supplying Berlin with food, fuel and aid. The anticipated result was that they would have practical control over the entire city. The Western Allies response was to fly in all kinds of supplies to the people in West Berlin. Some 4,500 tons of necessities such as fuel and food were flown in each and every day. By April 1949 the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. When the Soviet blockade was lifted in May 1949 the allies had completed over 200,000 flights. Two separate German states were created which the Western Allies would name East and West Germany. It wasn’t the end of the difficulties though and the three airports in the former western zones of the city continued to be used as the primary gateways to Germany for another fifty years.
Having led many Ghost Walks round Peterborough over the past years this diary entry of Monday 25 June 1763 caught my eye. It was the day when Boswell recorded this conversation with Dr Johnson: “He talked of belief in ghosts; and said that he made a distinction between what a man might find out by the strength of his imagination, and what could not possibly be found out so. ‘Thus, suppose I should think that I saw a form and heard a voice cry “Johnson! You are a very wicked fellow, and unless you repent you will certainly be punished.” This is a thought which is so deeply impressed upon my mind that I might imagine I saw and heard so and so; and therefore I would not credit this, at least would not insist on your believing it. But if a form appeared, and a voice told me such a man is dead at such a place and such an hour; if this proves true upon enquiry, I should certainly think I have supernatural intelligence given me.’ “ I have no personal comment to make on this.
Sunday 26 June 1887: Violet Florence Martin (half of an Anglo-Irish writing team with Edith Somerville) writes about watching Queen Victoria’s Jubilee procession from a friend’s house: “We had a perfect view as the drawing room runs right up to Waterloo place – or nearly. We had not the sun in our eyes, and it shone straight on the procession as it came towards us. We ate a great deal from time to time while we were waiting. We saw some most entertaining fights at corners between police and people. Several times a telegraph boy was handed across the heads of the crowd like a roll of cloth amid the greatest cheering. We were almost dead after it all but it was quite good enough. It is something to remember to have seen London off its head in the way it was. I believe that, in the Abbey, the places were ticketed a few days before ‘Room here for three kings’; Room here for 14 princes’. That is, to me, a strange and amusing thing”.
Saturday 27 June 1450 was the day that Jack Cade the leader of a popular revolt against the government of England scored his victory against the Crown. Little is known about the rebel leader himself but the events of the rebellion associated with his name are well recorded in fifteenth-century chronicles. The ’Jack Cade Rebellion’ developed from grievances about the corruption and abuse of power surrounding the King’s regime and his closest advisors. There was also unrest about the cost of years of war against France, and that was not helped by the recent loss of Normandy. Leading an army of men from Kent and the surrounding counties, Jack Cade marched on London intending to force the government to end the corruption and remove the traitors surrounding the King’s person. By early June more than 5000 men had assembled at Blackheath, 12 miles southeast of London. They were mostly peasants but their numbers were swelled by shopkeepers and craftsmen. There were also some higher status supporters. A subsequent list of pardoned individuals shows a number of landowners together with one knight, two MPs and eighteen squires. Hoping to disperse the rebellion before any real damage could be done, the King sent a small ‘host’ of his royal contingents to quell the rebellion. These were led by Sir Humphrey and William Stafford but they had underestimated the rebels’ strength. They were led into an ambush at Sevenoaks and in the skirmish the two Stafford brothers were killed. Cade took the expensive clothing and armour of Sir Humphrey as his own but his success was short lived, and by 12th July Cade was dead and the ‘revolt’ over.
Wednesday 28 June 1899 – For a bit of a changeI’ve taken a ‘lucky-dip’ of my own making. It’s based on no specific event like the rest of the postings – it’s just todays Liverpool Mercury’s morning news in brief telling us that: – ‘a meeting of the Cabinet was held at the Foreign Office yesterday. Mr Chamberlain took train from Birmingham early in the morning, and arrived at the Colonial Office an hour before the meeting of the Cabinet. The right honourable gentleman was engaged in State business for some time, and subsequently joined his fellow Ministers at the Cabinet Council. All the Ministers attended.’ We are also told that ‘in the House of Commons a debate took place on the second reading of the Tithe Rent-charge Bill. Mr George Whiteley, one of the Conservative members for Stockport, intimates that so great is his objection to the Tithe Rent-charge (Rates) Bill and similar legislation of the Government, that he will resign his seat upon the Bill becoming law, if the local Conservative association so desires.’ It continued with ‘The hearing of the Chandos-Pole divorce suit concluded yesterday. The jury found that the respondent had been guilty of cruelty, but disagreed on the question of adultery. The case stood over to allow the petitioner to consider whether she would apply for a judicial separation.’ I’ll close this little extract with: ‘The British Temperance League, at the opening of its conference in Liverpool yesterday, adopted a resolution asking the Government to legislate on the lines of the minority report of the Licensing Commission, which was claimed to be the report that would meet with popular approval. A resolution was also passed in favour of the local veto candidate for the Osgoldcross Division. In the evening a demonstration was held at Hope Hall.’
Tuesday 29 June 1613 – King James’ arrival at the Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside to watch a performance of Henry VIII was announced by the firing of a canon. The fuse was lit, the canon was fired, it set fire to the roof and the whole theatre was burnt down! Thursday 29 June 1950 – Let’s finish this week’s pieces with a story that seems to have just repeated itself. The 1950 FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil from 24 June to 16 July. It was the first World Cup since 1938 – the planned 1942 and 1946 competitions having been cancelled because of the World War. It was won by Uruguay who beat the hosts Brazil 2–1 in the deciding match of the four-team final group – this was the only tournament not decided by a one-match final). England went into the competition as one of the favourites. They beat Chile 2-0 then lost 1-0 to Spain but there was no panic needed – next up were the USA, a team that had lost their last seven international matches by a combined score of USA 2 – Others 45. It was not to be, though, and on 29 June 1950 England lost 1-0 to the USA and were sent packing from the competition. When the score had appeared in English morning newspapers, many thought it was a misprint and that it should really have been 10-0 to England!