Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Burradon 1860 Disaster Biographies - Baxter Langley and Charles Carr

J Baxter Langley was a pivotal character in the narrative of the Burradon Mining Disaster of 1860. As editor of the Newcastle Daily Chronicle he had become personally acquainted with a number of Burradon mineworkers. He was to champion their causes with vigour, before and after March 2nd 1860. . The article below is from a New Zealand newspaper of 1867. It gives a biography of Baxter Langley and helps us to appreciate why he was such an influential figure in the Burradon Disaster story...

The rest of the article can be viewed here Colonist, Volume X, Issue 699, 8 January 1867, Page 4

Charles Carr: Viewer of Burradon Pit in 1860

Pictured is Charles Carr the viewer and part-owner of Burradon Colliery in March 1860, the time of the terrible explosion which claimed the lives of seventy-six. This photograph was taken in 1862 at New Hartley Colliery during rescue efforts at the infamous disaster which killed over two hundred men and boys (There is a theory that this photo was staged at a slightly later time). Charles Carr was also the viewer of New Hartley in 1862. A deputation of men, after the New Hartley tragedy, actually conveyed their commiserations to Carr on his double misfortune. But Roy Thompson, in his book "Thunder Underground", has the view that Charles Carr "walked on water", and I agree with him.

"Thunder Underground is a fascinating read which examines the politics surrounding the mine disasters investigated by by Northumberland coroner Stephen Reed between 1815 and 1865. It also gives biographical accounts of the main characters involved with Stephen Reed being examined in some detail. The book describes the mining operations in place at the time.

Lawyers for the mineworkers tried to prove culpability on the part of the owners of Burradon Colliery. This was in the hope of being awarded compensation for the families of the victims.

Despite hearing scientific evidence that the mine was not adequately ventilated, all safety measures available not employed and that Carr had misled the jury, a verdict of accidental death was recorded at the conclusion to the inquest. Was the verdict because of class unity or a pragmatic decision on the part of Stephen Reed, who realised that many men relied on the output of the colliery for their livelihood. It was recognised, however, that having financial interests in a mining operations was a conflict of interest in the safe management of collieries.

After March 1860 Carr's involvement in Burradon colliery diminished and as previously mentioned went on to suffer an even greater loss in 1862.

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