Five Miners Drown

Research carried out by members of Hook History Society have unearthed a long-forgotten tragedy when five miners lost their lives not underground as one would expect but when their rowing boat overturned in bad weather off Picton Point.

The miners …one a lad of 17…..had been sent to the Blackpool Mill area to load timber for use in the then thriving anthracite mine at Hook; by the time they had completed their task the weather had worsened and rather than risk the obviously dangerous crossing four of the men opted to  walk home.

They were the fortunate ones as their five colleagues all drown as gale force winds filled the little craft with water and it sank so tantalisingly close to the shore.

The story is graphically told in a local newspaper report of August 1850:

Melancholy Occurrence Five Miners Drowned.

Eight men employed at Hook Colliery, under Messrs Wilson, accompanied by a lad of 17 years of age and employed by Mr Griffiths of Hook proceed on Wednesday last as far as Black Pool to load a couple of lighters with timber which had been purchased for use in the colliery.

 Having accomplished their work four of the men returned by land, the other unfortunate five started by water in the same boat. In vain did their comrades entreat them to walk with them as it was blowing exceedingly hard, in spite of their entreaties and the foul weather and their inability to manage a boat especially in a gale wind they started.Their names are as follows: Absalom James; Henry Phillips; William Folland; Benjamin Phillips; and Thomas Folland, the latter was the boy. The two Follands were brothers and strange  to say the whole were closely related and living adjoining each other at Hook.

They must have proceeded with difficulty to Landshipping Ferry as it was blowing a headwind all the way but when off Picton Point and in the act of turning the boat’s head towards Hook she shipped several seas which nearly filled her consequently all but the boy jumped into the water and almost instantly were drowned. By this time the boat filled when the boy jumped over board and was in a few yards of the shore when he met the same fate. Had he stopped in the boat he would have been saved as she could have carried him although filled.

The unfortunate beings were observed by one woman, named Eleanor Francis, who lives in a lone cottage on the banks of the river at Picton Point. The poor woman’s cries for assistance were of no avail _….. her voice was powerless against the wind and the thick mist prevented anyone seeing them from Landshipping therefore they were all drowned within a few yards of the poor woman’s residence although they were all known to be excellent swimmers.

The coroner’s inquest will be held today but it is evident that the fatal occurrence was quite accidental and we may conclude that the verdict will be to that effect. The unfortunate widow of James, we understand, is left in an abject state of poverty with no less than three children. Surely this poor creature is deserving of public sympathy and charity. The husband bore an excellent record as also did the others. They were fine, strong young men.

Having heard of the sad catastrophe we immediately dispatched our reporter to the spot. The scene was of an awful and heartrending nature.