Family historian, Kaye Hart pictured with her grandson, Brady.
Family historian, Kaye Hart pictured with her grandson, Brady. Contributed

Family historian's note unearths forgotten mining tragedy

FOR the past 45 years, Kaye Hart has worked diligently to uncover her family's past.

In that time, the passionate family historian has shared her interest in genealogy with both of her parents who helped her join the dots through information they had been given.

The former Mount Morgan woman, who now resides in Brisbane has kept home close to her heart throughout the years by visiting family and keeping on top of genealogy.

Mrs Hart's latest project has seen her uncover the story behind the tragic death of John Owen Griffiths, the best man at the wedding of her great auntie and uncle.

Recently, while she was in the process of converting recorded information supplied by her parents into biographies, Mrs Hart found a note which started her quest for more detail.

The note read: Auntie Mary - no photos - nephew (best man) killed in the accident.

And so she decided to investigate the accident mentioned in the note.

"My deduction was that when my great aunt, Mary Jane Wood (nee Rowe) was married there were no photos taken of the wedding and that the best man had been killed in an accident," Mrs Hart said.

Mrs Hart had obtained photos of her great auntie's siblings - Kate Bailey nee Rowe, Laura Last nee Rowe and her grandfather, John Birch Rowe on their wedding days.

"I thought that it was unusual that there was no wedding photo of Great Auntie Mary's wedding as she was a very beautiful lady," Mrs Hart said.

And so she delved deeper, and approached her cousin, Holly Johnson.

Mrs Johnson's grandmother (Mary Jane Rowe) had married William John Wood at Mount Morgan in 1915.

While Mrs Johnson had reaffirmed there was an accident, she did not think the victim was a nephew of her grandmother.

"She told me that her grandmother had told her that they decided that they could not have a wedding photo taken as the best man had been killed," Mrs Hart said.

"He (the victim) could not be a Rowe nephew but I did not know about the Wood family."

Mrs Hart researched further.

With the help of, she could ascertain the marriage date was January 27, 1915.

"I did look for a Wood who was buried at Mount Morgan on that day or the next day but my research did not bear fruit," Mrs Hart said.

But she did come across a website which listed details on incidents at mines or quarries.

Eureka! Mrs Hart had made a great development in the story.

While there was no victim named in the document, it confirmed there was an accident which occurred at the Mount Morgan Mine a day after the wedding.

This document revealed a male had died underground after he had lit the fuses of a number of holes in the sink of a winze.

The miner had then been raised by a windlass when an explosion occurred prematurely.

But Mrs Hart's quest for information was not over yet.

"I then searched in Trove looking for a report of the accident and once I had his name, I could go to the Cemetery listing for Mount Morgan," Mrs Hart said.

Twenty-four year old miner, John Owen Griffiths had sadly been killed in the most tragic of circumstances after he'd served as best man at the wedding on January 28.

"When a young couple should have been celebrating their marriage, they were mourning the premature death of a friend," Mrs Hart said.

"As John Owen Griffiths was born in Criccieth, North Wales, it would have taken some time for his family to be notified of his death."

Afterwards, Mrs Hart confirmed the name of the victim with her cousin.

Back in 1915, the explosion quickly made headlines across the state.

On Friday, January 29 1915 The Brisbane Courier reported Mr Griffiths had been "literally blown to pieces" after he had only gone six feet up the winze and one charge had caused the others to explode.

Fellow miner, John Dot McCoy was injured in his side and coped a piece of steel in an eye.

On the fateful day, Mr McCoy had shared the task of sinking a pocket at the 50-feet level with Mr Griffiths.

An inquiry soon followed after the accident which found there were no suspicious circumstances and the death of Mr Griffiths was an accident.

And the case was closed.

Following the accident, a mass meeting of Mount Morgan miners was held at the town's Coronation Lamp where it was decided for them to cease work for a round of shifts out of respect for Mr Griffiths which would give them an opportunity to attend his funeral.

Two more fatal incidents would happen at Mount Morgan Mine that year.

Mrs Hart was born at Mount Morgan in 1948, the eldest child of proud locals Colin and Violet Heberlein (both deceased) who had raised their seven children in the mining town.