Lines following the disaster at the Ince Moss Colliery, Wigan, Lancashire. October 1871


Come listen to a story,

Of sadness that will bring,

The tear drop to your eyelid,

And make your pulses ring.

To the echo of a wailing,

That arose the other day,

And the story of that wailing,

Is the subject of my lay.

T'was on one gloomy Wednesday,

When the rain was splashing down,

That there came a sudden horror,

Upon the busy time.

First came the doubtful rumour,

And the certainty,

And then the hurried rushing,

The reality to see.

Where that awful smoke ascending,

Left the horrid truth so clear,

Left in all no other feeling,

But an agonising fear.

Oh! the shrieking and the sobbing,

Of the women as they fly,

In their anguish at the pit's mouth,

On their lips the bitter cry.

Oh! save then, save our husbands,

Ere yet it be too late;

Our Fathers, sons and brothers,

From such a fearful fate.

Their cry is heard and answered,

Their wild appeals obeyed,?

A band of searchers mustered,

And the attempt is made.

Oh the weary haggard faces,

With awe and fear grown white,

That eagerly press forward,

To watch them out of sight.

And then the long long waiting,

Till they return again;

The still heart-sick foreboding,

Amounting e'en to pain.

And when the sign is given,

That they return, all spring,

To hear at once what tidings,

Those searchers upward bring.

Ah! what a lamentation,

Arises when 'tis seen,

How truly vain and hopeless,

That dreadful search had been.

Of the seventy who entered

The pit at morning light,

Only three leave it living

Before the fall of night.

And they are sorely stricken,

And past all human aid,

And o'er the watcher's spirits

There falls a deeper shade.

For if these three are taken,

What hope remains for those,

O'er whom the fiery furnace

Lit by 'th explosion glows.

The fatal pit is flaming,

The fire is spreading fast,

And no one present knoweth

How long the fire will last.

Again is heard that wailing,

The air with shrieks is riven,

The cry of the widow and orphan

Ascending up to Heaven.

Then up arise the searchers,

Amid the wild uproar,

Saying, "Give the word to speed us,

And we'll try it yet once more..

Aye! though they know the danger,

How vain the search must be,

If the bereaved ones wish it,

They'll try it willingly.

Oh! it is hard to give up,

The last faint hope of life,

And each distracted mother,

And each despairing wife.

Clutch eagerly one moment,

At this last hope, and then,

As gazing in their longing,

Upon those generous men.

They feel that it were madness,

To send then forth to face

The hourly increasing danger

Of that now fearful place.

And so it was decided,

The pit a while to close,

Until the fire within it,

Signs of abatement shows.

And one by one the watchers,

Now mournfully depart,

Most of them bearing with them

A sick and broken heart;

To the homes which only lately

Had been so free from care,

And now seem as they near them,

To stand like ruins there.

Oh! it 'tis sad at all times,

To loose the friends we love,

How sadder, tenfold sadder,

A death like this must prove.

To the yearning hearts who know not,

How their loved ones met their death;

Whether in pain and torpor,

They drew their parting breath.

And from every house and homestead,

And every cottage round,

From every hut and hovel,

Is heard the self-same sound.

Of bitter lamentation,

And grief too deep for tears,

Of mourning for the present,

And for the future, fears.

The winter is approaching,

And their little stock is small,

And without their own breadwinners,

The coming mouths must fall,

So heavily upon them,

Work on as best they may,

'Mid the sorrow and the trouble,

Of every weary day.

Poor broken hearted women,

Mother, and wife and maid,

Can we do nought to lighten,

The cross upon them laid?

Yes we can show our pity,

Our sorrow for their woe,

We can open wide out purses,

And bid our bounty flow,

To clothe the collier's orphan,

His widow's heart to cheer,

And from the gloomy future,

The gathering clouds to clear.

As we sit round our firesides,

And their cheerful warmth enjoy,

Comes no other feeling ever,

That enjoyment will alloy?

Do we think upon the peril,

That besets the colliers life?

Upon the toil and hardship,

With which his lot is rife?

Yet God watches o'er the colliers,

As he watches over all,

And unless His judgement wills it,

Not a hair of their heads can fall.

And this is why I tell you,

In this sad little lay,

The story of the wailing,

That arose the other day.

That with thankful hearts ye spread forth,

Your bounty now and then,

To help the lone survivors,

Of those seventy stricken men,

Who spent their lives procuring,

The coal that feeds your fire,

And which at last above them,

As raised a funeral pyre.