At 7.20 a.m. an explosion at Ralph’s mine on Raynor Rd rocked Huntly. As it was a Saturday only 60 men were at work instead of the weekday shift of 250.
The explosion was caused by a miner’s naked acetylene cap-lamp igniting firedamp (methane gas given off by coal). The ensuing fire made the rescue mission incredibly difficult. Many of those who survived had suffered terrible burns. While some scrambled up the ventilation shaft, others escaped in one of the cages used to transport shifts of miners up and down the shaft.
It was not until the afternoon that rescuers reached the site of the explosion. Some bodies were retrieved but on Tuesday the mine had to be evacuated because of a dangerous build-up of gases. The recovery of those killed was a slow and dangerous task. A number of small fires had to be fought and the last body was not recovered until 27 September, 15 days after the explosion.
A commission of inquiry found that the coal dust in the mine was highly inflammable and ordered the immediate introduction of safety lamps. Five men had been killed in 1890 when Ralph’s mine caved in and was flooded.