Miner’s wife brought up family on a pittance

The Northern Echo: FAMILY SURVIVING: Jane Worby and her son, Thomas Junior, who married but never had children FAMILY SURVIVING: Jane Worby and her son, Thomas Junior, who married but never had children

THE teenage widow of a miner killed in a pit disaster had to bring up a two-year-old daughter and a baby he never saw on a pittance, relatives have revealed.

Thomas Worby, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the West Stanley Pit Disaster, in County Durham, on February 16, 1909, left his 19-year-old wife, Jane, twoyear- old Mary Isabella and an unborn son, who was named after him.

His great granddaughter Jacqueline Garforth, 54, from Doncaster, said: “It must have been very hard for Jane to be that age and have to bring up two children. She was given ten shillings a week from the disaster fund and that continued until the children were 14.

“But she would have drawn on the local community for support.”

Thomas, 26, from Bethany Terrace, Catchgate, County Durham, was a coal hewer in the Towneley seam of West Stanley Colliery, and was trapped after a massive explosion underground. He was one of 168 men and boys who died.

They will be remembered at centenary memorial services in the town on Saturday and Monday.

An inquest at the time recorded that Mr Worby died from carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.

Mrs Garforth said: “The general consensus is he succumbed to the carbon monoxide poisoning first and then the fire came and burned him.

“The report is quite graphic and tells you in detail about their injuries. But I hope he didn’t suffer for too long.”

Mr Worby’s father, George, was an agricultural labourer from Norfolk, but moved to the Brandon area in the 1870s and became a miner.

He met and married a local girl named Mary and the couple had eight children, including Thomas, their sixth child, who followed in his father’s footsteps down the pit.

There were several mines in the Stanley area but they were dangerous places to work and, on the day of the disaster, men choked to death on gas fumes, were crushed, suffered severe burns and some were blown up in the blast.

Mrs Garforth said: “This was a very important event. It affected so many people and had a ripple effect that has continued down the years.”

■ Next Monday, The Northern Echo will publish a four-page supplement as Stanley marks the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. To follow the buildup, go to northernecho.co.uk

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