Tynewydd rescuers with the rescued

Tynewydd rescuers with the rescued

"Bringing the miners Out", Tynewydd Colliery disaster

Survivors of the Tynewydd Disaster

Survivors of the Tynewydd Disaster

In August 2010 a roof fall at the San Jose copper/gold mine in Chile trapped 33 miners 700 metres underground. After 69 days underground and a massive rescue operation, which involved NASA and more than a dozen international corporations, all 33 men were rescued over a 24 hour period. After winching the last trapped miners to the surface the rescue workers held a placard up for the cameras reading "Mission accomplished Chile". This was seen by an estimated television audience of more than a billion viewers around the world.

Tynewydd disaster

The Chilean rescue reminded many of a similar incident which occurred in the Rhondda Valleys over 130 years before. On the 11th April 1877 Tynewydd Colliery in Porth became flooded by water from the abandoned workings of the nearby Cymmer Old Colliery. At the time of the inundation fourteen miners were underground at Tynewydd and rescue attempts were begun to find them.

Five of the survivors were located after sounds of knocking were heard and rescuers had to cut through 12 yards of coal to reach them. Unfortunately, when the area was broken into, one of the trapped men was killed by the force of the air rushing out through the rescue hole. There were now nine men unaccounted for.

Desperate rescue attempts

Further sound of knocking were heard from working places beneath the water line which led to the rescuers assuming that there were other survivors trapped in an air pocket. An attempt was made by two divers from London to reach the men but the amount of debris blocking the roadways made this impossible. It was decided that the only way now was to cut a rescue heading through 38 yards of coal.

During the ten days it took to reach the five trapped men, the rescue attracted the attention of the world's press and telegrams were even sent by Queen Victoria who was concerned about the men's plight. The trapped miners were reached on Friday, April 20th; they had been without food and had only mine water to drink for ten days. The five rescued miners were found to be suffering from 'the bends' because of the rapid decompression of their air pocket and had to spend time in hospital but otherwise recovered fully. The four other missing miners were all drowned.

Brave and heroic rescues

Although the incident was a minor one in terms of loss of life (an explosion at Cymmer Colliery had killed 114 men and boys in 1856), the perseverance of the rescue teams attracted great press and public interest. Twenty four First and Second Class and other presentation items were awarded to the rescuers in a ceremony held at the Rocking Stone above Pontypridd. It was estimated that up to forty thousand people attended.

The Tynewydd rescue was the first time that Albert Medals had been awarded for bravery on land. Five of these medals are now held by Big Pit National Coal Museum along with examples of presentation silverware and other items connected with the rescue.


Gareth Williams
9 May 2021, 19:29
My Great, great, great,?? grandfather was William Morgan, one of the rescuers at the Tynewydd mine disaster 1877.
I have the watch that was presented to him by Parliament, and my Auntie , we believe, gave his Albert medal 2 nd class to the museum to display.
I do not wish to make any claim for it, rather, I would be pleased to know if it's whereabouts.
Would you be able to confirm if you have it? I would also love to visit your museum to view it with my son.
Regards G Williams.
Ceri Sandercock
12 December 2020, 23:21
Please can you help me the only thing I no is my grandfather lived in pantywaun and worked in the pit. And when into work one night to do a overtime shift but never came home he was killed underground i am sorry I got no other information is name was David rees
Ceri Thompson – Curator (Coal) Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
5 August 2019, 15:24

Hi Anthony,

The medals are now in the museum’s collections, we also have a portrait of Daniel Thomas who was killed in 1884.

Best wishes,


Anthony Thomas
5 August 2019, 09:33
My Great grandfather was Edmund Thomas one of the Albert Medalists. His younger brother Daniel also got a medal for this rescue. I saw these medals on a visit to my fathers cousin (Also Edmund Thomas) in 1974. Are these two now at the mining museum? Daniel was killed in another attempted rescue at Pen-y-Graig in 1884. Edumund also sank the Gelli & Tynybedw Collieries in conjunction with G Griffiths. I have a portrait of Daniel Thomas senior who was underground manager for Walter Coffin and my great great grandfather.
Marc Haynes Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
16 January 2018, 16:04
Hi Kevin,

I've sent you Eric's email address; I hope you'll be successful in making contact with him.

Best wishes,

Digital Team
Kevin Howells
13 January 2018, 17:59
Eric - we are 2nd cousins by my reckoning. The lad in the photo is indeed our relative, he was uncle to my gran (Annie) and your Mam (Enid).

I would be grateful if whoever moderates this site could put Eric and I in touch.


Ceri Thompson - Curator (Coal) Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
1 November 2016, 13:55

Dear Eric,

The boy’s name is David Hughes – he was 15 years old at the time.

Ceri Thompson
Curator (Coal)

Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
19 October 2016, 09:31

Hi there Eric,

Thanks for your comment - I'll get in touch with the article's author and pass on their response.

All the best

Digital Team

Eric Dudson
19 October 2016, 00:57
Do you have the names of the five survivors in the photograph? If the young boy is David Hughes, he was my maternal grandmother's brother. I grew up in Ferndale, Rhondda, but now live in Ontario, Canada.

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