Excerpt from Chapter 12
Silas and his men, deep in the mine were busy creating a few problems for the bailiff’s men, should they foolishly decide to try and physically evict the workers from their underground warren.
Evan Pierce, one of the most experienced Gangers and some of the other miners, who had experience with explosives, were in the process of preparing to collapse a few of the connecting sub tunnels, to prevent any unseen ingress by, ‘The Enemy’ as Silas liked to call them.
On the surface, questions about how to remove The Lady Emily and how to end this ridiculous siege without damaging her, were paramount. The brand new and unused steam engine was by far the most valuable asset in the mine, and would undoubtedly fetch a good price at any later sell off of recovered, ‘Material assets’.
Then, with the last wire attached to the detonator, Evan, gave the signal that his gang were set to go. “Ready, we are.” Was the message that was passed down the line, eventually stopping, when it reached the ears of, ‘The Boss’ who was preparing himself for the culmination of his mad plan.
Evan had placed an extra stick of Dynamite in the entranceway of shaft A, just to make sure that The Bailiffs would have only one entry point and he was only waiting for the word to detonate. Silas Shacklady, received Evan’s confirmation of the readiness to blast and with nothing else to do, he gave the command to blow charges….
“Fire in the hold!” he cried and depressed the plunger
Then, just as the sound of his voice faded away, there was a loud rumbling sound, which appeared to be coming from all around. The ground shook and both entry shafts collapsed simultaneously, because unknown to them, their adversaries from McAteer and Mayhew, had grown tired of all the waiting for them to capitulate and so had unilaterally decided to seal ‘Shaft B,’ regardless of any men who they might send to their deaths.
Unaware, when the rumbling stopped, Silas rallied his men, “Right lads, group Gold go quietly to B shaft exit, the rest of you with me to the back exit, we can surprise them from behind. Trap them between us.”
As the miners crept forward, the simultaneous double blast began opening hundreds of tiny cracks that years of mining had caused in the substructure of the almost forgotten, ‘back way’ out of the mine and had terminally weakened it.
It started with hundreds of tiny, almost unnoticeable particles, falling from the roof of the ‘secret passageway’ and it ended, with the sudden and total collapse of the entire tunnel. That final cave in killed seven men and injured twelve others but more to the point, it trapped over two hundred men deep underground, with little outside knowledge of their plight.
To cover this act of murder on a grand scale, McAteer & Mayhew’s solicitors declared to the court, “That the miners had attempted to seal both tunnels, to prevent easy access to the bailiffs agents and had inadvertently, caused a huge cave-in, which unfortunately had trapped them all inside the mine” and on top of that, they also added. “The Company had tried to find a way of rescuing the miners, but all their attempts had failed and it was with great regret, that The Company had to declare, that there were no signs of any life coming from below ground and so, reluctantly, had halted any further attempts to rescue the men and had sealed The Pit.”
The truth of what had happened below ground was never discussed, except by grief stricken wives and children, who were left with nothing to sustain them. The recording of events by one of those on the surface had told an inconvenient truth, which had fortunately found its way into the local mining history archive.
It stated that those trapped below ground had made several attempts to escape but alas, they had all failed and so had the surviving miners, operating from above. When no more sounds were heard from below after several days they had reluctantly accepted the fate of their colleagues and declared them, ‘lost to the abyss.’
In fact, things below the surface had become rather gruesome. Initially, the concept of Cannibalism was unthinkable but hunger can become a harsh mistress when it strikes hard and all else has failed.