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BOKSBURG HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION Boksburg Historical Association January 2009 Newsletter BOKSBURG

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BOKSBURG HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION Boksburg Historical Association January 2009 Newsletter BOKSBURG Powered By Docstoc
					                      Boksburg Historical Association - January 2009 Newsletter




                                      BOKSBURG HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

  JANUARY                                                 January disasters
    2009                January is usually the month when we                on 25th January 1981. The local farm-
                        are most optimistic, as we look forward             ers were at first grateful for the rain;
  Number 163            to the new year with hope. Historically             the desolate semi-desert was parched
                        though, January has been a month                    and dry and even hardy sheep were
                        when some terrible catastrophes have                struggling to survive. But the bluish
                        hit South Africa.                                   shale soil of the area doesn’t absorb
                        January 25 1981 : Laingsburg                        much water, and most of the rain
                        In 1878 Cape Government Railways en-                drained straight into the river. A six
                        gineers were working feverishly to con-             metre high wall of water built up and
                        nect Cape Town to the diamond fields                ripped through Laingsburg, carrying
                        by rail. Eighty kilometres beyond Touws             away houses, the road bridge and
                        River in the area called Moordenaars Ka-            even Boer war gravestones. Only the
1-2. January            roo, the rail route passed over the al-             arches of the massive railway bridge
 disasters              most dry Buffels river, with a steep hill,          withstood the flood.
                        Fischkuil-se-kop, on the Kimberley side
                        bank. Because trains can’t climb steep
3-4. 100 years          slopes, the railway engineers were
   ago: Forgot-         forced to design a very high railway
   ten catastro-        bridge, far out of proportion to the size
   phe at               of the river. In 1881 a little town was
   “Knights”            laid out on the northern banks of the
                        river, on the slopes of the hill. This
                        town, originally called Buffelsrivier, but
4. Events               later changed to Laingsburg, has been
                        an oasis for travellers ever since.
4. A.G.M.               Years later when road engineers were
                        building the N1, they looked at the rail-
                        way bridge and thought the railways en-             Television images showed the devasta-
                        gineers had been mad to build such                  tion in the town. Only 21 houses were
                        high arches for a puny river like the Bu f-         undamaged; 104 residents were swept
        Boksburg        fels. Consequently the road bridge they             down river to Floriskraal dam. View-
        Historical      designed for the N1 hardly rose above               ers heard how residents of the old age
      Association       the plain. But the designers of the rail-           home, built just above the river, had
   P O Box 18242        way bridge built better than they knew,             been torn from the grasp of nurses
                        for once every 100 years there comes a              and carried away by the flood. For
    Sunward Park
                        flood bigger than all before it.                    days, rescuers combed the banks of
            1470
                        Television was still a novelty in South             the river and Floriskraal dam, hoping
                        Africa when rain started falling gently             to find survivors clinging to bushes,
Web address:            over the head waters of the Buffels river           but all that they found were bodies.
www.geocities.com/
boksburghistorical/
                                           Revised Executive Committee 2008-2009
E-mail address:        Acting Chairman                   Phil Beck                          011   896-3742
                       Webmaster                         Phil Beck                          082   467-7805
boksburghistori-       Treasurer                         Lesley Smith                       011   892-5168
cal@gmail.com          Secretary /Correspondent          Carole Doig                        011   896-2633
                       Tour Convener                     Pam Beck                           011   896-3742
                       Acting Editor                     Peter Wood                         011   893-1046
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                         Do you have any historic old photos, or a heritage-related tale to tell ?? Please, we need them...
                        Boksburg Historical Association - January 2009 Newsletter

                                         January disasters
Fifty six of the 1981 victims were never found – pre-           the mine workings; soon after this, the Welkom drill
                                                                .
sumed swallowed by the silt of Floriskraal dam.                 also reached the pit-face. But the chemist waiting to
Images of the January 1981 Laingsburg flood are                 test the air could not get an air sample; as soon as
burnt into the memory of all who followed the events            the drills reached the stope level, water rushed into
on TV; they will remain with those who watched it all           the boreholes and filled them to within 30 metres of
their lives.                                                    the soil surface.
January 21 1960 : Coalbrook                                     It was clear that
In 1960, there was no television in South Africa;               there had been
newspapers, the radio and the weekly “African Mir-              a big cave-in un-
ror” newsreel were our only source of news.                     der the Kinross
At 7 p.m. on Thursday 21 st January the entire 2nd pit          and      Welkom
of the Clydesdale Collieries at Coalbrook, near                 drills and that
Sasolburg, collapsed, trapping 435 miners and 70                the area here
horses underground. The collapse was so severe                  was flooded. But
that the ventilation fans on the surface were put out           there was still
of action, cracks opened up in the main Ver-                    hope that min-
eeniging – Heilbron road, and rescuers could not try            ers might be
to reach the miners from the main shaft.                        alive under the
                                                                area where the Iscor drill laboured away. On Thurs-
                                                                day, February 4 th, the Iscor drill broke through into
                                                                an air space. The air was tested and found to be
                                                                breathable. Iscor technicians then lowered a video
                                                                camera down the borehole; nothing was visible on
                                                                the monitor. A microphone was lowered, but no
                                                                sounds were heard except the creaking of rocks and
                                                                the trickling of water. Finally, a loudspeaker was low-
                                                                ered, and miners shouted down to their comrades in
                                                                English, Afrikaans and Sotho, but there was no reply.
                                                                When the emergency shaft finally reached the mine
With the ventilation plant and main shaft out of ac-                                                     working level,
tion, rescue teams tried desperately to drill bore-                                                      it was found
holes to get air through to the miners. Proto teams                                                      that there had
were called in from mines everywhere. A massive 35                                                       been a mas-
centimetre diameter drill was rushed from Iscor at                                                       sive cave-in,
Thabazimbi; smaller drills were brought in from Kin-                                                     and      there
ross and Welkom gold mines. On Monday 25th , a re-                                                       were no signs
cord-breaking shaft sinking team were brought in                                                         of life.
from the President Steyn gold mine, to sink a new                                                        Some of the
3.6 metre shaft to release the miners.                                                                   wives of the
As it would take at least 2 weeks for the new shaft to                                                   miners     still
reach the pit depth of 150 metes, all hopes were                hoped their men could be alive. On February 9th ,
pinned on the drills breaking through quickly. At               “Seer” P.J. Kleinhans from Springs pointed to a spot
first the high-speed Iscor drill progressed rapidly,            in a mealie field, and said “Under this ground, are
but 30 metres down, this drill ran into hard dolerite           three of the trapped men, still alive.”. Drilling was
rock, and almost ground to a halt. Special high-                immediately commenced at the site pointed out.
speed tungsten carbide bits, used for drilling oil              But on the next date the Minister of Mines, senator
wells, were flown in from Houston, Texas, and fitted            De Klerk (father of later president F.W. de Klerk)
to the smaller Kinross and Welkom drills.                       stopped the drilling. Mine surveyors had pointed out
By Sunday evening, 31st January, the Kinross and                the point selected by “Seer” Kleinhans was at least
Welkom drills were nearing the 150 metre mark. A                300 metres away from the area of the mine. Mine
chemist, C. Schutte from Sasol stood ready with a               management discussed the matter with the wives
portable laboratory, to test the air in the boreholes.          and church minister; if the wives insisted, drilling
SABC radio, which closed down from midnight to 6                would start again. But all now agreed there was no
a.m., announced they would stay on air to broadcast             hope; the 435 men and 70 horses of South Africa’s
news as soon as it was received. At 6.30 a.m. on                biggest mining disaster will forever remain en-
February 1 st, the Kinross drill intersected the level of       tombed at Coalbrook.


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                       Boksburg Historical Association - January 2009 Newsletter

   100 years ago: Forgotten catastrophe - when death came to “Knights”
                                                                                            fore   kept   the
In the dip of the Main Reef road between Balmoral
                                                                                            compressors run-
and Primrose, lies the original “Knights” mine,
                                                                                            ning, to maintain
founded by William Knight in 1887, the Witwaters-
                                                                                            air pressure in
rand Gold Mining Company. In January 1909 this
                                                                                            the mine as high
mine was struck by a disaster that was unsurpassed
in South African mining history, until Coalbrook in                                         as possible, to
1960. But today the disaster of 1909 is virtually for-                                      keep the water at
                                                                                            bay. At the same
gotten, and there is no memorial to the victims.
                                                                                            time the water
                            In the third week of
                                                         pumps were running at full speed and skips were
                            January, 1909, the
                                                         lowered into the west shaft, to haul out more water.
                            Witwatersrand was hit
                                                         When the water was lowered to the 7 th lev el, a drill
                            by a heavy storm. Rain
                                                         was set up, to make a noise to let any survivors
                            fell steadily, and in
                            some places over 300         know that rescuers were approaching. But at 7
                            millimetres fell within      o’clock on Thursday 28 th January, a skip of water
                                                         being hoisted to the surface broke free and fell,
                            a few hours, causing
                                                         damaging the shaft timbering, and skips could then
streams to burst their banks and dams to overflow.
                                                         no longer be used to help lower the water level. It
                                                         was now taking far longer to get the water out, and
                                                         hope for finding survivors was fading fast.
                                                         Eight days after the flood, when everyone had given
                                                         up hope, miner Davey who was working in level 7,
                                                         in a “box-hole” just above the water surface, heard
                                                         voices. He ran to call mine captain Quick and man-
                                                         ager Prout. When Prout climbed down to the water
                                                         level, he found the heads of 4 survivors, bobbing in
                                                         the water. The survivors said there were more men
                                                         trapped in the back stope, but these men were too
                                                         weak to move. Manager Prout then took stretchers
                                                         into the air lock with food. The remaining survivors



In the dark at one o’clock on Friday morning, 22nd
January, the dam of the May Consolidated mine,
just south of Primrose, burst. The floodwaters then
swept away the slimes dam of the Glencairn mine,
and a torrent of water and slimes rushed down the
valley, headed for Elsburg.
On the Witwatersrand Gold Mine, just north of the
Main Reef Road, the torrent swept away a headgear
over a small side-shaft, and rushed into the depths      were fed and brought to the surface by stretcher.
of the mine. Stephen Quick, a mine captain, found        24 miners were rescued, but one died later. A
a one metre deep stream of water rushing into the        photo of the first 3 survivors was published in the
north-west shaft. Miners on the surface tried des-       local press; the middle miner looks very young. In-
perately to stem the flood with sand-bags, but over      terviewed in the mine hospital, one of the survivors,
200 million litres ran into the shaft before the tor-    identified only as Solomon, said they had been
rent subsided. Inside the mine, a few miners man-        completely in the dark after their candles went out.
aged to escape; miraculously the water entering          Speaking in Xhosa, Solomon said that they had
from the side-shaft carried one miner, Williams,         opened the air taps, to let in more air, but as there
right across the main West shaft. Here Williams was      was no food, they got weaker all the time. If there
able to grab onto a rope and hang on until rescuers      had been rats in that section of the mine, they
came. But the rest of the night shift, 152 men in all,   would have tried to catch them to eat, but there
were trapped underground and feared drowned.             were no rats. After a very long time, they heard a
The manager of the mine, W.M. Prout, thought             drill start up somewhere above, and knew that help
there was a chance that a few miners might have          was coming. Later they saw a faint light glowing in
survived, trapped in a high-lying part of the mine - a   the water, and the four strongest survivors dived in
“back stope” - above the eighth level. Prout there-      and swam towards the light of Davey’s candle.

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                       Boksburg Historical Association - January 2009 Newsletter

                                        Diary of EVENTS
                                       DIARY OF Events
                                            Events
                                                             If Prout. When Prout Phil has a complete wa-
Exactly 100 years ago, a disaster occurred on the ageranyone is interested, climbed down to the set of
                                                             photos he found
East Rand that combined elements of both Coalbrook ter level, available. the heads of 4 survivors, bob-
and Laingsburg.                                                      Remembrance Village Opening
                                                           bing in the water. The survivors said there were
January 1909 : “Knights”                                   more men trapped in the air lock, but these men
                                                             Marius Steyn’s new venture opened with a Coun-
In the dip of the Main Reef road between Balmoral were too weak to move. Manager Prout then took
                                                             try & Western show on 16th December.
and Primrose, lies the original “Knights” mine, stretchers into the air lock with food. The remain-
l
founded by William Knight in 1887, the Witwatersrand ing survivors were fed and brought to the surface
Gold Mining Company. In January 1909 this mine was by stretcher.
struck by a disaster that was unsurpassed in South 24 miners were rescued, but one died later. A
African mining history, until Coalbrook in 1960. But photo of the first 3 survivors was published in the
today the disaster of 1909 is virtually forgotten, and local press; the middle miner looks very young. In-
there is no memorial to the victims.                       terviewed in the mine hospital, one of the survi-
In the third week of January, 1909, the Witwaters- vors, identified only as Solomon, said they had
rand was hit by a heavy storm. Rain fell steadily, and been completely in the dark after their candles
                                                                 Next meeting - Xhosa, Solomon said that
in some places over 300 millimetres fell within a few went out. Speaking in Saturday 7th February
                                                             James opened the air talking let in “ Boksburg
hours, causing streams to burst their banks and they had Smith will be taps, to about more air,
  Survivors from the dark at one o’clock on Fri-
dams to overflow. In the1909 “Knights” disaster but as thereTrams and others.” got weaker all the
                                                             Trackless was no food, they
                   nd
                                                             Time: 9.30 had been rats
day morning, 22 January, the dam of the May Con- time. If there for 10.00am. in that section of the
                         south of Primrose, Tickey
solidated mine, just the Sammy Marks burst. The mine, they would have tried to catch them to eat,
       Remembering                                           Venue: Boksburg High School, Leeupoort street—
                                                             hopefully not on the After a very long time, they
floodwaters then swept away the slimes dam of the but there were no rats.first floor, but (if it can be ar-
In 2008, it was and a years since water and slimes heard a drill start up somewhere above, and knew
Glencairn mine, 110 torrent of Paul Kruger gave ranged) on the ground floor.
Sammydown the valley, headed for Elsburg. the famous that help was coming. Later they saw a faint light
rushed Marks access to the ZAR mint, and
1898 golden tickeys were struck. Before the 2008 fi- glowing in the water, and the four strongest survi-
On the Witwatersrand Gold Mine, just north of the
                                                                         Annual General the light.
nancial crisis hit, the torrent Marks tickey a headgear vors dived in and swam towardsMeeting
Main Reef Road, a Sammy swept away sold for over
                                                of the of
R1 million. At the Annual General meeting depths S.A. 129 died miners7th March this disaster, but re-
over a small side-shaft, and rushed into the                 Date: Saturday died in 2009
Numismatic Society at Gold Reef City Mint on 26th No- Venue: Boksburg High School.
the mine. Stephen Quick, a mine captain, found a markably 23 were rescued eight days later. Only
vember, tokens to commemorate this event were Time: 8.30 for 9.00 a.m.
one metre deep stream of water rushing into the in 1926 was there another mining disaster compa-
north-west shaft. Miners struck (see photo below)            AGENDA:
                             on the surface tried desper- rable to “Knights”, when on October 8 th, 126 min-
                                                 to be able 1) Welcome
                            I was lucky enough over 200 ers died in a gas explosion at Durban Navigation
ately to stem the flood with sand-bags, but
                             shaft before minting. The to- 2) Present & apologies
million litres ran into the to view the the torrent sub- Colliery at Dannhauser. Then in 1960 there was
                            kens minersthe busts to es- Coalbrook.
sided. Inside the mine, a few show managed of both 3) Business
                            President Kruger and
cape; miraculously the water entering from the side-of         3.1 Approval of previous minutes
                            Sammy Marks. The the
shaft carried one miner, Williams, right across 1898           3.2 Matters arising
                            Marks tickets to grab onto
main West shaft. Here Williams was ablewere the only           3.3 Acting Chairman’s Annual Report
                            “coins” struck at the Pretoria     3.4 Treasurer’s Annual Report
a rope and hang on until rescuers came. But the rest
                            mint in 1898, but are not con-
of the night shift, 152 men in all, were trapped un-           3.5 Other Reports
                            sidered
derground and feared drowned. to be coins, but are               3.5.1 Webmaster
                            instead Prout, thought there
The manager of the mine, W.M. “tokens”.                          3.5.2 Secretary
was a chance that a few miners might have survived,               3.5.3 Archivist / Tour Organiser
                 2008 Christmas
trapped in a high-lying part of Dinner above the
                                     the mine                    3.5.4 Acting editor.
eighth level. Prout therefore kept the compressors            3.6 Election of Executive Committee Members;
Several members travelled by bus to the Rand Club.
running, to maintain air pressure in the mine as high            Chairman & 5-6 other members
as possible, to keep the water at bay. At the same            3.7 Acceptance speech by Chairman
time the water pumps were running as fast as possi-           3.8 Any other business
ble and skips were lowered into the west shaft, to           4) GENERAL:
haul out more water. When the water was lowered to            4.1 Members Subscription fees for 2008
the 7th level, a drill was set up, to make a noise to let     4.2 Other General
any survivors know that rescuers were approaching.           5) Speaker: Long-time Boksburg resident Annette
But at 7 0’clock on Thursday 28 th January, a skip of            de Jager will share fascinating insights about
water being hoisted to the surface broke free and fell,          “ Boksburg as I remember it”.
damaging the shaft timbering, and skips could then
no longer be used to help lower the water level. It was               Boksburg Lake Re-habilitation
now taking far longer to get the water out, and hope
                                                             Helen Hunt of Rhodes University will be holding a
for finding survivors was fading fast.
                                                             workshop for stake-holders interested in the res-
Eight days after the flood, when everyone had given
                                                             toration of Boksburg Lake. E.G.Jansen school,
up hope, miner Davey who was working in level 7, in
                                                             February 9th 2009 at 14H15. Watch the Boks-
a “box-hole” just above the water surface, heard
voices. He ran to call mine captain Quick and man-           burg Advertiser for details closer to the time .

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