June 25th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 25
Descendants of disaster victims
reunited at Hillcrest 100
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Rick Quigley and Dennis Taylor whose grandfathers were killed in the Hillcrest Mine Disaster pose in front of James Quigley’s safety lamp at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre on Friday.
Pass Herald Reporter
Emblazoned with a Masonic symbol and all but explosion proof, James Quigley’s safety lamp is the only confirmed personal artifact that was inside the mine at the time of the Hillcrest mine disaster.
“This is my grandfather’s lamp here,” said Rick Quigley in reference to the safety lamp, which is on display at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. “It gives me goose bumps.”
The descendants of colleagues affected by disaster were reunited at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre on Friday for the official launch of the new exhibit, Voices of Disaster: The Hillcrest Experience.
Attending Friday’s event were Rick Quigley and Dennis Taylor. Both of their grandfathers were killed in the Hillcrest mine disaster.
Rick’s grandfather, James Quigley, was the superintendent at the Hillcrest mine on the day of the disaster and became the unofficial scapegoat for the event that took his life.
As superintendent, it was James’ ultimate decision to send the miners into work that day, said Rick.
“Somebody had to get blamed. Seeing as he was the head guy and he wasn’t there to stand up for himself, he became the scapegoat,” said Rick. “My grandfather was placed in a Masonic plot. But his gravesite was defiled because everybody blamed him.”
“My grandmother ended up moving him out. And if you look at where everybody’s buried, there’s one buried in Calgary and that’s my grandfather,” he added.
But, after extensive research into the Hillcrest disaster, Stephanie Hamilton, project coordinator for the Hillcrest Centennial Exhibit said James’ behaviour was quite heroic in the face of the horrible explosion.
As the superintendent, James’ movements are better known than many of the other victims. The evidence suggests that James actually went deeper into the mine in an effort to help his colleagues and lost his life in the process, said Hamilton.
“Based on the location of where his body was found, it’s very likely that he went further into the mine to make sure the men got out before himself,” said Hamilton. “So he was a captain who went down with the ship, in some respects.”
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Pit boss Thomas Taylor’s grandson Dennis and his wife drove from their home in Saskatchewan for the Hillcrest Mine Disaster 100th Anniversary.
After his grandfather’s death, William Hutchison, a survivor who rescued three men and a horse from the Number Two mine, raised Dennis’ father, said Hamilton.
“One horse survived out of the seven that were working that day,” she explained.
Hutchison ended up marrying Taylor’s widow and took in his four children, raising them as his own. He would go onto to help rebuild the mine after the disaster and was instrumental in establishing the 192nd Battalion, which was made up of soldiers from the Crowsnest Pass and fought in World War One, said Hamilton.
“It’s really been something talking to these descendants of people that I’ve spent the last year of my life learning about,” she said.
Rick says his grandmother moved the family to Calgary after the incident, which is where he was born. His father rarely talked about the disaster so he came to learn about it from his own research.
He also learned that his great-grandfather was also killed in a 1906 mining disaster in Nova Scotia.
“I’ve always wondered why I’ve got claustrophobia,” said Rick. “It was a harsh way of living back then but that’s all they knew.”
Rick has donated a set of silverware that belonged to his grandfather to the Crowsnest Museum. The set, like the lamp, is adorned with Masonic symbols.
June 25th ~ Vol. 84 No. 25
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