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, mine superintendent 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 specially designed tool for use in flammable atmospheres now on display at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. “It gives me goose bumps.”
The descendants of those touched by the explosion at Hillcrest Mine, which killed 189 people or about 20 per cent of the town’s 1914 population reunited at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre on Friday for the Hillcrest Mine Disaster 100th Anniversary. They were there for the official launch of a new exhibit, Voices of Disaster: The Hillcrest Experience.
In attendance were Rick Quigley and Dennis Taylor, both of whose grandfathers were killed in the disaster.
James was the superintendent at the Hillcrest mine on the day of the disaster. According to Rick this earned him the title of unofficial scapegoat for the event that took his life. As superintendent, it was James’ ultimate decision to send the miners into work that day.
“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 man buried in Calgary and that’s my grandfather.”
But, after extensive research into the Hillcrest disaster, Stephanie Hamilton, project coordinator for the Hillcrest Centennial Exhibit said James acted heroically on the day of the explosion.
Because he was superintendent, James’ actions 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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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.
Pit boss Thomas Taylor’s grandson Dennis and his wife drove from their home in Saskatchewan for the commemoration.
Dennis 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 conducted his own research and learned that his great-grandfather was also killed in a 1906 mine disaster in Nova Scotia.
“I’ve always wondered why I’ve got claustrophobia,” said Dennis. “It was a harsh way of living back then but that’s all they knew.”
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 Thomas’ 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 also 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.
June 25th ~ Vol. 84 No. 25
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