THE EMERYS OF EASINGTON
In 1832 Matthew Emery and Elizabeth Robinson were married in St Clement's Church. They were to have 14 children between 1832 and 1853 - a hard life for Elizabeth and a tragic one for they lost 4 children before the age of 7 and their eldest son, William, drowned at the age of 13.
Of their remaining children 3 were to fly the nest and leave Leigh. Their third child, Jonathan Shradrack settled in Anglesey, but it is their sons, Richard and Matthew, who became the Emerys of Easington, Co Durham.
The 1861 census shows Richard as a rope repairer in a coal mine, living at 52 Albion Street, Dawdon with his Durham born wife, Margaret. A rope repairman was also known as a wagonwayman which was a very responsible job for he installed and maintained all the ropes that pulled the haulage, including the men riding set, which took the men who were working miles underground to their places of work.
The furry balls which formed on the rope 'known as hedgehogs' had to be removed and the rope repairman would splice the rope repairing them as though knitting. It was a job which called for great skill and he also laid the rails down the pit for the wagons to run smoothly. In mining hierarchy he was next to an official in status and one of the highest paid men.
Matthew Emery had, before he settled 'up north', been a fisherman, labourer and brickmaker. It seems likely that Matthew travelled to see his brother Richard probably by one of the Seaham-Durham coal barges. Although his daughter Emma, aged 5 in 1888, remembered travelling by boat from Southend to Newcastle.
Matthew met and married a local girl, Mary Cullen in Easington in 1874 and he took Mary home to Leigh where their first 5 children were baptised, but they eventually went back to Easington where Matthew was a stoneman.
After the hewers and cutters had taken the coal out it was Matthew's job to make the place bigger by firing shots into the stone roof. This was always done at night so as not to interrupt coal production.
Matthew worked at Tuthill Colliery, Haswell and he and Mary had 10 children. They lived at Moor House which was owned by the Dryden family and their daughter Emma married the son of that family, Hugh.
Matthew and Mary's son Hugh continued the mining tradition and became undermanager of the Easington Colliery which in 1951 became the site of one of the country's most terrible mining disasters.
An area of the mine known as the 'Duck Bills' had been the subject of rumour for some time that there would come a time when it would go up in a 'blue flash' because thick coal dust, which was easily ignited, was everywhere. The machine drilling the coal regularly gave off sparks and electrical cables criss-crossed the railway lines.
On 29 May 1951 tragedy struck at 4.35am when a mighty explosion shook the pit. The dust exploded and a wall of fire roared for 9 miles through the seam killing 81 men and boys. Two rescue workers died in their valiant efforts to save the men.
Hugh Emery gave evidence at the subsequent inquiry into the disaster which concluded the cause was fire damp.
The Emery family still lives in Easington and the information and photograph in this article were kindly provided many years ago by Eileen Hopper (great granddaughter in law of Matthew Emery) and Mary Bell.