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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Huntly Disasters

The North Island, too, has had its quota of trouble in its coalfields. At Ralph's Mine, Huntly, in the Waikato district, 43 men were killed on 12 September 1914 by blast and fire when they were caught underground by an explosion similar to those at Kaitangata and Brunner. Had it not been a Saturday morning, with only a skeleton shift below instead of the customary 250 men, the casualty list must have been greater. Sixty-one men were underground when the explosion shattered the mine, and it was almost a week before their bodies were recovered. In fact, two weeks passed before the last body was found. Here again naked lights had been in general use in spite of warnings issued to the Mines Department by one of its inspecting engineers on no fewer than six occasions, and, as at Kaitangata 35 years before, it was found that the cause of the explosion was the presence in old workings of a man with a naked light in his cap. In the face of all that had gone before, there was something ironical about the ministerial edict that never again must naked lights be permitted in Huntly mines. Twenty-five years later almost to the day, in 1939, 11 men, including the mine manager, were asphyxiated by gas in the Glen Afton Mine at Huntly, the majority of them losing their lives in efforts to save those who had gone below to investigate reports of the presence of deadly gas in the mine.

by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.