Coal Mining Communities Come Together for Davis Day
Stellarton Coun. Garry Pentz leads the Davis Day Service.
Stellarton, NS - Pictou County’s coal mining history was not forgotten Tuesday during a William Davis’ Miners Memorial Day Service.
A ceremony was held at the Miner’s Monument in Stellarton that included performances by the G.R. Saunders School Choir as well as laying of wreaths by municipal units, MLAs and labour-related organizations.
Each year on June 11, Nova Scotians have recognized William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day – a time to pay tribute to and reflect on the memory of William Davis and all miners who have lost their lives on the job.
On this day in 1925, thousands of striking coal miners in Cape Breton marched through the streets and around Waterford Lake, taking a stand against harsh treatment by their employer. After reaching their destination, company police began firing at the unarmed miners. William Davis, a second-generation miner, husband and father, was killed. Several others were wounded by the more than 300 shots fired that day.
Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn was the guest speaker who reminded the crowd that coal mining has always been a dangerous occupation.
“If you lived in Pictou County for a few decades you probably had family members, relatives or friends that worked in the steel or coal mining industries,” he said. “It has been said many times it often took a coal mine to create a community and a coal mine to devastate a community.”
He said coal mining explosions not only destroyed the mine, but would destroy a family that were left without a loved one.
For example, he said, the Drummond Mine Explosion on May 13, 1873 killed the manager of the mine James Dunn, who was a relative of the MLA. A second explosion occurred and a total of 70 died or were sealed in the mine.
In 1880, an explosion of the Foord Pit in Stellarton saw about 40 miners perish.
The Miner’s Memorial itself was unveiled in 1921 by two young girls whose father was killed in the Allan Shaft explosion in 1918. The monument was the initiative of the Stellarton United Mine Workers who wanted a permanent memorial in honour of dead miners.
On May 9, 1992, a methane explosion at the Westray Mine occurred, killing all 26 miners working underground at the time.
“We all know this tragedy should have been prevented,” he said, “It was an example of bureaucratic bungling that took the lives of so many loved ones.”
Dunn said it is important that Nova Scotians to not forget how workers fought for better, safer conditions in the coal mining industry.
“We don’t to forget the fierce struggle for basic human and labour rights for Nova Scotia miners and their families in the first quarter of the 20th century. Coal miners were a close-knit bunch and their very lives depended on the action of their buddies and neighbours in the mine. Sticking together, supporting each other was very common in Nova Scotia coal towns. That is our inheritance today and why we have gathered here to pause and reflect on the past. “