MONKHILL BOYS LOST IN SAND QUARRIES
UNDERGROUND FOR 24 HOURS
PONTEFRACT ADVERTISER, SATURDAY 12TH MAY 1923
Four Pontefract youths
left home on Tuesday afternoon for a walk which ended, after a most
exciting and terrifying experience, on the following afternoon, after
they had spent 24 hours in pitch darkness, lost in some disused sand
The four youths were:
Arthur Smith (17), Fred Smith (15), and Thomas Haigh (16), all of
Monkhill Houses, and George Edward Newlove (14) of Old Cottages, Mill
Dam, Pontefract. The two Smiths are cousins, and all are pony drivers,
Haigh at the Featherstone Main Colliery, and the others at the Prince of
The scene of their
adventure was the disused sand quarry belonging to Mr. W. Conder, of Old
Hall, and situated at Fairy Hill.
representative gathered the following story from the parents of Newlove:
The boys left home soon
after 2-0 on Tuesday afternoon, without saying where they were going. As
they had not returned at 9-30 a search was instituted. At first it was
thought they had gone bathing, and the various search parties,
altogether some fifty or sixty strong, confined their activities to the
local swimming ponds. Their efforts being unsuccessful, the searchers
went further afield, as far as Wentbridge and Ferrybridge.
As Conder’s Quarries are
popular – but quite prohibited – playgrounds, search parties led by P.C.
Ridley, scoured the outer tunnels during the early hours of Wednesday
morning, shouting and blowing whistles, but they received no reply.
Mr. Newlove, however, was
confident that the boys were inside the quarries, and led another search
party, consisting of himself, Messrs W. Asquith, J. Smith (brother of
Fred), W. Heywood (uncle of Newlove), T. Spurr, and others, who set out
on Wednesday afternoon.
Armed with pit lamps and
brandy and a long ball of string, they set about their work
systematically. Mr. Newlove tied the string to a post at one of the
entrances to the quarry workings, and then the party set about their
search, unwinding the string as they went, and thereby providing a
definite means of retracing their steps.
When they had journeyed
some considerable distance into the workings they came to a “fall”, and
it was only with difficulty that the searchers were able to climb
through the small aperture which remained.
however, received its reward, for a little further on they came across
the four youths who were huddled together on the floor, cold and very
miserable. They were soon brought out to daylight again and one of the
first questions asked (by Newlove) was “What day is it?” When they were
told it was Wednesday they expressed great surprise.
They had, said Mrs
Newlove, quite resigned themselves to their fate and lay, with their
arms round each other, prepared to “die together”.
The story given by Fred
Smith was as follows:
“We were going for a
walk,” he said, “but then decided to go into the old quarry. We had been
there once before. We had only half a candle and two matches between us.
We explored the place for some time. Then we dropped the candle and had
to use our last match to light it again. Then we realised that we had
lost our way, and that our candle was burning low. We got through some
water, which was knee deep, on to dry land. Just before the candle burnt
out, Arthur Smith took off his braces and lighted them, and we were
going to use our shirts in the same way, when the light went out. We
shouted, but received no answer, and then Newlove said ‘Let us pray’,
and he then prayed for deliverance. It was very cold, and I think we
must have gone to sleep. It seemed a dreadfully long time. I remember my
cousins dog coming to us. It licked our faces and then went off again.
We thought we had been dreaming, but afterwards learned that the dog had
been in. After we had been waiting for hours, I thought I heard
somebody, and I said, ‘Listen,’ We heard some people shouting, and they
gradually got nearer. Then I saw a light through a hole and I shouted,
and somebody got hold of us and pulled us out.”
describing the finding of the boys said:
in a dangerous spot, because there was no timber at all there, and it
looked as though it might fall in at any moment. We first caught sight
of their hands. They were very glad to get out. They had quite given
themselves up and were crying when we got to them. We gave them some
brandy to warm them, because they were very cold and their feet were wet
and blue. It would be about twenty-four hours after they first went in,
and I don’t think they will go there again in a hurry. They would never
have got out if we hadn’t found them. My boy went to the Salvation Army
and was converted last night."
The above account, reproduced from the
Pontefract Advertiser 12th May 1923 was kindly loaned to us by Mr. John O.E. Holmes.