The Bellbird Mining Disaster of 1923

Death toll: 21
Cause: Fire/explosion

In the Bellbird Colliery explosion that occurred on 1 September 1923 many lives were lost as miners were choked by gas. Fifteen bodies were recovered from the site by rescue parties in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. Mr John B Brown, manager of the Aberdare Colliery, and one of those helping the rescue efforts, was choked by gas from further explosions, bringing the death toll of the disaster to twenty-one. Months after the Bellbird Colliery explosion, the body of Brown was recovered, and a funeral held on the 22 June 1924, and thousands attended.

Inquests were unable to explain the cause of the fire, but saw the criticism of many unsafe work practices including smoking in the mines, unreliable emergency phone lines and lack of hazard reporting and control. This raised a greater public awareness of mining safety and the need for emergency equipment and trained emergency officers. 

The community remembers

On 1 September 1990, a Memorial to the lives lost in the disaster was unveiled by Mrs Dallas Hayden, wife of the Governor General, Bill Hayden, The memorial was dedicated by the Northern District Miners Women's Auxiliary 

Bellbird Colliery, [n.d.]. From the Barry Howard collection, University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Royal Shipwreck Relief & Humane Society of NSW Certificate of Heroism for actions by Joshua Brown in the Bellbird Colliery Disaster, 1923. Courtesy of the Coalfields Local History Association Inc, Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum, Abermain 


"Twenty-One Men Killed in Maitland Colliery Disaster" Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930) 2 September 1923: 7. <>.   

"BELLBIRD DISASTER." The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929) 24 Sep 1923: 7. Web. 13 Jun 2013 <>.

"BELLBIRD DISASTER." The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 22 Sep 1923: 16. Web. 13 Jun 2013 <>.

"THE BELLBIRD DISASTER." The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931) 28 Sep 1923: 12. Web. 13 Jun 2013 <>.

"Bellbird's Heroes Honored." The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 - 1954) 17 Mar 1925: 7. Web. 13 Jun 2013 <>.

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