John Leach, who was born in Hawarden Flint,Wales married Ann Moore in 1849 Brick Garth, Hougton Le Hole, Durham. John, a coal miner, had moved there for work. A few years later they migrated to Australia, sometime between 1855-1858, with their children Mary Ann and William. They stayed in Tasmania for several years where daughters, Rebecca and Sarah were born.
By the end of 1861 the Leach family had moved to the Newcastle area of NSW, renowned for its coal deposits and made their home in Wallsend. Four more sons were born William Thomas, my Great Grandfather John William, Ellis and Thomas (1867) named for his maternal grandfather. Tragedy struck the family when three of the Leach children died in the early 1860s and you can read more about their deaths in an earlier post. Sadly the patriarch John Leach, passed away on 23 October 1868 from the miner's lung disease, pyaemia. At the time Thomas was just over 18 months old.
|West Wallsend Colliery, 1888. Courtesy State Records NSW|
Another tragedy struck the family when 19 year old, Thomas was involved in a fatal colliery accident at the Wallsend Colliery on 23 October 1868. Thomas had just knocked off work for the day and was coming out of the tunnel, leading his horse. It was reported in the Department of Mines, Annual report 1886 that he “was employed as a brakesman on a self acting incline in the Wallsend Colliery” and “was engaged in bringing some damaged skips up on the no. 1 tunnel to the surface" but was hit by some skips. The accident killed Thomas and Dr Tomlin who examined him, advised the death was caused by a "fracture of the skull, and must have been instantaneous." Numerous accounts of the accident appeared in Trove newspapers all over the country. The most in-depth coverage was from the Newcastle Morning Herald and the Maitland Mercury.
|Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 3 August 1886 p. 6|
The consequence was a collision and the infliction of a fatal injuries to the unfortunate young man. Thomas was killed instantly, as was his horse and another. Maitland District Coroner gave a verdict of ‘accidental’ to the death of Thomas Leach.
|Wallsend Colliery, Newcastle from the Australian Town & Country Journal 18 January 1890, p. 24|
According to the Newcastle Morning Herald The jury considered all of the facts surrounding the incident and reported the following verdict:
That Thomas Leach died at the Wallsend Colliery on the 29 day of July 1886. We are of opinion that his death was accidentally caused by a collision between skips being driven by the deceased and several loaded skips coming in a contrary direction.We desire to express our opinion that sufficient care has not been used heretofore in the lowering of these loaded skips, and recommended that more stringent rules should be adopted by the colliery authorities in order to avoid future accidents.
Thomas was buried the same day at the Old Wallsend Cemetery and a headstone once marked his grave. This was possibly paid for by the colliery or a subscription from the local community. The inscription on his headstone was recorded, and states "What partings here we have. How hard they seem to come, but we have to part no more when we get safe at home." Sadly the headstone no longer stands as this cemetery closed in 1896 and was apparently converted to parkland in the 1950s. Fortunately information from the headstones were recorded before removal.