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Christopher Gooding
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Springhill remembers 1958 mine disaster

Leah Killen, daughter of singing miner Maurice Ruddick, performs a song written by her father after being rescued during yesterday's plaque unveiling ceremony in Springhill in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Springhill Bump. Ruddick was one of the final men rescued from the mines, nine days after the Bump. Raissa Tetanish - Amherst Daily News
SPRINGHILL - Fifty years ago and 13,000 feet underground, Harold Brine wondered if he would ever see his young family again.

Brine was one of 12 miners trapped in a small pocket inside the No. 2 coalmine in Springhill, after the devastating Oct. 23, 1958, upheaval known as the 'bump' trapped or killed 167 working men.

As the days rolled on, food ran out and their lamps died and Brine's thoughts turned to his family above.

Would he be remembered?

Leah Killen, daughter of singing miner Maurice Ruddick, performs a song written by her father after being rescued during yesterday's plaque unveiling ceremony in Springhill in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Springhill Bump. Ruddick was one of the final men rescued from the mines, nine days after the Bump. Raissa Tetanish - Amherst Daily News
SPRINGHILL - Fifty years ago and 13,000 feet underground, Harold Brine wondered if he would ever see his young family again.

Brine was one of 12 miners trapped in a small pocket inside the No. 2 coalmine in Springhill, after the devastating Oct. 23, 1958, upheaval known as the 'bump' trapped or killed 167 working men.

As the days rolled on, food ran out and their lamps died and Brine's thoughts turned to his family above.

Would he be remembered?

"I don't remember anything about the bump. I was two and-a-half [years old] then," Bonnie Cole, Brine's daughter, said Thursday, as town residents unveiled a plaque commemorating the event next to the marker designating the area surrounding the former pit head a national historic site.

"Dad always said he thought down there if his daughter would remember him.

"I wouldn't have."

Today, as the world cast its eyes to Springhill to remember the miracle tale of Brine and 11 other miners rescued after a harrowing six days underground, or the story of six more found alive after eight days, they pay tribute to the 75 men who lost their lives in a mine disaster that marked the end of large-scale coal mining in Springhill.

It was also an act of remembering the brave men who went back underground following the event to rescue the living, and the volunteers who tended to the injured, the bereaved and needy.

"What those guys did was wonderful," Brine said in front of where the No. 2 colliery once stood. "We were trapped in a little hole and they didn't give up."

Families, survivors, miners and friends stood against a biting cold wind Thursday, to witness the tragic anniversary and remember the tales of loss and courage.

Bill Kempt, whose father Gorley was trapped shoulder-to-shoulder with Brine in the No. 2, experienced feelings of loss many Springhill families bore at that time. It was a miracle when his father was found alive - the first in fact to be pulled out of the dark pit, but the joy was overshadowed with mixed emotions he feels many deal with today.

"I realized I was standing with a lot of people who were finding out their [fathers] were dead," Kempt said. "Dad was very grateful to survive and be saved but there was guilt to his own good fortune."

A total of 75 men were killed in the disaster.

Springhill exhibited an act of heroism that day, Kempt said, but many of the men and volunteers who sprung into action have played down their roles and Kempt hopes that on this anniversary they will allow themselves to be held in high regard, not only for saving his father, but for the courage to make sure no one was left behind.

"It's the miners code: You would do it for me," Kempt said. "None of them treated themselves like heroes but they are heroes."

"I think Springhill should be recognized as the most courageous of communities," Independent MP Bill Casey said.

Springhill, which has experienced both fires and mine disasters, has been through a lot, but its people and volunteers have helped the town pull through, Casey said.

The 1958 disaster, the MP said, was an event witnessed by the world and its determination impressed upon everyone.

"I was only 13 but I can remember right where I was when the news came over the radio," Casey told those gathered on the hilltop next to the old lamp cabin.

The commemorative event was filled with song, just like the miners called upon to keep their spirits up when things seemed bleak.

Leah Ruddick sang the 'Springhill Mine Disaster Song,' penned by her father, Maurice, who was among the last to be found alive, and a Remembering '58 choir was lead by Lynn Sarty. Cape Breton native Brian Vardigis capped the commemoration with the original work, "These are Green Hills Now."

Larissa Crowe, granddaughter of the late Caleb Rushton, a trapped miner who was saved with Kempt and Brine, and Rushton's widow, Patricia, unveiled the commemorative plaque.

A special candlelight vigil was to be held at the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre later in the evening.

Organizations: Daily News, Springhill Mine Disaster Song

Geographic location: Springhill, Amherst, Cape Breton Green Hills

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Recent comments

  • MURRIEL BRINE
    April 02, 2013 - 20:38

    I'AM THE WIFE OF HAROLD BRINE of GREAY N.B. I THINK ITS VERY SAD TO THINK THE ONLY TIME THE MEN CAN REMEMBER IS WHEN ITS A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY. HAROLD WILL BE 81YRS.OLD THIS JUNE, AND THERE'S NOT A DAY THAT HE & I DON'T THINK OF THAT DAY AND PRAISE GOD. HE ALSO THINKS OF HIS FOLLOWING BROTHERS THAT LOST THERE LIFE AND THE ONE [ HERB PEPPERDINE] THATS SSTILL HE ALONG WITH HIM. THANKS GOD FOR LETTING US LIVE THIS LONG. GOD BLESS. MURRIEL B.

  • Ann
    January 18, 2010 - 11:23

    The organizing committee made up of children of victims of 58 did not sit back and wait for someone else to organize a tribute to their fathers. The 50th anniversary of the Explosion was recognized two years ago with a church service, and obviously those organizers were not prepared to do the planning, preparation and hard work involved with the recent 58 events. (What a wonderful tribute).
    PS The plaque they unveiled recognizes all miners who worked in the Springhill collieries.

  • My 2 ¢
    January 18, 2010 - 11:22

    Well lets not forget that she had to endure constant harassment and fear for her safety when that saskatchewan farmer was stalking her in the early 90s. Since that has happened, she has been out of the public's eye more often and I don't blame her.

  • Robert
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    Lisa, I didn't intend to mean that's why she stayed away only that is was probably best she did.

  • Robert
    January 18, 2010 - 11:14

    Think about it Mike. If Anne had shown up the whole affair would have been more about Anne than it was about the miners. It is best that someone who would otherwise overshadow the rememberance event just stays away so that the meaning of the affair isn't lost on celebrity.

  • Tim
    January 18, 2010 - 11:13

    One thing Norma is right about....NO BODY sings the Working Man like Claire!
    As for Karen's comments about Anne not ever saying she was from Springhill -
    what a ludicrous statement. In the end - was this commemorationg about Claire and Anne or was it about the 75 men who lost their lives, the men who were rescued and the rescuers? Get a grip here people. Come down off of your high horses and your self-serving soap-box and give credit where credit is due. This was a class act event and those of you who found fault with it - should be ashamed of yourselves - 1200 people disagreed with you on that score.

  • Mike
    January 18, 2010 - 11:12

    Where was the iconic Anne during this time of remembrance for her home town. For a town that honors her regularly, one would think she would make an effort to appear during this time. My grandfather was in that bump as well and he was one of the lucky ones, but he'd be rolling over in his grave to see how much disrespect Anne has had for her hometown over the years.

  • Lisa
    January 18, 2010 - 11:10

    Robert, That is a lovely thought but I am pretty sure Anne herself didnt share your sentiment.

    Sadly but truely, I think mike hit that nail on the head.

  • Bonnie
    January 18, 2010 - 11:01

    I'm very proud to call myself a Coal Miner's Daughter. My Dad Kennth Goode & my Grandfather Henry Teed both died in the bump of 58 . I was there, I felt the pain and the grief and I also want to say what does not kill you makes you stronger, That I can say about my Mother Darlene who lost both her Father and her Husband and raised 5 small children all under the age of 9. ,all alone. I'm so sorry I couldn't make it for the Memorial but I know my brother Donnie made us very proud and represented my family well. My Aunt Sheila was there to reprsent my grandfather. Hearing the stories from them, seeing the pictures , I know that Valerie Anderson and the committie deserves praises for a very well organized event.

    Reading some of the comments , disturbed me, putting Anne Murray down because she wasn't there. Why would she be there. Her Dad was not a miner and did not die in the explosion. As Robetrt said , the focus would have been on her and not on the Families and the miners that survived. This event was not about Anne it was about the 75 Miners that lost their lives and the ones that were lucky enough to survive the biggest bump in history.

    I would also like to recommend a very good book for everyone to read. This book you can pick up at the Anne Murray Centre and that book is telling the story of what happened 50 yrs ago, Blood on the Coals . It's a hard read for those who have endured this but it's also a good read as well.

    Take care and God Bless
    Bonnie Hunter Re: Goode

  • Darrel
    January 18, 2010 - 11:00

    From what I read most of those writing in
    have endured Anne one more time.
    All the best to the people of Springhill.
    I too, remember the mine tragety,as I lived a short distance from the town.
    Keep the the memories for all.

  • Norma
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    Upon reading the list of persons who sang and who will be singing at the various functions concerning the Remembrance of the Bump, I find it quite disturbing that Claire (Turnbull) Canning's name is not there. After all, she LOST her father in this disaster and she has always been available to lend her wonderful singing voice to any occasion where she was needed. No one can sing Working Man like Claire! She would have been an asset to any of the functions. Was she even asked? Why bring in a stranger to entertain when one of our own deserves the opportunity and, with all due respect to the Ruddick sisters, their father did not lose his lilfe in this disaster; Claire's father did.

  • Dawn
    January 18, 2010 - 10:53

    My good friend Jessie ( Pinky ) Hunter and I just spoke and she told me about this anniversary. I remember it well. It was the day before my 9th birthday. My dad- Lloyd Tattrie- helped feed the families.

    Growing up I was very close to the Ruddick sisters. Music was our life.
    Instead of people here complaining about Anne not being there, I would have like to have read about the Ruddick girls singing. And yes, I too wonder why Clare did not sing. I attended the school reunion in '05 and was in tears of awe at her performance.
    Springhil has always had incredible music talent. And spirit. And as my husband Erick remarked after our visit the most fun loving people (he'd) ever met

    My uncle Harold Tabor was one of the lucky ones. He moved to the states , and proudly proclaimed X-Miner on his car licence plate.

    I hope someone puts Val Ruddick McDonald, with her sisters' version wonderful of their Dad Maurice's moving song up on u-tube. There are some great versions of Peggy Seeger's song accessabe -U-2 does a particulariy moving version.

    Dawn Meredith

  • Icy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:53

    Oh for Pete's sake, this is about the sacrifices of the people of Springhill, not Anne Murray! Get back to the point people!

  • Lois
    January 18, 2010 - 10:50

    I watched the coverage of the Rememberance Ceremonies on T.V. and felt very proud to be a Springhiller. I could not attend and I wonder why so much attention is focused on the absence of Anne Murray and away from the purpose of the event. I was in Springhill during the disaster and have always felt the loss. My uncles Charlie and Bob McLeod were lost in this disaster and my dad Rupe worked throughout the rescue and recovery.

  • karen
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    Susan since you are a individual who has on many occasions boasted you voice on my subjects, you should all the facts. Did you know that before this Anne Murray center was built that Anne herself never and would never claim she was from Springhill, NS. She always said she was from Toronto once the center was built thats when she decided to give generously to her home town. To get back to the subject of the miners tribute, I am sure it was a well pulled off and everyone enjoyed themselves.

  • William J ( Bill )
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    I so very much agree with Ms. Bonnie Hunter's coments above, Anne would not have wanted to distract from the Somber Ceromony that it was meant to be and it turned out very well, Thank you Anne for your consideration,

    Bill

  • jean
    January 18, 2010 - 10:38

    while the vigil and in keeping with the memory of the 1958 bump in Springhill, i too had a husband and our son's father trapped in the 1956 disaster as did many of our friends- don't you agree that it would be nice to read something or at least do something in Springhill to honour all these men-many of them deceased now-as well as my husband-Peter MacDonald-sincerely -Jean MacDonald-

  • Susan
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    I'm sure those who are commenting on Anne's absence at the unveiling are probably unaware of the logistics of including a celebrity of Anne's international fame in a public event. It is not as simple as her (or any other international celebrity for that matter) just showing up unannounced.

    As event coordinator for the Anne Murray Fan Fair this past summer, I can tell you from personal experience that it takes a great deal of coordination and planning to bring somebody as famous as Anne into a public area during an event. People crowd around her wanting photos and autographs, and she always obliges.

    As Robert points out, her unexpected presence could overshadow the event and would cause untold headaches for the organizers.

    Furthermore, it is incredibly unfair and inaccurate to say that Anne has mistreated her hometown. Not only has she always promoted Springhill at every opportunity and on an international level, but she has also made hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to various charities in the community, including $100,000 to the hospital.

    The Anne Murray Centre itself was originally slated to be built in Nashville, but Anne insisted that it be built in her hometown because she thought it would help give the town's economy a boost, and it has.

    The entrance to the centre's exhibit area even has a dedication from Anne to the people of Springhill for their strength, courage, and resilience. It should also be noted that Anne does not own the Anne Murray Centrre. The Centre is, in fact, a registered, non-profit organization that Anne makes financial contributions to.

    It is completely incorrect to state that Anne Murray has in anyway disrespected a town that she clearly loves and supports at every possible opportunity.

    PS-Anne did have a presence at the Candlelight vigil last night.

  • bob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    Ralph Gilroy, Springhill's mayor during those dark days, was quoted as saying there will always be a Springhill . He was so right.....few towns, of any size, have had such a fighting spirit and such a spirit of togetherness in the face of disaster and setbacks. Well done, Springhill!!!!

  • Icy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:33

    Anne did send a recorded message last night - it was very nice and seemed to be much appreciated by the audience. Fabulous and very moving ceremony - whoever organized it did a fine job. Congratulations!