Its humbling

Springhill unveils plans to remember mining disaster of 50 years ago

Published on June 12, 2008

SPRINGHILL - The people of Spring-hill will stand vigil once more, just as they did 50 years ago while awaiting news of friends and loved ones trapped underground following the mining disaster of Oct. 23, 1958.
Details were released Wednesday of Springhill's plans to remember the days and events surrounding what has become known to the world as The Bump, the last mining disaster in Springhill. It brought about the demise of large-scale mining in the community.
Valerie Alderson, whose father died in The Bump, says it was through the inspiration of her own family, especially her son Neil, to reach out to the other families affected by the tragic event that claimed 73 lives, and make plans for the vigil.
Jim MacDonald and Brenda Boran - whose fathers Dougal MacDonald and Wesley Reynolds died alongside Alderson's father - and Bill Kempt, whose father Morley was the first miner discovered calling for help days after becoming trapped, make up the core of the committee in charge of the upcoming vigil.
"We'll host a number of events including a candlelight memorial service," said Alderson. "It will be Thursday night, the same as it was 50 years ago."
The committee is calling on all groups to become part of the vigil and to contact committee members if they wish to incorporate their activities with the vigil.
If at all possible, Alderson would like to see the anniversary consume the month of October. The Province of Nova Scotia and the CIBC branch in Springhill presented cash donations of $8,000 and $2,500, respectively, to get the committee started.
The announcement came at a poignant time for the town. Prior to the day, known as Miners Memorial Day or Davis Day, Springhill lost one of the trapped miners rescued days after The Bump.
Caleb Rushton passed away Tuesday morning.
Arnold Burden, a doctor who was there to greet and tend to the men from the underground tomb the miners were trapped in, had kind memories and thoughts of the man who was once a brother-in-law, and remembered Rushton not only as a miner who survived dire straights, but as a fellow Springhiller who shared a similar past with many others in this community.
"It's funny. I ran into him in Holland, during the (Second World) War. I got a picture of him ... in fact it was strange. I've got a picture of seven Springhillers all together that day in Holland from seven different units," Burden said.
Jack McAndrew, then a young CBC reporter who became known for being the face and voice of the first live television broadcasts from the scene of the mining disaster, began his address to the afternoon's Davis Day attendees in Springhill, remembering Rushton as immortalized in song by Peggy Seegar and Ewan McColl.
It was with mixed emotions McAndrew remembered those days in Springhill during The Bump and its aftermath.
It was a pivotal time for the community and his career, and in its wake he discovered himself adopted by the community. But to this day, McAndrew harbours a certain amount of guilt his career advanced because of the tragedy.
"It was the making of me," McAndrew said. "But, for me, it always had stayed with me.
"I've lived with that, and as much as I would like to tell people 'no' when they ask me to come to Springhill, I would never do it."
Sitting near the Miners' Memorial as the Davis Day activities came to a close, Springhill residents approached McAndrew, bringing him up to date on family members and friends he met during the days following The Bump.
He remembered so many of them, he would comment on the last time they visited. For McAndrew, a return to Springhill is very much like a family reunion.
"It's humbling."
Anyone wishing to enlist their group or volunteer during the 50th anniversary vigil can contact Valerie Alderson at 597-2306, Jim MacDonald at 597-8211 or Brenda Boran at 597-2910.