Saturday, May 19, 2012

B is for BURIED Alive

Samuel Mottram junior was born 3rd January 1883 at the small mining and farming community of Havelock, near Maryborough, Victoria, Australia.
He was the 5th of 10 children born to Samuel Mottram and Elizabeth Sarah Gourley. Bad luck touched the Mottram family early with two of Samuel's sister dying of diptheria at a young age. Two more children would also die before their parents.

Mottram, Maryborough
Mottram Family circa 1904
Back: Mary, Samuel snr, Samuel jnr, Jack, Fred
Front: Eve, David, Henry, Elizabeth & Madeline

Samuel worked as a farmer and miner in the Havelock area.  At age 24, he married Sophia "Lillian" Walker. There was a strong link between the Mottram and Walker families.  In addition to residing in the same area, five years earlier Samuel's elder sister Mary had married Lillian's elder brother Ambrose Walker.

Brother and sister - Sam & Mary Mottram - they married siblings Lillian & Ambrose Walker
Sam was a "well known and popular miner" who was very "careful and capable".  He also showed "courage and skill", which was evidenced when he volunteered to be lowered into an abandoned 250ft mine shaft to assist recover the body of a suicide victim during difficult circumstances.

At midnight on 26th Feburary 1818, Samuel and his mate Joseph Tinker started work in 21 shoot at the Duke and Main Leads Consols mine at Betley, where Samuel had been working for about 18 months.  All was going well until about 3.30am when they heard a cracking noise, followed by a slight fall of earth.  Concerned for their safety, they ran for a safety cut in the drive.  Joseph was in the lead and as he arrived in the cut, he heard a second fall of earth and an immediate call for help from Samuel.  He tried to help his mate but it was impossible due to the sand and gravel so he immediately went for assistance.

Five men, including Joseph, worked solidly for over 3 hours trying to find Samuel, who was not responding to any calls. Eventually Samuel was located at nearly 7am.  He had been covered with 3-4 foot of sand, gravel and rocks but unfortunately he was past saving.  Although he had a few abrasions which occurred after death, the cause of his demise was ruled as asphyxia.

The Argus - Thursday 28th February 1918

In an unfortunate twist of fate, it was found that although 10-12 tonnes of sand and gravel had fallen, the area where the men were originally working remained clear.  If Samuel and Joseph had remained at the back of the drive they would both have been safe.


  1. What a tragic story. But I don't understand about the suicide victim. Was that a different occasion? And why would someone commit suicide in a mine? What a mystery. And how sad that the mother was left to deal with two sick children. So, so sad.

  2. That is a sad story of a brave young man. Enjoyed your post very much!

    Kathy M.

  3. There are so many of these tragic mining stories on a number of continents. Poor Samuel! It is a twist of fate, isn't it? When your number's up, eh?

    Your top picture is quite like the studio shot, I've posted.

  4. What an unfortunate turn of events! Although...researching family history can uncover such fascinating twists in life.

    Sharon, I enjoyed taking a look through your blog, which I found via GeneaBloggers today.

    Best wishes as you continue writing and exploring such gems from your family's past.

  5. Thank you for your kind words.
    The suicide story intrigued me too. Two years earlier a 54 year old man, married with 12 children took his life. The news article reads "Determined to Die - second attempt at suicide succeeds". The deceased left his cap at the top of the mine shaft(so his body would be found?) but shot himself in the head, with his body falling into the mine. Samuel went into the mine shaft to retrieve the body in difficult circumstances as there was lots of water in it and assisted raise the body to the surface. Maybe the victim didn't think his body would be recovered and it would be his final resting place?

  6. What a sad story! Such a shame he had to die and leave his family while trying to help someone else. Too bad he didn't stay put, how different the outcome would have been.

  7. Wow, what a tragic story. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Wow what an amazing, tragic story. Thank you for sharing. The family photos are beautiful, and add a whole new dimesion when hearing stories and names of ancestors.

  9. Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting Your B post is interesting. I have several mining deaths in my family too.

  10. What an unlucky twist of fate!

  11. It's great to read your blog Sharon, yay another Aussie Genieblogger! I visited Maryborough in January this year investigating some of my family who lived in the area. It's a beautiful place.

  12. The "what if" must have haunted the family to think he'd have survived if he stayed there. On the other case, while I understand about depression, it's always sad to hear of the loss of a life but more so to think his poor wife was left with 12 children. I wonder what happened to them? Did they end up in an institution? But that's another, unrelated, path.

    1. I am not sure Pauleen. Something else for me to research another time :)