The beam groaned and cracked, falling directly across William’s legs. Pain surged through his body as the weight pinned him to the tunnel floor. It was so dark. He heard fading footsteps on the ladder, but the ringing in his ears blotted out most sounds. He tried to spit out the grit in his mouth. His spittle was thick and coppery. His mouth was full of blood. He coughed, choked and passed out.
Someone was screaming, the noise drew him back. He raised his hand trying to clear the gravel and grit from his face. The effort was too much. His breath came in bubbling, ragged gasps. He realised it was his voice he could hear. Making a conscious effort to stop, he tried to think of a song. The only one he could think of was, Onward Christian Soldiers. He could not make his mind move past that one phrase.
Onward Christian Soldiers, there is blood in my mouth. Why couldn’t he feel his legs?
He felt both hot and cold. The cold was seeping up his body, but his chest was burning. Surrounded by the blackest black. He could see nothing, but he could smell and taste the cordite.
What had they done? What would happen now?
Onward Christian Soldiers, he was dying. Now the cold had reached his belly. The burning stopped. He wanted to sleep. The cold crept up his armpits. It was oddly comforting. His lids fluttered, he closed his eyes and slept.
Spring Gully Mine Explosion 22 January 1901
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) 23 January 1901 p 4
Oral History – Mr P Morse (son of William Morse) 1998
Image is Item MM 3480 Negative – Spring Gully, Bendigo, Victoria, circa 1910 Collection Museum of Victoria.