Guest Spot – Ian Chesterman: No More Disasters

Hi Everyone

Last Tuesday was the Anniversary of the Gresford Disaster, here is a song, written and sung by Ian Chesterman.

Over to the man himself to tell you all about the story of the song…

Hi Folks

I live in Chester Road, Wrexham and it is difficult to imagine that, 86 years ago, it was filled with the sound of anxious voices, and the clatter of boots, hurrying down the hill to the tragic scene unfolding, amongst the grit and grime, surrounding the pithead at The Gresford Colliery. When I first came to live in Wrexham, in 1984, our next door neighbour, who was then well into her 80’s, remembered only too well the hundreds of people who made their way, in a stream of sadness, down the road outside her house on that terrible night and morning, of 22 September, 1934. “In living memory”, is a relatively short time, and there few, if any, left to relate, at first hand, those dark days following one of the worst mining disasters in the history of the British coalfields. Even in Wales, where generations of families lived, and died, within sight and sound of the many coal mines that provided work, and clothed and fed their families, only the massive loss of life (439) at Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, in Glamorgan, eclipsed that of Gresford. However, that disaster was back in the supposedly less enlightened times of October 1913 when miners’ lives came only second to the “black gold” they extracted that made their masters, the mine owners, very wealthy men.

The final death toll at Gresford was 266 with 262 colliers dying underground, many sealed in their fiery tomb for all eternity, together with 3 rescue workers and a surface worker who died later. It was ironic that the love of football and their dedication to following their team, Wrexham, had condemned those to die who had changed their shift to enable them to see the home match with Tranmere on the Saturday. The result of that 3rd Division clash of nearby neighbours has been long forgotten but its unfortunate part in the tragedy never will be.

A long enquiry into the cause of the Disaster was set up of course, reports were written, words of condolence were spoken, by the leading political figures of the day, and a fund for the widows and orphans was put in place. There were rumours abounding  of neglect by the owners, of previous warnings ignored about gas levels in the mine, the cause of the fatal explosion, and promises of retribution and compensation at the end of the enquiry. Faded papers in a dusty vault pored over by far greater luminaries than I, show that little was done, even to help the poor families of the Gresford dead.

A brass band tune, “Gresford (The Miners Hymn)”, was written by ex Durham Miner, Robert Saint, in the mid 1930’s as a tribute and, in our own genre of music, folksinger and songwriter Ewan McColl penned, his now iconic ballad, “The Gresford Disaster”, although the tally of victims mentioned, at 265, was one short of the final total. This song, “No More Disasters Tonight”, written in 1973, when the colliery was finally closing, was my own contribution to the memory of that dark day in Welsh mining history and was , for many years, played by resident band Offa at Wrexham

Folk Club, on the opening night of the season, in October, as an act of remembrance.

Although the song was first recorded on my solo album, “Over the Moors”, in 1988, this is a brand-new version, recorded last year (2019), by the Ian Chesterman Band at Brian’s studio.  My thanks, once more, for Brian Jones’ creative genius for arrangement, and instrumentation, on guitar, bass, and banjo, and to the wonderful Helen Sheppard who, together with Brian, laid down the brilliant harmony tracks behind my lead vocal.

The years have not mellowed the song, or the story it tells, and neither should they. If anything, it has just as powerful a message, of the exploitation of human life in the pursuit of money, as it ever did. The anger, and aggression, is genuine for, to die for one’s country is one thing, but to die in extracting the “black gold”, to line the already bulging pockets of your bosses, is as wasteful as the mountainous coal tips that once towered over the collieries and mining towns of Wales.

Ian Chesterman


Thanks Ian, hope you enjoy this one.

CLICK HERE to like and follow us on Facebook

Samantha Proctor

Keeping Folk up to Date