When the mine was closed for good the ghost took up a new residence.
At 2:00pm on the 31st July, 1902, the days mining shift change was in swing. At this time there are more men in and around the mine than any other part of the day. 275 mine workers were either entering or leaving the mine. At 2:03pm the mine exploded and the greatest mining tragedy in Australia's history took place.
Although some miners came staggering out of the smoke and dust, they talked about the tunnels being littered with bodies. Not all of the miners were afforded a quick death, some may have lingered for hours, eventually succumbing to afterdamp (a mixture of noxious gases caused by mine fires or explosions). Some miners had time to scratch farewell messages into the tucker tins or other objects and a few of the miners managed to hold on until rescue workers made it to them, only to die after uttering a few words.
Micky Brennan's Ghost
The mine resumed operations in September 1902. The cause of the explosion, as found through an inquiry, was the ignition of gases by the naked flames of the miners torches. No single person was held accountable for the disaster.
Mickey Brennan's ghost haunted the mine for nearly seventy years. His voice heard calling for his body to be found. Other strange noises had been reported by workers, as well as the apparition of a man seen in the dark. When the mine closed in 1970, it is said Mickey's ghost began to haunt the cellar of the Mt Kembla Hotel. Publicans and other staff tell of seeing the apparition of a man in the cellar.
The Poem of Mickey Brennan's Ghost
And men went back under working in the panels
One body was never found and remains underground
Entombed forever in Mt Kembla's history annals.
Winning coal was their mission, but there was always suspicion
Of any noise from a pit prop or post
Any timber creek or groan was interpreted as a moan
And attributed to Mickey Brennan's ghost.
Mickey loved it down there the mine and to while away the time
He wandered through the tunnels, his favourite haunt
He thought it was a lark that the pit was always dark
And there was always lots of men down there to taunt
But around sixty nine productions slowed down at the mine
And Mickey's ghost could see the writing on the wall
When they closed the bugger down he'd be stuck there underground
All alone, with no one there to haunt at all
Well he was not the type to roam so he had to find another home
A place where people gathered, a social hub
And he thought of just the place, there'd be people there to chase
So he left the pit and moved down to the pub.
He now lives happily in the cellar, a very contented fella
And comes out only sometimes, late at night
When it's dark and bleak he might illuminate and speak
Just to give the publican a fright
So if you're ever in Mt Kembla with a taste for liquid amber
And you're greeted by an ashen faced mine host
If he's still decidedly pale by the time you drink your ale
Chances are he's just encountered Mickey's ghost.
"Alan Tubman 2002, written for the centenary anniversary of the disaster"