ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEES
As assistant to Joe Pattinson, Greymouths Funeral director, Laurie gives a first hand account of what is was like for Joe and himself dealing with the bodies of the men they both knew.
Doris Baxendale and her husband Ron had the Rapahoe hotel a short distance from the Strongman mine. In the aftermath of the disaster, Doris was called upon to cater for the Mines Officials and the rescue parties. The Rapahoe pub was a drinking spot for many of the Strongman miners, and other miners from the major state mine and many private co-operatives scattered around the district. She gives a first hand account of the reaction and response to the disaster.
Harry W Bell
At the time of the Strongman disaster, Harry Bell was working as an Underviewer (Underground Manager) at the Liverpool State Mine near Runanga.
He had worked in the section of the Strongman where the explosion occurred and was familiar with the Green's No. 2 Section. As leader of one of the rescue teams he gives his first-hand account of the horrific conditions inside the mine.
Later in his career, Harry Bell became Strongman Mine Manager and afterwards NZ Chief Inspector of Coal Mines. In his interview he shares his expert opinion on the coal, the mine and the dangerous gases, as well as the prevailing attitudes at the time towards safety.
As well as being interviewed in Strongman - The Tragedy, he served as mining advisor for the drama sequences, providing invaluable insights to the cast and crew about the mine, mining, equipment, events of the day and the characters of the men involved.
His expertise was recently called upon by the lawyers acting for the families at the Pike River Royal Commission of Inquiry. He now lives in Motueka.
Billy Bourke was working in the Slant Dip Section on the day of the disaster with his workmate 'Griff'. They were surrounded by bits of "dust and paper". Billy's cousin 'Russell Cust' and uncle 'Ed Bourke' were working in Green's No. 2 Section. He stayed behind to see what had happened to them.
Gary Coghlan was seven years old when his father was killed in the Strongman Mine explosion and he has not forgotten the day. He talks about the effect losing his father had on his life. He is now General Manager for Maori Health at Greymouth District Health Board.
Working in another section Peter recollects the day of the disaster 'just a normal day'. He was a pall bearer for Hector McKenzie one of those killed.
As one of those who entered Green's in the into Green's after the explosion, Terry is one of the last alive who can account what it was like in Green's in the hours immediately after the disaster. Terry was studying for his mine managers qualification at the time and attended the Commission of Inquiry. He left the coal industry having attained his manager's ticket and subsequently worked in the steel industry, first at Glenbrook and later overseas in Saudi Arabia.
Journalist and author of the 2007 book, “Strongman, Three Score or More”, which sparked Paula McTaggart’s interest in Strongman. Peter Ewen is from Rapahoe the small settlement where the Strongman coal was shipped out by train and the bins were located. He has a deep interest in the West Coast coal mining communities and surrounding coalfields. His book examines Strongman Mine historically and socially. He worked on the film with McTaggart as Strongman history consultant.
Anne Hart (nee Crowley)
Anne's fiancee Herb Hart and brother Terry Crowley were both in the mine in the hours after the disaster. Having recently attained her nursing qualification, she went out to the mine hoping to help. Anne is seen in the NZBC news archival footage waiting outside the mine with other medical personnel.
Herb and his workmate were totally unaware that an explosion had occurred. Herb Hart would leave mining to work as a tunneller on many major projects overseas including the Channel tunnel between Britain and France.
Len Lingard (1926-2011)
Len Lingard had worked in the Blackball mine for many years before it closed in 1962. Len tells the story of how he survived the explosion.
Sadly Len Lingard passed away in December 2011 at the age of 86. He now lies interred close to his Strongman colleagues.
Bill Munden (1922 - 2011)
Frederick William Munden worked at the Dobson Mine as an Underviewer at the time of the Strongman disaster. He was a member of Mines Rescue and helped in the recovery of the bodies. Because of his knowledge of explosives, he investigated the Strongman Slant Dip explosion in 1956 and during the Strongman inquiry he acted as technical advisor to one of the lawyers acting for the United Mine Workers of New Zealand and the families. Bill Munden passed away in 2011.
In the film he describes the day of the 1967 explosion and his experience as Mines Rescue. Bill Munden was also involved in the final search for the four missing bodies three weeks after the disaster.
Mick O’Donnell began working in the Strongman Mine in 1962 as a young boy. At the time of the disaster he was in another part of the mine. He talks in the interview about his experiences of that day, of not being able to find his brother, and of the subsequent inquiry.
He became a Union Check Inspector, trained in mines rescue and obtained his Deputy’s ticket. He went on to become President of the West Coast Mines Rescue, national spokesman and chief negotiator for Mines Rescue as well as president of the Deputies and Underviewers Association.
Alice Noble’s first husband Eric Alan (Ginty) Newcombe was killed in the disaster. It took many years to get her life back on track. She eventually remarried and a few years ago lost her second husband of over 20 years. The difference this time, she says, is that he had his own funeral, a “personal goodbye”, which was missing with Ginty, as he was buried in a mass grave with 14 of the victims.