b. ? 1886 Whitehaven, Cumberland. d. 05/11/1948 Whitehaven, Cumberland.
DATE OF EM ACTION: 20/01/1917 Cowdenbeath Colliery, Cowdenbeath, Fife.
Robert was born in George Street, Whitehaven, Cumberland, one of six children of William and Elizabeth McDonald (nee Gibson). From an early age, Robert became a coal miner at Wellington Colliery. Soon after his actions at Wellington Colliery which led to the award of the Edward Medal, Robert married Mary Jane Graham, and they went on to have seven children. Robert remained a miner for the majority of the rest of his working life. He died, aged 62, on the 5th November 1948, and was buried in Whitehaven Cemetery.
On the 11th May, 1910, a terrible fire occurred in the Wellington Pit, Whitehaven, at a point about 4,500 yards from the shafts. Various rescue parties, with great courage and self-devotion and at considerable risk, descended the mine and endeavoured to extinguish the fire and penetrate to the persons in the workings beyond the same. Thorne and Littlewood, fitted with breathing apparatus, reached within a distance of 150 yards of the fire, but were driven back by the great heat and effusion of gases. The others got to within about 300 yards of the fire, working in the smoke backing from the fire. It was found impossible to penetrate to the scene of the fire or to rescue any of the entombed miners.
Had an explosion occurred — a by no means unlikely eventuality, seeing that the mine is a very gassy one — they would undoubtedly all have been killed.
Special gallantry was shown by John Henry Thorne, to whom the Edward Medal of the First Class has already been awarded, and by James Littlewood.
BURIAL LOCATION: WHITEHAVEN CEMETERY, WHITEHAVEN, CUMBERLAND.
Ward 6 - Section L - Grave 216
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.
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