John Borland Brown EM

b. 01/10/1874 Dalserf, Lanarkshire, Scotland. d. 01/09/1923 Bellbird, New South Wales.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 01/09/1923 Bellbird Colliery, New South Wales. 

John was the third of four sons born to Hugh and Jane Brown (nee Young), who lived in Dalserf, Lanarkshire, Scotland. By the time of the 1881 Census, the family had moved to Prestonpans, East Lothian. On 5th October 1900 in Bellshill, he married Ellen Dawson Wilson and they had three children (Ellen Dawson, Hugh Wilson and Jeannie Young) before deciding to emigrate to Australia in the latter part of 1905. Following their arrival initially in Queensland, they had a daughter Fanny born in December 1906. Soon afterwards, John became the Manager of Aberdare Colliery, in Cessnock, New South Wales. John and Ellen’s last two children were born in 1909 and 1912 named John Campbell and James Nichol respectively. Following his death in the Bellbird Mine Disaster, which led to the posthumous award of the Edward Medal, he was laid to rest in Cessnock Cemetery.



The fire started just after the afternoon shift had commenced work. Moodie, a deputy on the afternoon shift, entered the mine about 1 p.m. and was proceeding to his work when he met the day-shift deputies returning, who reported that all was in order. He continued on his way but soon encountered dense smoke. He went back to the day-shift deputies, told them what he had found and then went forward alone to try to rescue his men. He was an experienced deputy and must have been fully aware of the risk he was taking. He was not seen alive again, but when the mine was re-opened his body was found in a position which showed that he must have travelled over a thousand yards in his efforts to save the men. At about 2.30 p.m., on the same day Brown and other volunteers from neighbouring collieries entered the mine on rescue work. They found two men, one of whom it was thought might be alive, but the air was so bad that the rescuers were forced to retreat. After two further attempts Brown was successful in reaching the bodies and spent twenty minutes in a vain attempt at resuscitation. He then, accompanied by another man.pushed oo but was driven back by foul air and returned to the surface to organise rescue parties. He descended with one party, recovered four bodies and took them safely to the surface. He then descended for the third time and penetrated to the most forward point then reached, when an, explosion occurred. Brown was seriously affected by the fumes and urged his companions to leave him and go on. His companions tried to help him, but in response to his urgent entreaties finally left him lying in the tunnel where his body was afterwards discovered.