John Kenny EM

b. 02/06/1890 Usworth, County Durham.  d. 1st Q 1945 Durham.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 17/05/1929 South Garesfield Colliery, Durham.

John was born on 2nd June 1890 in Usworth, County Durham, the eldest of five children of James and Martha Kenny (nee Hillans). Little is known about John’s childhood except that from a young age he began to support the family income by following his father into the local colliery. By the age of 21, John was still living with his parents and siblings plus his elderly grandfather at 55 Edith Street in Usworth, near to his workplace. John’s profession at the time was a coal hewer, and it would be in this position that he would be awarded his Edward Medal. John married Mary and they had at least one daughter, Jean (born in 1932). By the time of the 1939 England and Wales Register, John was listed as an incapacitated coal hewer, and was living in Stanley, with his wife and daughter. John died in the 1st Quarter of 1945 aged 54 probably from his injuries from his mining career.



On Friday, 17th May, 1929, about 4.30 p.m., a telephone message was received at the office of the South Garesfield Colliery, Durham, that Richard Lowes, one of the Colliery deputies, had been injured during blasting operations. Robert Glendenning, an overman, 55 years of age, who was in the office, at once set off. down the pit and, collecting two lads, James Sidney Purvis and John Thomas Baker, at the bottom of the shaft, and a tram and stretcher, went in search of Lowes. They were joined by two hewers, John Kenny and Samuel Hughff. Meanwhile, five other men had been trying to rescue Lowes. Four of them were overcome by carbon monoxide gas, while the fifth managed to crawl out just in time. It was on meeting this man some quarter of a mile from the scene of the accident that Glendenning realised the serious nature of the occurrence. He hurriedly organised his party and, by repeated efforts, they succeeded in extricating the five men who had been gassed. They were fortunately able to save the lives of two but the other three were found to be dead. The rescue party took such precautions as were possible at the time but first Kenny and then Hughff were rendered unconscious. After they had, with difficulty, been removed from the danger area Glendeuniiig sent Purvis for further help and continued the rescue work with the assistance of Baker. Baker was next overcome, and Glendenning was also affected by the fumes, but he continued his efforts until, when had arrived, he was able to bring out the last of the victims of the accident. He then collapsed and had to be carried out from the pit. For an hour, during the whole of which time the atmosphere was thick with smoke and carbon monoxide gas, Glendenning showed great courage and resource and displayed high qualities of organisation in directing the rescue operations. He himself and Baker, Hughff, Kenny and Purvis under his leadership, knowingly and repeatedly risked their lives in determined and sustained efforts to save the lives of their fellows, and there is no doubt that, but for their courageous action the death roll would have been heavier than it was.