Cambria Publishing
mining songs, music, photographs Cambria Publishing
Lamps Forever Lit

A Haunting Litany of Death in the Deep
By Naomi Lakritz
The Calgary Herald
May 5, 2001

Eerier than any ghost story, Lamps Forever Lit will haunt you in those moments of dark reverie when you think of the dead, of the countless ordinary folks who lived, loved and worked in another time, people whose memory is lost to all but a handful of their descendants.

Bernie Jaworsky has seen to it that these 310 Ontario miners, killed in some of the most ghastly accidents imaginable, will not suffer anonymity. Lamps Forever Lit is the work of Calgary – based Cambria Publishing, a company formed by photographer Lawrence Chrismas, whose own work includes the remarkable book, Alberta Miners – A Tribute.

Jaworsky’s new book is a series of mini-biographies of the miners and he has spared no pains researching them. He lovingly furnishes the tiniest details wherever he can, even if it’s only the name of a sister in Toronto or the priest who presided at the funeral.

The effect of such minutiae is profoundly moving. To describe Lamps Forever Lit as just a collection of obituaries would be unjust. To read it is to attend a wake, where the sweet stirring strains of Amazing Grace are heard through the vignettes of these lives, even as we recoil in horror at the descriptions of the men’s final , brutal moments.

And what a litany of terrible ways to die – falling down mine shafts, being crushed by tons of rock, suffocating in mountains of sand, blown up in dynamiting accidents, impaled on steel or horribly mangled in machinery.

“…underground there is constant darkness. What you usually see is what your lamp reveals. Dangers from the side, above or below, are as a consequence unknown to you,” Jaworsky writes.

Murdoch Lloyd, the first man to die in one of the areas mines, was scalded with hot water when a tube blew out on a boiler he was repairing in the summer of 1914. In October 1922, Kent Englehutt fell lout of a bucket, plunged 300 feet down a shaft and landed in 200 feet of water at the bottom. Shattering his skull and most of the rest of his bones. The smashed body of this 38-year-old father of two had to be retrieved with grappling hooks.

Henry Melong’s new boots made him slip and he fell backwards onto some machinery, dying with his head bumping on the hub of a revolving wheel. Jaworsky has reproduced Melong’s photo from a tiny one the miner’s grandsons found on a cufflink.

And so it goes, year after year, right up until the last death, that of Robert Owens, 34, a “free spirit” pictured holding up a four–leaf clover, who was killed in 1996 when the tram he was driving fell through a hole in a tunnel. “Hard rock, steel and blasting powder are not considerate of soft flesh,” Jaworsky says. “ Death… is gruesome, lonely, painful, bloody or suffocating. Death in a mine is not gentle.”

Many of the men were eastern European or Scandinavian immigrants working to bring families over. Their grainy headstone photos dot the pages of the book along with snapshots of children soon to be fatherless, sports teams that would lose a player to some horrendous underground accident, and even a Polish Christmas party where the miner playing Santa Claus was destined to die six months later, his face blown to bits by a freak explosion.

Jaworsky has sagely refrained from intruding on the dead. He does not comment on their stories beyond offering the bare minimum of necessary historical information on Kirkland Lake gold mining. In the early days, he writes, production was the sole concern: “As one miner left in a stretcher, another was hired at the front gate to take his place.”

Jaworsky makes us mourn for men we never knew. What greater triumph for a writer than to know he has moved the reader to share his deepest sorrow and highest respect for those who, in the words of miner S. Mahovlich: “during their life they dig their grave / Passing their entire life in darkness.”

Too often in the history of mining we forget the men who most made it possible. Certainly the glamour of discovery and the techniques of development happened first, but at the heart of a mine were those who broke and moved rock underground: the machine men, the scalers, the muckers, the trammers, the cage tenders. Bernie Jaworsky's important book reminds us of these praiseworthy men, especially those of Kirkland Lake who died doing work so fundamental to the growth of northeastern Ontario.
Peter Fancy is a Canadian Author/Historian presently living in Orillia, Ontario

"Lamps Forever Lit is a first for Kirkland Lake. It looks beyond the story of Kirkland Lake to discover the men who anonymously contributed to that story with their labour and ultimately with their lives. By writing this timely work Bernie Jaworsky allows future generations to know and contemplate their sacrifice."
Robin Ormerod (Director/ Curator - Museum of Northern History)

"This book will make an important contribution to the history of Northern Ontario and to Canadian mining history."
Myron Momryk (National Archives of Canada - Ottawa)

"Bernie Jaworsky puts a human face on the sacrifices Northern Ontario miners made to build a better life for their families. His poignant chronicles breathe new life into long-forgotten stories about life and death in the Kirkland Lake Gold Camp."
Walter Franczyk, Editor, The Gazette

"Mining history rewards great people and events, but passes over smaller stories of personal courage and sacrifice. We applaud Mr Jaworsky for bringing some of these to light".
Robert Murdoch, Sponsor

"A pensive reminder of the tragedies and hardships endured by the mining families of this ethnically diverse area of Canada"
Joe Mavrinac (Mayor of Kirkland Lake 1980-1997)

"I know that my husband, brother and brother-in-law will live on forever, not only in my mind but in the mind of every person who reads this wonderful tribute to these men."
Sue Sheldon

"One cannot read this book very long without being almost overwhelmed by the amount and the quality of work that went into its preparation. It's incredibly moving, the more so because it details the usually abrupt and lonely end of perfectly ordinary men with no attempt to fix blame or responsibility or to describe the impact on the victim's families. This is not a book 'you can't put down.' You'll find, from time to time, that you have to."
Thomas Drew-Brook (History Teacher)

"Jaworsky, a quiet, self-effacing man, found himself in a quest that has taken him over four years and opened up a history that has never really been documented before in the north"
Charlie Angus, Highgrader Magazine.

"The most important aspect of his book-in which there are no 'happy' endings - is that these men are not merely statistics. Each and every life is a story."
Lawrence McBrearty, United Steelworkers.

"I appreciate that someone (Jaworsky) has come to give a face and story to what otherwise would just be a name on a monument."
Retired Kirkland Lake gold miner