Matthew Berryman

Matthew Berryman, son of Mark and Margaret, was born in 1833 in Brecon. He had 6 brothers and sisters: Henry, Margaret, Sampson, Elizabeth, John and Robert.

As a teenager, Matthew appears to have been a wheelwright - possibly working for his father, who was a carrier. However, in later years, after moving to Merthyr Tydfil, his occupations were described chronologically as “Iron Miner”, “Coal Miner” and “Quarryman”.

Matthew married Margaret Lewis of Defynnog (Defynock) in Brecknockshire (Breconshire) and later lived in Cefn Coed High Street, near Merthyr. They had 9 children: Evan, Minnie (Margaret?), Leah, William Lewis, Mark, Matthew and Edward. Matthew died on 11 Feb 1896 at the age of 62, and is buried in Cefn Coed Cemetery, along with his wife and other members of his family. He died of injuries received in a rock fall in the Vaynor Limestone Quarry; an inquest was held on 14 Feb 1896.  Here is a report on Matthew's accident from The Merthyr Times, Thursday 13 Feb 1896:    

Alarming accident near Cefn
Two men killed

Our Cefn correspondent writes: On Tuesday afternoon, about four o'clock, an accident, which resulted in the death of one man and in the serious injury of another, who has since succumbed to his injuries, occurred in the Vaynor Quarry, owned by Crawshay Bros. From the information which we gleaned from the workmen a few minutes after the accident had taken place, it seems that while Mr Matthew Berryman, High Street, Cefn, and Mr Edward Nichols, of Rhiwlas, a lonely homestead on the height of Kilsanos Mountain, were engaged in boring a hole about halfway up the steep crest of the quarry, a tremendous quantity of stone and earth suddenly gave way and came down with terrible force towards the spot where the two men were working. Nichols was sitting, directing the boring ram, while Berryman was wielding the sledge. It was impossible to give the poor fellows sufficient notice to enable them to make good their escape, but while Berryman was in the attempt of running to a place of safety, he was caught by the falling debris, one stone, weighing from three to four tons, falling on his chest. Poor Nichols had no chance of escape, and was completely buried under the huge boulders, which must have killed him on the spot. The quarrymen, when the awful seriousness of the accident had been fully realised by them, began to work with a will in order to clear away the rubbish that pinned Berryman to the ground, and that totally hid Nichols from their sight. Under the superintendence of Mr Mathias Symonds, who was in charge of the quarry, the men strained every nerve, and worked with the most stubborn perseverance to save the life of one of their comrades, if possible. But to remove the ponderous stone that threatened to crush the life out of Berryman every moment was not an easy task, and it was fully an hour after the occurrence of the sad disaster that the maimed body of the poor fellow was lowered down the precipitous ledge of the lofty quarry to a place of refuge below. Dr Webster, with commendable promptitude, hurried to the spot, and was present when Berryman was rescued from his perilous position, and as soon as he had assured himself of the amount of the injuries received, he ordered that the poor fellow be conveyed at once to his home at Cefn. While a section of the men were thus told off to convey Berryman to his home, another gang was on the ledge above searching for the crushed remains of Nichols. It is impossible to praise too highly the indomitable efforts and the unflinching courage of these men toiling aloft there in a cramped place, with the possibility of another large quantity of the overhanging Rock giving way and meting out to them the same dreadful fate as had befallen their fellow labourers. Boulder after boulder was hurled down the precipice, load after load of the sodden earth was removed and thrown to the depths below before the body of Nichols was discovered, and darkness was fast setting in when the remains, carefully, and with considerable tenderness, wrapped in improvised coverings to conceal from the gaze of the living the ghastly spectacle they presented, were placed on a stretcher ready to be carried to the desolate home on the bleak brow of Kilsanos Mountain. There is almost an indescribable sadness connected with the death of Nichols. About 18 months ago he buried his wife, leaving him in charge of nine or ten young children, of whom he was most careful. Now they are deprived of a tender father, and, as strangers in a strange land, they are thrown on the sympathy of friends, who, let us hope, will not allow these motherless and fatherless little ones to suffer from the want of the wherewithal to live. When the news of the awful calamity reached Cefn, it created quite a sensation, and it was pathetic to notice the agonies of wives and children whose husbands and fathers were working in the quarry, trying, in their uncertainty, to console themselves with the hope that their dear ones were safe and sound. Mr Berryman, whose injuries were most serious, did not long survive the accident, dying in a few  hours after reaching his home. Sincere sympathy is felt for the families in the bereavement that has befallen them.

This photograph is of limestone workers at the Vaynor Quarry in the 1890s. Plentiful in the Merthyr area, limestone was an essential part of the iron industry. After being taken from the quarries, the stone was broken up by girls for use in smelting at the Dowlais furnaces. 


Matthew Berryman is probably the foreman sitting in the centre of the photo.

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