Fi­nal farewell

Hil­ton McNutt was 89 years old

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­[email protected]­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

One of the last sur­viv­ing draegermen from Springhill Bump has died.

One of the last sur­viv­ing draegermen from the 1958 Springhill mine dis­as­ter has died.

Hil­ton McNutt died Nov. 11 in Springhill. He was 89.

“I’m re­ally sad­dened by the pass­ing of Hil­ton McNutt,” re­tired Angli­can min­is­ter Rev. Frank Likely said shortly af­ter McNutt’s death. “He re­ally was a spe­cial per­son and an im­por­tant part of Springhill his­tory. We talked dur­ing the Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony that there are no veter­ans left from the First World War and very few from the Sec­ond World War. The same is true from the mine dis­as­ters in 1956 and 1958.”

McNutt worked in the Springhill coal mines and was a draegerman in both the 1956 mine ex­plo­sion and the 1958 bump. Dur­ing the night of the bump com­mem­o­ra­tion on Oct. 23, McNutt, who for the first time met the last of the res­cued min­ers, Harold Brine, said he was eat­ing his lunch at the 12,500-foot level in the Num­ber 2 mine when it bumped, killing 75 min­ers.

It took three hours for McNutt to get back to the sur­face, where he donned his draegerman’s gear and headed back into the mine, dig­ging through de­bris, walls and wreck­age to res­cue those still trapped.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view the night of the bump com­mem­o­ra­tion, McNutt re­called what hap­pened and re­mem­bered those who lost their lives.

“I knew them all. I saw them ev­ery day, they were my friends,” McNutt told the Amherst News. “The things I saw I’ll never for­get and days like to­day bring all those mem­o­ries back. I can still re­mem­ber their faces.”

McNutt’s son, Scott, said his fa­ther suf­fered a stroke on Nov. 1 and never re­cov­ered. He re­mem­bers his fa­ther as a re­served and very hum­ble man.

“He was a great man and a great fa­ther,” said Scott, who was three at the time of the mine dis­as­ter. “He never talked much about the mines, but he con­sid­ered him­self very lucky to have sur­vived. He was knocked un­con­scious by the force of the bump and af­ter com­ing about it took him three hours to get to the sur­face, where he got his draegerman’s gear on, had a cup of tea or cof­fee and headed back into the mine.”

Af­ter the bump, he worked on the de­com­mis­sion­ing of the mine be­fore mov­ing to Shel­burne to work at the home for boys. He also worked in so­cial ser­vices in Wood­stock and New­cas­tle, N.B., and came back to Cum­ber­land County to work with Indigenous Af­fairs in Amherst un­til his re­tire­ment.

Brine, the last of res­cued min­ers still liv­ing fol­low­ing the death sev­eral months ago of Herb Pep­per­dine, said he was sad­dened to learn of McNutt’s pass­ing. They last spoke the night of the bump com­mem­o­ra­tion.

“It’s so sad,” Brine said. “It was nice to be able to talk to him that night. There are fewer and fewer of us left from back then.”

Brine said he knew McNutt prior to the mine dis­as­ter.

“I al­ways liked Hil­ton, he was a great guy,” Brine added. “We’ve lost a great guy.”

Rev. Wayne McCarther, min­is­ter at St. An­drew’s Wes­ley United Church in Springhill, re­mem­bers meet­ing McNutt the night of the bump com­mem­o­ra­tion.

“I had an op­por­tu­nity to speak to him briefly that night. He was sit­ting in the front row and we had a great con­ver­sa­tion,” said McCarther, who as a sec­ond-year univer­sity stu­dent at Mount Allison Univer­sity was at the pit­head in the days fol­low­ing the dis­as­ter. “The ac­tions of peo­ple like Hil­ton the night of the bump were just in­cred­i­ble. It was amaz­ing they were able to get the trapped min­ers out and he played a role in that.”

McNutt worked for both the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments in New Brunswick and Nova Sco­tia fol­low­ing the mine ex­plo­sion, was ac­tive in the Springhill Bap­tist Church and vol­un­teered with nu­mer­ous char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions, re­ceiv­ing a Paul Har­ris Fel­low­ship from Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional.

A me­mo­rial ser­vice was planned for Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. at A.H. Brown Funeral Home in Springhill. His re­mains have been cre­mated and he will be buried in a pri­vate grave­side ser­vice.

Dona­tions in mem­ory of McNutt can be made to the Springhill Bap­tist Church or a char­ity of choice.

DAR­RELL COLE/AMHERST NEWS

Hil­ton McNutt, left, spoke to Harold Brine and Bill Kempt the night of the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 1958 Springhill Bump. McNutt died Nov. 11. He was 89.

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