Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 11 September 1931
In the Days of the Flood
” Flood Friday.”
The wettest summer in living memory culminated last weekend in the worst floods known in South Yorkshire since 1886.
The longest continuous spell of sunny weather of the season came to an end on Tuesday evening, to be succeeded by heavy rain, which continued, with comparatively slight breaks, till Saturday morning, and caused the rivers of the area to overflow and burst their banks and devastate large areas of land, urban and rural, it was not a record rainfall. the flooding must be attributed to the wet season, which left the earth so thoroughly packed with water that a heavy fall could not be absorbed and drained away in the normal manner. It had to find surface outlet.
While older residents of the district recall worse effects of the 1816 flood, and of the even more serious Bradfield Dam burst of a couple of decades earlier, we may regard last week-end’s floods as almost equalling them in volume and violence: we have superior drainage systems and better care of river and canal banks to thank that the consequences of the September Flood of 1931 are not worse than they are.
They are bad enough. No life, happily, has been lost, though many have been in danger. But scores of poor folk have been bereft of their goods and, in the worst instances, even of their homes. We record on this page tragic stories of young folk, either on the eve of marriage or just married, who have seen the homes on which they had expended their hard-won savings, their labour and pride, wrecked beyond immediate repair. At Darfield, hut-dwellers have been driven out of their homes altogether; at Lundwood the flood rose so high that only in the upper rooms was there any measure of safety, and pianos and other expensive articles of furniture were irreparably damaged; farmers have seen their gathered hay swept away and their root crops completely spoiled. Road and rail services, passengers and goods, have been held up, works have been inundated and work lost, and industry In many parts of the district has suffered a further blow in • time when it can ill stand more setbacks.
Up In the hills of Derbyshire the first and fullest force of the flood was felt. The pretty villages that delight South Yorkshire’ folk on their week-end rambles were isolated one from another, and canoes, rafts and boats were the sole means of communication and supply for many hours. Walls were washed away, deep pulleys cut in roads, pastures left untidy and useless with silt and stones, crops and gardens despoiled. The rapid dispersal which is the compensation of folk who live in hill country, did not prevent the damage being done. Later, it was the turn of the low lands bordering the Derwent, Don and Dearne rivers, where the water, perhaps slower to rise—though it rose with unprecedented speed even there —and less powerful in its destroying sweep, was also slower to drain away.
Almost everyone—perhaps because of the contempt born of familiarity with torrential rain in this year of years—was taken by surprise by the floods. South Yorkshire was caught unprepared, used to the vagaries of the English climate, and almost beyond the stage even of making jokes about it. The serious problem of pressure was overlooked: it was abnormal pressure of tons of water unable to get away that cast down the bridge and blocked Woodhead Tunnel on the L.N.ER.’s cross-country line: that swept away the banks of Don, Dearne and Dove in a score of places; that took the fence of the Mitchell Main cricket ground in its stride and turned the Wombwell Speedway into a sports ground of another kind. The earth in 1931 has absorbed more than is good for it of water, and there was nowhere for this fresh unwanted supply to go—except where it was never designed nor expected to go.
To those who live In the unaffected parts of the district, and whose “experience” of the great flood of September, 1931, is limited to its spectacular aspect, reports may seem exaggerated. But the flood has left heavy damage and suffering behind it in many parts of this area, and the blow is a culminating one in a series that have made this year of little grace one of unhappy memory.
But, as always, South Yorkshire folk have faced a catastrophe with ready resource and with characteristic humour and acceptance of troubles that could not be avoided. The bright side of the reports that have come to us of the week-end experiences, is provided by the numerous stories of prompt action, of tearless behaviour in face of real danger: of a woman bearing to safety on her back children trapped in a raging torrent; of men risking their lives in an unaccustomed emergency to save others from loss; of neighbourly acts in the stress and strain of an abnormal time, which meant pounds saved to those who could ill afford to lose pence. Comprehensive as is our record on this page of last week-end’s occurrences, there is, it will be found, many a tale yet to be told of gallantry, unselfishness, ready with aid, resource, and public but modest spirit in an emergency the like of which we are not, happily, called upon to face often in a lifetime.
The pictures on this page are typical of the scenes of the week-end all over the area. Only the happy intervention If Sunday’s fine weather prevented their even more illustrative of disaster and devastation —as well as of a gallant response to sudden alarming emergency.