History: Looking Back

Looking Back history feature: The Boy Cope

Full story at the Looking Back website:

Looking Back

imag8845_11118987710.jpg The scene at the pit top, Bulli Colliery, March 23 1887. Photo: Mick Roberts collection.


Herbert Cope, 17, the sole survivor of the 1887 Bulli Colliery Explosion. Herbert Cope, 17, one of the few survivors of the 1887 Bulli Colliery Explosion. Photo: Mick Roberts collection.

ONE of the few survivors of the 1887 Bulli mine disaster lived to tell the tale of his miraculous escape from the catastrophic explosion that extinguished the lives of 81 men and boys – Although he rarely ever spoke of the tragedy for the remainder of his life. He became known as the boy Cope.

Seventeen-year-old Herbert Cope was working as a wheeler at Bulli pit when methane gas ignited inside of the colliery, killing all his work mates, about 2.30pm on March 23 1887.

Cope literally walked away from the tragedy, and lived to the ripe old age of 84, rarely speaking of his brush with death, not even to his family.

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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