Trueman Hirschfield

It took 10 days to rescue Dr. David Robertson and Alfred Scadding after the Moose River mine collapsed in 1936 and trapped them underground. (See the full story at

When rescue finally came, Trueman G. Hirschfield of Goldenville was reportedly the first to reach them through a “rat hole” - a dangerous, claustrophobic tunnel dug by miners.

Afterwards, Hirschfield described what happened to the New York Times:

“Some of the holes we went through were like rat holes, so small we almost rubbed our backs on the top and our stomachs underneath. You couldn’t turn around. We just made it big enough for one man’s body to go through, because we knew we had to work fast to save these men.

“I finally poked a hole big enough to squeeze through. Close behind was Jack Simpson, but he’s a little bigger than me, and he couldn’t make it. He had to back up and chip a little off before he could get through.

“I turned to the right and a few feet away found Dr. Robertson and Scadding. They were half sitting, half kneeling on the floor of the shaft. They were dirty and ragged and soaked to the skin from the water which was dripping down through the walls. Fifteen feet away lay the body of Herman Magill [who had died two days earlier of pneumonia].”

When Robertson saw Hirschfield, Robertson said, “You’re the best sight I’ve ever seen.”

Hirschfield later said, “There was a great big smile on his face, even though his feet were sore and his shoes ripped. He was soaked to the skin so I pulled off my heavy sweater and put it on him. In the meantime, Simpson had got in and he looked over Scadding. His feet were in bad shape and his shoes were all split from wandering over the rocks in the dark trying to find a way out.

“While we waited for the stretcher, Dr. Robertson told me had had fallen asleep each day and night dreaming horrible dreams and wakening to the sound of running water.

“They were glad to get out of that place and so was I, for I know in a week there’ll be nothing left of that tunnel we dug down to them.

“Dr. Robertson grew stronger as we reached the top of the tunnel. He said just as we reached the top: ‘I’m going to walk out. My mother was over 80, and she never had any one to help her. Neither will I.’

“He tried to walk, but he couldn’t do it, so we put him on the stretcher and carried him again.”

After the Moose River disaster, Trueman Hirschfield returned to mining in the Oldham gold district, where he eventually served as foreman of the mine until 1942. He later became a pipefitter at the Halifax Shipyards.

According to his obituary, Hirschfield was the last surviving miner involved in the rescue when he passed away in 1970 at the age of 65.

Hirschfield was one of many miners that came from other mines to rescue the men. Justice K. Peter Richard, who conducted the inquiry into the Westray mine disaster in the 1990s, wrote: “The industry is very close-knit with an interdependence, camaraderie, and fellowship that may be unique in modern-day business.” That interdependence has been expressed throughout Nova Scotia’s mining history by miners helping when disaster struck at other Nova Scotia mines.

Today, we believe the most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner, and our modern safety record reflects this. Injury rates in Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry have been reduced 90% since the Westray inquiry.

Billy Bell was another hero of the 1936 Moose River disaster because he never gave up hope of rescuing the men trapped underground, even though most people around him did. See the story at