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‘Spirelmo’ mines safety helmet – £2050 at Peebles Auction House.

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This became law under the Coal Mines Act of 1911, which made the provision of rescue stations compulsory.

The ‘Spirelmo’ black leather, metal and mica smoke helmets were designed around this time. The apparatus required one man on the surface to pump air into the helmet via bellows and an extension pipe. With a good air supply, and using a system of tugs and pulls to communicate, a (hugely brave) rescuer could work underground for long periods.

They were made at the Neptune Works of Siebe Gorman, better known as the manufacturer of diving suits and equipment.

All are now rare survivors and this example, offered for sale by Peebles Auction House (20% buyer’s premium) on the Scottish Borders in a live online sale held on October 23, was in particularly good condition.

There is a faded paper label attached which once identified the helmet as coming from the Monktonhall Pit in Edinburgh.

Typically these are sold as display pieces in the mid hundreds (a similar example took £680 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter in 2016) but this one with provenance brought £2050 (estimate £700-1500) via thesaleroom.com.