The ground under London is teeming with hidden tunnels, bunkers and passageways.
They can be great fun to explore if you can persuade the powers that be to grant you access, or if you’re an urban explorer.
But what if you ventured down into the ground and couldn’t get out? What if something went terribly wrong and you were stuck down in the darkness? Would anyone ever hear you or call the rescue services?
READ MORE: Passenger once got off Tube at abandoned station by accident and stranded ‘all night’
Such a terrifying experience happened to two Irish labourers in 1975 who were working on one of London’s decaying Victorian sewers
Manus Gallagher and Seamus Greene had descended into the tunnels in West London at 8am to begin work when the unthinkable happened.
The decaying sewer tunnel collapsed right on top of them.
They were both badly injured. Manus had fractured his pelvis and Seamus had internal injuries.
The desperate injured men had no idea how long it might be before anyone came for them in the darkness.
As the Harrow Observer reported at the time, Mr Gallagher said: “We were looking death in the face all the time. We thought after the first hour that we would never get out. We didn’t talk about a lot. All we could think about was ‘get us out of here, get the weight off us’.”
Here at MyLondon, we’re doing our very best to make sure you get the latest news, reviews and features from your area.
Now there’s a way you can keep up to date with the areas that matter to you with our free email newsletters.
We have seven newsletters you can currently sign up for – including a different one for each area of London and one dedicated totally to EastEnders.
The local newsletters go out twice a day and send the latest stories straight to your inbox.
From community stories and news covering every borough of London to celebrity and lifestyle stories, we’ll make sure you get the very best every day.
To sign up to any of our newsletters, simply follow this link and select the newsletter that’s right for you.
And to really customise your news experience on the go, you can download our top-rated free apps for iPhone and Android. Find out more here.
Luckily for the men, their friend from back home in Donegal who was also working in London, Con Gallagher (no relation to Manus), and fellow workers dug all day to try to reach the men and ambulance crews, police and firemen rushed to the scene.
Manus’ wife, Bridie, was at work when the police knocked on her door and took her to the scene. She was terrified for her husband.
“I kept praying and hoping that he would come up alive,” she said, “I was relieved when he finally came up. Everybody was great all through.”
Manus said afterwards: “When we got out I just kept thinking how lucky we were the both of us.”
He added, looking at his wife: “I didn’t feel a lot. I just kept asking for her.”
Soon sitting up in bed in hospital at Northwick Park in Harrow, Manus lost no time in asking for a pint.
“A good big pint of beer,” he told the Observer. But first, he paid tribute to the “marvellous people who had helped in the rescue”.
Manus thought it was almost inevitable that he would go back “down the tunnels”.
He said: “I suppose I will if there is no bad fracture and I am on my feet again.”
But Bridie said it was the last thing that she wanted him to do.
Manus could throw no light on how the tunnel collapse occurred.
“I would not know how,” he said. “It happened. We were just excavating out the muck. It just fell in on us.
“We heard a crack but that came at the same time. I don’t know what it was, perhaps loose ground or something.
“I want to thank everybody. the whole lot. Everyone around St Ann’s Road and especially all my workmates. You could not name one person in particular who was there. They were all marvellous.”
So next time you go exploring down in the tunnels under London, do take care, and remember there are tonnes of earth right on top of you!
For all the latest London news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here!