Andra (Andrew) McAnulty spent his whole life campaigning for better living/working conditions for the less well off members of society. He was born into a Lanarkshire mining family in 1860, and started his own working life down the pit when he was only 10 years of age. When he was sixteen, he and his two brothers were involved in an underground explosion in Dixon’s Pit in High Blantyre, which killed one of his brothers and inflicted serious injuries on himself. Seven weeks later, while he was still recovering from his injuries, a massive explosion in the same pit killed 215 miners, one of whom was his father. A few years before his death, Andra told the author (his grandson) the true, gruesome story of the Blantyre Pit Disaster, its effect on the village and the flawed Public Inquiry which followed.
These events were the catalysts which inspired Andra to devote the rest of his life to improving the lot of, not only his fellow miners, but also their wives and families. This involved taking on the rich and callous coal-owners in particular and The Establishment in general, which he did to great effect.
Despite his lack of formal education, he eventually became the first President of The Lanarkshire Miners’ Union, Chairman of Blantyre Parish Council, Chairman of Blantyre School Board and a Justice of the Peace. He was a founder member of the first Scottish Independent Labour Party lead by Keir Hardie and was, in fact, also one of his election agents when Keir Hardie offered himself for election as an M.P.
Andra lived with the author’s family in the latter years of his life until his death in November 1949 at the age of eighty-eight. During this time, he spent many hours describing not only The Disaster to the author but also painted a mental picture of the harsh living conditions endured by mining families of his era as they struggled to survive. He himself had twelve children and, as well as an insight into their working and social activities, the individual, tragic incidents which cost the lives of each of Andra’s five sons in adulthood are revealed in great detail in Andrew McAnulty Paterson’s book from 2004, “A Blast from the past”. The park in Low Blantyre acknowledges the achievements of this man with a recent renaming to McAnulty Park.