Blantyre’s Heros to the rescue

This has to be the oldest photo our family own. Incredibly, the people in this photograph form the rescue party for the Dixon’s Pit Mining Accident in October 1877. Taken over 145 years ago at around the time of the birth of photography, this photo has my ancestor, John Bowie  at the back, in the middle, 6th 1877minersrescuefrom the left, marked with a small red cross. The picture is kept in the dark, locked away and is an important part of our family history.John Bowie, my great, great grandfather is buried in High Blantyre Cemetery. Needless to say, had something happened to him during the rescue attempt, i would not be here!

The mining accident happened due to an explosion of methane gas. 202 men lost their lives that day although it could have been 233 if it wasnt for the brave efforts of the men in this picture. They were truly local heros. Stop for a second to contemplate this. Imagine the rescue, not having today’s technology of satnavs, masks, JCBs and cranes. It would have been labourious , dirty work by hand and against the clock! The men are photographed holding bibles, presented to each individual at a service of memorial and having a beard was absolutely the fashion of the time! When i see the bibles, i have some guilt. After the passing of my parents, this book was unknowingly included in the house clearance and given away accidentally. If anybody in the Blantyre area knows of it’s existence with the inscription inside to John Bowie, please contact me, where a reward is up for grabs. You can read more about the explosion below:

The Blantyre mining disaster happened at around 8:50 am on the morning of 22nd of October, 1877 at Blantyre Colliery, William Dixons pits numbers one and two, in High Blantyre. 126 men had gone down number two pit, and 107 down number three at 5:30 am. There was thought to have been 233 people down the pits. Although the explosions were unexpected, it was known that there was fire damp (methane gas) present, with a naked light being the most probable ignition source.

On the surface the blast was heard for miles around, with a dense volume of smoke filling the sky. Soon after lots of people began running from the rows of houses near the pits to gather at the minehead.

There was another explosion, this time on Dixons number one pit, Blantyre, on the 2nd of July 1879, with the loss of 28 lives. Soon after the explosions William Dixon Ltd. erected a large granite monument to mark both disasters which reads “William Dixon Ltd. in memory of 240 of their workmen who were killed by explosions in Blantyre Colliery on 22nd October, 1877 and 2nd July 1879 and many of whom are buried here”.


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  1. Rosemary Montgomerie

    Are the names of the other rescuers known?

  2. Joe Gilmour my Great Grandfather got blamed for this tragedy, but was cleared, The owners were too greedy for money, and did,nt care for the miners

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