Bonfire Night Gas Explosion

On the evening of Saturday 5th November 1921, Stonefield Road, Blantyre was the scene of great alarm, fear and excitement owing to a tremendously, disastrous gas explosion that occurred at the Gasworks. (the site of the later Letham’s Garage)

explosionAt exactly 4am a terrific explosion took place busting over the entire town, instantly awakening people from their sleep. People came from houses to see what the commotion was, and before long, large crowds lined Stonefield Road trying to work out what had happened. The explosion was of such magnitude that it was heard up to 7 miles around in all directions.

Just after the explosion, those arriving first on the scene were greeted with chaos and confusion. The office buildings at the Gas works were reduced to a shapeless mass with pipes twisted around the area in a grotesque heap. The Cambuslang detachment of the Lanarkshire County Fire Department were soon on the scene, standing by until daylight blocking the site from spectators in case of further incidents. The fire, although fierce was confined to the pipes venting large quantities of gas, set aside in storage for street lights and homes.

Mr Robert Scott, the gas manager later told police that he could not say what had caused the explosion. He commented that the gas storage container with 20,000 cubic feet of gas was empty. The explosion was to blame for the damage to buildings. The ignition of the gas was the explosion that was heard by all. Although serious, the gas storage affected was the smallest in the plant. It could have been far worse. The damage was considerable and no homes in Blantyre received any gas for a few days, leaving streets in darkness during evenings. No lives were lost but several of the workmen had miraculous escapes as the plant was manned each night. One of them had just left the storage area and was crossing the plant when it happened, throwing him to the ground with force.

The impact of the blast damaged several nearby homes and was of such strength, the brick wall entrance to the plant, was forced outwards and into Stonefield Road. A large squad of workmen were deployed by the works in the clean up effort and restoring service as quickly as possible.

Update: A later inquest found the incident to be accidental. No proof could be provided that any workmen had been smoking or were negligent. Similarly the co-incidence of Bonfire Night being the date of the accident may have been connected, but again no proof was evident.

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