1877 The Pit Explosion Rescuers

1877 pit rescuers blantyre explosionThis has to be the oldest family photo I have (now passed down to me). It’s a photo that’s been used often in several publications. Incredibly, the people in this photo form the rescue party for the infamous Dixon’s Pit Mining Accident in October 1877. Taken over 147 years ago, this photo has my ancestor, John Bowie at the back, in the middle, 6th from the left, marked with a small red cross.

The mining accident happened due to an explosion of methane gas. 207 men lost their lives that day although it could have been 233 if it wasn’t for the brave efforts of the men in this picture. Imagine the rescue, not having today’s technology of satnavs, JCBs and cranes. It would have been laborious , dirty work by hand, filled with the stench of death and against the clock! The men are photographed holding bibles, presumably at a latter service of memorial and having a beard was absolutely the fashion of the time! One of the biggest regrets i have is unknowningly giving away a bible that was presented that day to John.

When my mother passed away, Garrion Bridge Antiques did the house clearance and it was accidentally given to them. I could not find it again, no matter how many times i’ve been to Garrion bridge. The inside inscription simply says “by order of gratitude” and i would be most pleased if it ever turned up again.


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  1. Dear sir this morning whilst looking for something in my desk I came across an old bible witch I have owned since my grand farther death in 1978 there’s a plate in the cover. With a dedication to a William Simpkin one of the gallant (can’t make out the next word ) colliery accident 22oct 1877 .. I am wondering if my great grandfather is on that photograph would it be possible for you to email a screenshot to me

    1. Ashley – i think that is very likely. All those pictured certainly received one of those bibles. Unfortunately though im (not yet) in a position to say which one is WIlliam. How amazing. I’d love to see a photo of that if you want to email it in? Thanks.

      1. I will send it to you send me your email address it will be done after writing to you I got looking through what few old documents I have and it looks like there was a William simpkins senior and a will simpkins junior the junior being my great grandfather and w simpkins in the bible being my great great grandfather this is going dates and occupation in marriage and birth certificate my e mail is ashley12saw@.cloud.com Forest of Dean Gloucestershire both my father and grandfather worked in the mines and myself did a short spell in a free mine thank you.

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