HOUSES ROCKED BY BLAST
Children hurt in Army Exercise
A motor car roof was smashed, windows and doors were blown out, and two small children were cut by flying glass when the soldiers of the soldiers of the Territorial Army blew up a 40ft. high washing plant at Dixon’s Colliery, High Blantyre, Lanarkshire, on Sunday 2nd March 1958. Dixon’s Colliery was the scene of the worst-ever pit accident in Scotland, when 210 men died after an explosion at the pit bottom in 1877.
The pit was closed in June 1957 after the shaft became unsafe. Men of the 241 Field Squadron, Royal Engineers Territorial Army, did the demolition as an exercise to boost a recruiting drive.
The charges were set and primed by Major Craig, commanding the Motherwell-based squadron. Police cleared the area around the red-brick building and about 50 spectators took cover on a bing near-by.
At 3 p.m. the firing button was pressed by 75-year-old retired miner, Mr Hugh Gibson, who had worked at the pit for 58 years. However, the explosion misfired to some extent.
The blast blew out windows and ripped open a door in a new housing estate 300 yards away in High Blantyre. This housing estate was where the current houses at Kirkton Avenue and surrounding streets are located.
Sadly, Flying glass cut Elaine
Brown, aged 17 months, on the cheek, ear, and nose, and her three-year-old brother William, on his hand and leg, as they were sitting in front of the living-room fire in their house at Kirkton Avenue. Their mother, wife of Mr Robert Brown, suffered from shock. A neighbour, Mrs M. Campbell, 1 Loanfoot Road, was still visibly shaken an hour after the explosion.
“I had no warning this was going to happen,” Mrs Campbell said, “and I think they are taking a liberty.”
The roof of a car parked in front of a house near the pit was smashed with a beam six feet long which had been thrown over the roofs of other houses.
In the area, police had warned householders to open their doors and
windows; but windows which could not be opened were smashed. In a house facing the pithead the glass panels on the back door were broken and a crack appeared in the wall of an upstairs bedroom.
The housewife, Mrs J. Gibson, moved in only three weeks ago. Many roofs were holed and bricks lay in the gardens.
The National Coal Board were likely to receive a bill for about £300 for a job they expected would cost them nothing. Main portion of the bill was from the repairs department of Lanark County Council for damage caused to houses.
The army fellows had intended — all going well — to carry out a further demolition of the 100 ft. high pit chimney on Sunday first. But there were objections to this after what happened and the idea was scrapped. The chimney was demolished on the Wednesday afternoon by another process — without any alarm — and, as one observer put it, threw up only a cloud of dust.
I am led to believe the family affected was that of Jim Brown, whose photographs make a regular appearance on this website.
Source: Blantyre Gazette March 1958, The Bulletin March 1958. Thanks to Gordon Cook for emailing me the photos and article.