On Monday 10th October 1938, a terrible tragedy happened at the Brickworks, resulting in the death of a nineteen year old.
Peter M’Dermott (19), of Stonefield Road. Blantyre, was slowly suffocated in a tank full of brick-making material at a Blantyre brick works while twenty workmates fought to clear away the material which was killing him, and others talked to him through the side of the tank. The rescue parties lost their race with death.
After two panels of the tank had been cut away by oxy-acetylene apparatus, M’Dermott was found to be dead. There were few signs of injury on the body, and he had evidently been suffocated. M’Dermott was employed at the crushing and conveying plant, and part of his duty was to ensure an even flow of the material used to make the bricks. This material passes through a large iron tank twelve feet deep. About eight o’clock in the evening, an obstruction developed at the outlet from the tank, and M’Dermott entered the tank at the top to assist in clearing it. While doing so he apparently slipped and fell to the bottom, with the accumulated material collapsing on top of him. A party of about twenty men at once began to try and dig down to the imprisoned man, but as fast as a space was cleared it was filled up by the sliding material.
Men on the outside of the tank located M’Dermott’s position inside the tank, and found they could talk to him. For nearly two hours there was a shouted exchange of remarks as the men outside tried to keep up the spirits of the imprisoned man. An oxy-acetylene operator was brought from an adjoining pit, and he began to cut away two panels of the tank in a last effort to reach M’Dermott.
John Dollachan, of Blantyre, who was working a few yards away when the accident occurred, and who took part in the rescue work, said to the Press and Journal, Peter was very cheerful during the early part of his imprisonment and was able to answer the encouraging shouts of his pals. We kept shouting, ‘We’ll soon have you out, Peter,’ and ‘ Are you all right? ‘ ” Once he said cheerfully ‘ I’m doing , not so badly.’ ” Later on it was heartrending to recognise that his voice was growing weaker, and that he was losing hope as the tons of stuff in the tank gradually sank down upon him. ” Finally he began shouting, but it was difficult to make out the words and then his voice died away. At this time the cutter had removed one panel but it was some time later before the second was cut and we were able to reach the body. It was after 11 p.m. before the rescue party reached M’Dermott.