Bardykes Colliery pictured here around 1940. Originally sunk on the site of an infectious disease hospital, it was nicknamed the ‘Spittal Colliery’. A dispute closed it in 1907 but the Summerlee Iron Company reopened it in 1908. The company owned by then owner of Crossbasket, George Neilson.
On Saturday 21st March 1936 a terrible disaster occurred at the colliery in which five men lost their lives. All through the Saturday night and into Sunday, rescue parties worked in relay teams. More than 200 men offered their services as rescuers and the last of the five bodies was retrieved on the Sunday afternoon. On that same afternoon, a rescue party was almost entombed in a similar situation, but thankfully got out beforehand.
The five miners were killed almost instantaneously Bardykes Colliery between Blantyre and Cambuslang crushed by a heavy fall. The victims, all of whom were married, were:—Thomas Coulter, of Bothwell-street, Cambuslang: James Conloy, of Glasgow-road, Blantyre; Bobert Dawson, of Church-street, Cambuslang; George Kirk, of Church-street, Cambuslang; and Gilbert Boy, of Hamilton-road, Flemington. All had fairly large families. Tons of debris entombed the men as they were brushing the coal face in No. 1 Hawthorn face of the pit, a mile and a half from the pit bottom in preparation for work on the Monday. Campbell Hawthorn and William Evans, both of Cambuslang, who were also in the section when the roof fell, had a narrow escape. Evans heard a sizzling noise, and with Hawthorn jumped clear. Had they jumped the other way they would have been buried by the tons falling debris.
RESCUE PARTY’S ESCAPE. Meantime Mr. Stewart, the colliery manager, had organized rescue parties, which he led down the pit, and for a considerable distance they had to go along on hands and knees. After the rescuers had succeeded in getting through several tons of debris, and recovering the bodies of Kirk and Dawson, tbey heard an ominous cracking from the roof. Someone shouted “Get clear,” and scarcely had they responded to the warning when another severe fall occurred.
A graphic story of the scene in the pit after the first fall was given by Rev. Father Keenan, of St. Joseph’s, Blantyre. I was summoned to the colliery,” he said, ” and descended the pit in my clerical robes. It was the first time that I had ever descended a mine. When I reached the pit bottom I crawled along the road on my hands and knees to the scene of the accident.
BEAMS SMASHED TO PULP. Tons and tons of debris had collapsed and the beams supporting the roof were smashed into pulp. Kirk was partly released when I reached the fall. He was dead when ultimately extricated. It took the rescuers over two hours to clear away part of the debris to locate Kirk. About ten or twelve yards of beams had given way. “Mr Stewart, who was directing operations, told me the men must have been instantaneously killed, and warned me that another fall would probably occur. After I had remained at the scene two hours Mr. Stewart advised me to come up.”
Details of the 1936 disaster at Bardykes Colliery, Blantyre, in which five men lost their lives, were given to a Blantyre reporter in an interview with Mr John Stewart, the manager of the colliery. Mr Stewart said “that with the oversman, Mr William Mack, he had made careful examination of the scene of the fall. This main road was supported by heavy timbering. The roof was crushing heavily, and Mr Stewart and Mr Mack decided to have additional timbering supports put up during the week-end. Shifts of men were arranged to start work on Saturday afternoon. Three complete sets new timbering had been put into plaice when from some unknown cause the whole of- the timbering swung out, and before the men could get clear they were caught in the fall. Mr Stewart expressed his thanks to all the men who had voluntarily given their services, and who worked strenuously to cover the bodies. He particularly mentioned the great work done by Patrick M’Quade, John Miller, James Tennyson, and James Copland, who are employed in other sections of the pit. They came voluntarily when they heard of the accident, and never ceased in their labours until the last body had been brought to the surface. “