Tam Black, Dixon’s Pit Disaster last survivor

4650176125_e78eac2b70_bThe Motherwell Times reported in October 1934 that the last survivor of the Blantyre Pit disaster of 1877 had died. I took this report with some caution, but found it interesting nonetheless. Reprinted here,

“Monday last was the fifty seventh anniversary of that dreadful explosion in Blantyre in which hundreds of miners lost their lives. By a strange co-incidence on Tuesday morning early, the last survivor of those who were working at the coalface on that fateful day, passed away at his son’s residence at Overtown. He was Mr. Thomas Black, who all his working life as man and boy wrought as a miner and was brought up the Blantyre pit as dead.

Fortunately, the first surmise proved untrue, and weak and suffering from his terrible experience, he was carried into a nearby house (Priestfield Terrace?). There he was nursed back to health and strength. During his illness and convalescence the one who was assiduous in her attention to that invalid was a daughter of that house and the natural sequence of this was an eventual romance that culminated in the happy marriage of the couple. Mr Black was devoted to his wife who only predeceased him a few years ago.

Tam Black as he was familiarly named was a ken speckle figure in Overtown where he had spent the most of his life. Of a happy, carefree disposition, he let nothing daunt him and was always ready with a helping hand and a cheery smile to assist a neighbour in distress. A miner of the old school, sent into the world early to fight life’s battle, Tam laid no claim to education or culture, but what he lacked in that respect, he more than made up for in shrewd common sense and above all his heart beat true.

Tam had reached the age of 80 years and naturally during that long span he witnessed many stirring episodes and played a man’s part in many mining disputes. As a youth , he took an active part in the organisation of the Lanarkshire miners and had lively recollections of being out with Bob Smillie on picketing expeditions and assisting at mass meetings and of long tramps all over the country in all weathers with a view to getting the miners united. Mr Black’s breezy temperament was the secret of his long life. Public affairs he watched with the liveliest interest and every form of good clean outdoor sport, or recreation found in him a staunch supporter. Tam was survived by a grown up family of 1 son and 2 daughters for whom the deepest sympathy is felt in their sad bereavement. The funeral, which was private one, took place at Cambusnethan Cemetery on Thursday and the officiating clergyman was Rev J.H. Meechie.M.A Overtown Parish Church.

Pictured is Cambusnethan Cemetery where Tam is buried. Whilst this is a nice photo, the cemetery has suffered the same fate in recent years as Blantyre, with many deliberately toppled headstones.

On social media:

  • Elizabeth Dobson Grieve It’s sad when cemeteries end up like that
    • The Blantyre Project I agree Elizabeth. Walking in High Blantyre Cemetery last week, i found it difficult to find a particular grave, as so many stones are now broken. Despite best attempts to prop them up, missing of stones beyond repair, made my search almost impossible. Frustrating when i knew i was in the right area of the cemetery.
    • Elizabeth Dobson Grieve I’ve been up in the last week or two taking photos in the old section, trying to transcribe them for my personal project and there are some that are so far gone it makes me sad that their names are lost forever
  • Jean McIntosh Great story, he obviously appreciated life after surviving the pit disaster. It is sad that some people enjoy knocking over gravestones, they obviously have no respect for anything as well as the dead.

Leave a Reply