John Taggart, tragic hero


1916 john taggartAnne Mikolay wrote to me in November 2015 saying, “My great grandfather, John Taggart, worked in the Bothwell Castle Colliery, and had a fatal accident on July 24, 1916. He and his wife and children lived in Shuttle Row. My research indicates notification of the accident was placed in the Hamilton Advertiser on August 12, 1916.”

I’ve obtained the notice from the advertiser for you Anne. About 2 o’clock on Monday 24th July 1916, during WW1 years, a number of miners were at work in the main coal seam in William Baird and Company’s Bothwell Castle Collieries (Pit 1). They had just finished putting the section into repair, when the roof caved in. About 20 tonnes fell in on top of the men, who were at their pieces (lunch) at the time.

The injuries must have been fairly horrific as the work began to clear the fall. As the bodies were being removed by other brave miners, a second fall took place and it was in that fall that your great grandfather John Taggart was killed. The article specifies exactly that he was one of the men who was making the rescue attempt, and also states that , as some comfort, he was killed instantaneously, he would not even had time to know anything about it.

The article states John was aged 40 at the time, but I think the reporter got this information wrong. He was born in 1883 in Ireland, the son of a farmer. He married Alice McInally on June 2, 1905. At the time of the marriage, John lived in The Wheel, Stonefield, Blantyre and Alice lived in Shuttle Row Village, Blantyre. She was the daughter of a coal miner. John was killed in the accident in 1916 and had been living at 18 Craighead Rows (or also known as Baird’s Rows.) The colliery machineman left behind Alice and their five children: Alexander, born 1912, Alice born 1910, John born 1905, Sarah born 1908, and Jane (from whom you are hopefully descended) born in 1907. John Taggart is pictured. Alice, being a widow and living at Baird’s Rows in the following months, would likely have been forced to leave the miner’s homes and settle elsewhere as the colliery owners usually were not sympathetic in such instances and required the homes for their employees. I think there is a good story here about what happened to Alice next.

Other men were injured in the pit rescue attempt. Mr William Harvie of Bothwell was the under foreman. He broke his leg and crushed his ribs and back. Another man, Thomas Kelly and a Polish man escaped injury.

On 15th August 1916, a fatal accident inquiry occurred at Hamilton investigating the death of John and 5 others in separate mining incidents. It is unknown the outcome of the inquiry but as was all too often the case, it usually blamed the miners digging, rather than colliery owners.

On social media:

Marian Maguire So sad R.I.P.

Christine Depew Ellen Schulz Lisa Korpics!!

Historic Hamilton Such a sad story, Our generation will never understand the dangers that our ancestors went through to put bread on the table!! frown emoticon

Jim Cochrane Mining health and safety was shocking as was mine owners disregard for there workers lives.However mining wasn,t all bad I believe people had better values and morals then and certainly a better community spirit .Mining is something we would hope never returns as well as heavy industry which were all bad news when it came to health and safety and peoples welfare.

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