Cosgrove Tragedy 1877

In June 2016, Norbert McEwan wrote to me saying, “Two distant relatives of mine…..James and Francis Cosgrove are listed amongst the dead in the terrible 1877 Blantyre disaster. Their sister was my grandmother ( Margaret Cosgrove) on my own dad’s side. I am trying to find out more detail about the family… particulat about my grannies Margaret and her own mum and dad ( births, deaths, marriages etc)…have you any of this information relating to them please or could you point me in the direction of someone who might know. I have been told that the family came from Ireland but don’t know when. Many thanks.Norbert McEwan.”

Liking these sort of challenges I set out to find some more, focusing first on the Blantyre Pit Disaster events.

I was shocked to immediately see that Francis was only 15 and James was only 14, both of those young boys dying in the Blantyre Pit Disaster of 22nd October 1877, in which their own father worked. Lets go back a generation.

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Andrew Cosgrove was a pit sinker. i.e His job was to form the shaft to create new coal mines. This was a difficult and hard job, working long hours as owners were intent on reaching the coal seam from virgin ground. The 1870’s in Blantyre presented many opportunities for driving new pit shafts, none more so that being employed by Dixon’s who opened up several pits that decade. It would have been an attractive prospect for people coming to the area to be given a home for their family at Dixon’s Rows and a job nearby. He had married Frances Ann McGhee.

The Cosgroves do not appear in Blantyre in 1871 census, which is no surprise as Dixon’s Rows were still being built and I think Norbert’s suggestion of them coming from Ireland is correct, for they don’t appear in any UK census for 1861 or 1871. They also don’t appear in the 1875 census, narrowing the window further and meaning they came to Blantyre between April 1875 and October 1877. However the death certificates of the boys does tell us that son Francis was born to them in 1862 and then James in 1863 and it is therefore highly likely that Andrew and Frances McGhee married sometime prior to 1862. The couple had another son Andrew in 1867.

How terrible it must have been for Andrew and Frances Ann to suffer this tragedy and I hovered over the “x” that Andrew put on the death certificate in November 1877, thinking that same thought.

On 12th May 1884, son Andrew got married at Blantyre RC Church to Mary mcGlinchy, the second of 2 wives in his lifetime (he had previously married a lady of the name Mary and had children with her). It is noted that on the marriage certificate that parents Andrew Cosgrove and Frances Ann McGhee were both deceased by 1884. Andrew and Mary called 2 of their sons after their deceased uncles.

This was a difficult story to put together. The lack of information, events falling between census and valuation rolls and it is no wonder the family struggled with putting some detail against it. Unfortunately, i have been unable to find details for Margaret Cosgrove who clearly married into the McEwan family. There are several records of a Margaret Cosgrove taking transatlantic voyages back and forth in the 1920s but I am unsure if it is this family. Additionally, I am also wondering if Margaret is the daughter of Andrew and Mary, rather than the older Andrew and Frances Ann. Both couples had sons named James and Francis and I suspect of Norbert’s grandmother Margaret, it was actually her UNCLES who passed away in that Blantyre accident, rather than siblings.

There were Cosgroves in Blantyre around 1900 with similar names the relatives and descendants of this family. Andrew Cosgrove, the brother of pit accident Francis and James, died in 1942 aged 75.

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