1958 Explosion rocks High Blantyre

1958 Explosion HIgh Blantyre march 9th wmSunday 9th March 1958 certainly started with a bang in High Blantyre! When Royal Engineers carried out the demolition of High Blantyre’s Dixon’s Pit, a demolition that the National Coal Board thought would cost nothing, ended up being quite costly!

The Territorials were demolishing the old washing plant at High Blantyre Pit that day, but the explosion was felt throughout the nearby Kirkton Avenue Housing Estate in High Blantyre causing damage worth £150 (or £3,500 in today’s money). That was before compensation claims started arriving!

The colliery fell out of use in June 1957 and the shaft had become unsafe. Work had been ongoing to clear the pit head area and the demolition work had been assigned to 241 Field Squadron Royal Engineers (TA) of Motherwell. It was part of a recruitment drive and needless to say amongst the engineers, were many rookies that day.

1958 Explosion detonator wmAt 3pm, the charges had been set and primed by Major John Craig, the commanding officer and the honour of pressing the firing button was given to 75 year old Hugh Gibson (pictured). Hugh had worked at the pit for an incredible 58 years prior to his retirement.

The 400lb charge went off with a tremendous explosion heard for miles around bringing down the 40 foot tall washing plant to a pile of rubble and bent girders but also unfortunately sending piles of debris into the air in an outwardly direction.

At the nearby housing estate, doors flew open and windows smashed sending shards of glass inwards towards residents.

1958-annie-with-william-and-elaine wm

Sadly glass cut little Elaine Brown, aged 17 months, on the cheek, ear, and nose, and her three-year-old brother William, on his hand and leg, as they were sitting in front of the living-room fire in their house at Kirkton Avenue. Their mother, wife of Mr Robert Brown, suffered from shock. A neighbour, Mrs M. Campbell, 1 Loanfoot Road, was still visibly shaken an hour after the explosion.

  “I had no warning this was going to happen,” Mrs Campbell said, “and I think they are taking a liberty.”

The roof of a car parked in front of a house near the pit was smashed with a beam six feet long which had been thrown over the roofs of other houses. Many roofs were holed and bricks lay in the gardens.

1958-mr-nimmos-or-mr-dunnes-car wm

The army fellows had intended — all going well — to carry out a further demolition of the 100 ft. high pit chimney on Sunday first. But there were objections to this after what happened and the idea was scrapped. The chimney was demolished on the Wednesday afternoon by another process — without any alarm — and, as one observer put it, threw up only a cloud of dust.

I am led to believe the family affected was that of Jim Brown, whose modern photographs make a regular, permitted appearance on this website.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said,

Elizabeth Weaver I remember nothing about this, even though I was 11 when it happened. Do you remember, Brian Weaver? “the demolition work had been assigned to 241 Field Squadron Royal Engineers (TA) of Motherwell. It was part of a recruitment drive” – I wonder how the recruitment drive went after that fiasco?
Thomas Barrett Never heard this story before
John Cornfield Great tale of the demolition of this iconic pit the grave of so many of our ancestors
I wonder who the bright spark that thought blowing this up was a good idea explosion 💥 describes what is going to happen compare to implosion 😂😂😂you couldn’t make it up only for the grace of god their was no fatalities
Jim McSorley Great story. Had no idea of this event. As a kid we played often on both bings on hill house road and at sydes brea next to the manse
Hugh Hainey Great story,
Helen Allan Great read
Ishbel McKinlay-Wilkie Great read….I lived in the timber houses at that time I was 11 years old but do not remember this happening. Dreadful…
Kit Frank Duddy Amazing story
Brian Weaver I’m very surprised to hear that this work was done on a Sunday and I have no recollection of the story at all. We would have been in Sunday school just a few hundred yards away and would surely have heard it. Maybe, Elizabeth, we were singing your birthday song… it was March 9th.
Elizabeth Weaver Good points Brian. Remember how quiet Sundays were back then? No washing hung outside and no playing in the street. Mind you, it says 3pm when it was detonated so you and I were probably being marched over to Bothwell and back for our usual Sunday walk 😉 Halcyon days!
Jay Peajohn Stone Didn’t know anything about this and I would have been at my grannie’s if it happened on a Sunday!
Liz Johnson High Gibson was the father of 14 and lived in meadow drive
Blantyre Project 14 !!! wow. I have a tough time with 1. lol
Margaret Nimmo Lehmann I was 7 in 1958 and remember this. We were told to open our windows in Kirkton Avenue and stay clear of them, however, I do remember my parents standing in front of the bedroom window holding me and watching. After it was over, to our surprise, there was a large beam in Mr. Morrison’s car, a neighbour two doors down. After that car was repaired, my brother bought it from him, I believe that would be the car in this photo.
Elizabeth Weaver Glad somebody remembers it, Margaret. Brianusually remembers more than I do but we’d drawn a blank on this story. It’s a miracle nobody was killed!



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