Embarking on a promise to everybody here, that as part of a planned book about Blantyre Mining Disaster, I will explore the lives and exclusively tell the stories of every miner who died in the 1877 Blantyre Explosion. This is the remarkable story of James Gold, a miner whose 3 brothers, along with him, died that terrible day!
James GOLD was born on 11 January 1844 in Douglas, Lanarkshire,Scotland to Lillias Swan Clarkson, age 26, and John Gold a coal-miner, age 34. Just 4 years after a young Queen Victoria took the throne, this was the birth of the Victorian Era, the start and emergence of the Industrial age. James was the 4th child to be born, one of ten no less and he was the eldest son of the family.
His sister Helen was born in 1847 when James was 3 years old and a brother John followed when he was 6.
Around 1850, the Gold family moved to Torbush Cottage, Cambusnethan, most likely for James father to pursue employment in the Lanarkshire mines. The family are noted in Cambusnethan in the 1851 census. They moved later to 22 Craig Row, Cambusnethan and by the age of 16, James Gold was working as a coal miner, already subjected to a working life underground!
During the 1860’s, James Gold fell in love with a farm servant girl in Carluke. He married Mary Lambie in Carluke, Lanarkshire, on 15 October 1869 when he was 25 years old. Mary was 6 years his junior and 19 when she married.
The newlyweds would have been delighted when daughter Jessie Lamb Gold was born on 3 May 1870 in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. The dates are telling for working back the way, Mary must have been pregnant when she married.
The birth of a daughter must have been seen as a fresh start for the the couple, for James Gold took the decision to step away from mining (for a time) when in 1870, the three of them moved to Old Monkland (Coatbridge). In 1871, they were at Inglis Land on Bank Street, Coatbridge and James was trying his hand at being a “spirit dealer”.
Tragedy struck on 24th March 1871, when their only child little Jessie Lamb Gold died aged only 9 months, having had Scarlet Fever for 9 days before passing. As he measured his grief, a week later in 1871, others in Scotland would be celebrating new legislation passed, which granted additional days off from work, thanks to Sir John Lubbock’s bill sanctioning government-sponsored bank holidays.
James and Mary tried again for their son John was born on 13 January 1872 in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire and quickly followed by daughter Lillias born on 15 March 1874.
Moving to Blantyre
In 1876 or 1877, James Gold heard that Dixon’s Coalmasters had discovered coal in Blantyre and opened up new collieries. Seeking better wages to look after his growing family, the newly built Dixon’s Rows in Blantyre, tied to the colliery were already occupied. James ended up renting accommodation in Auchinraith, an area close to the pit. It is most likely, as was the norm, that he was “trying out” his new employment and assessing the area in advance of his family coming over to Blantyre too. It is known Mary and the children stayed behind in 1877, still at Cambusnethan. James being in Blantyre, was essentially working away from home.
James Gold died on 22 October 1877 in Dixons Pit 3, Blantyre, Lanarkshire, when he was 33 years old. With him also that day, were three brothers John (28), Benjamin (24) and Andrew (22). One can only imagine the heartache his poor mother Lillian Swan Gold (nee Clarkston) must have felt at losing all the sons in her family on one morning!
From the tragedy, a ray of light emerged. Little Jessie Gold (the daughter of James and Mary) was born just after the disaster. She was the little baby James Gold never got to see!
Life After Blantyre
The will of James Gold was issued on 29th November 1878, leaving £114, 12s and 5d to his widow, Mary. (Thats about £20,000 in today’s money). Mary is noted as moving back to Carluke, her birthtown by that time. James and his brothers Benjamin, Andrew and John are all buried in the Cambusnethan Churchyard.
By 1908, some of her children had decided to emigrate. New Zealand was beckoning, but Mary was to stay behind in Scotland. Her parents, 2 brothers and a sister died within 10 years. Mary Gold (nee Lambie) is pictured here around that year surrounded by grandchildren.
She died on 8 January 1916 in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, at the age of 66.
James and Mary’s daughter, Jessie Gold is pictured here:
James’s son John Gold married Margaret Hamilton Boyes on 15 January 1892 in Carluke, Lanarkshire. They had five children in 18 years before emigrating to New Zealand pre WW1. The Gold family set up a successful bakery in New Zealand. Pictured at Wyndham, Southland, New Zealand, John Gold is standing by the horse.
John Gold, son of James Gold the miner died in July 1936 in Balclutha, Otago, at the age of 64.