This is the story of Peter ANDERSON, a young boy of just 15 years, who died in the Blantyre Pit Explosion on Monday 22nd October 1877.
Peter was born in 1862 in England, the son of Peter Anderson Snr, a pit sinker from Edinburgh and Mary McGinnes. His mother died in childbirth, bringing him into the world. A single father, Peter Anderson Snr quickly remarried to an English woman, some 20 years his senior, who would become stepmother to young Peter.
There was plenty of work in 1870 and 71 for pit sinkers and hearing that Dixons Coalmasters were sinking new pits for the first time in High Blantyre, would have been an attractive employment opportunity for Peter Anderson Snr. A sinker was highly skilled man who ‘sank’ (i.e. dug) the shafts for coal mines. Skilled sinkers were in great demand and moved from colliery to colliery to dig new shafts, effectively opening up new pits.
By 1871, the Anderson family were living at Forrest’s Land in Auchinraith, High Blantyre. That year Peter snr was 30, Elizabeth his new wife was 50 and young Peter Anderson, then only aged 10. He would likely have been schooled at the public school at Hunthill.
On Wednesday 21st October 1874, around 3 years before the Blantyre Disaster, Peter Anderson Snr found himself in trouble with the law causing a brach of the peace in Cadzow Street, Hamilton. In court the next day, he was fined 10 shillings 6 d.
Peter Anderson Junior was an ‘only’ child and leaving school at age 14 or so would have been something very normal in those times. His young years made him an ideal candidate to work in the nearby pit as a Pony Driver, where alongside boys of similar age, they would tend to the pit ponies at Dixons Colleries.
Pony driving was often one of the first jobs for young lads, usually aged around 14, who were starting work in the coal mines. Boys would normally work as a pony driver for 1 or 2 years before being moved on to heavier work. Pony drivers were in charge of a horse or pony hauling empty hutches to the different working areas in the mines and bringing hutches filled with coal to the pit bottom. It was a tough life for those animals, as much as it was for the men and boys down the mines.
By 1877, the family had moved to Hunthill, High Blantyre.
That cold and wet morning of Monday 22nd October, one can well imagine 15 year old Peter leaving his home at 5.00am, to ensure he was at the nearby Pit 3 mouth by 5.30am and down below the ground by 6am, at a time of year where it was dark above ground as well as below!
Peter died around 8.45am that morning down Pit 3, but it would be some time before his body was recovered. His working life likely lasted no more than a year. The damage at Pit 3 was extensive and several tunnels and ‘dooks’ were obstructed, with time needed for retrieval.
His death was officially registered on 17th November 1877. His interment date is unknown but it looks likely to have been that day. He is buried in Section A, the common ground in High Blantyre Cemetery. There is no lair number.
His step mother, Elizabeth Anderson signed the death certificate, putting her ‘x’ as her mark.
It’s clear that it must have been difficult for Peter Anderson Snr to return to work in a pit where his only son had died. Combined with a diminishing requirement for pit sinkers, the Anderson family had moved away from Blantyre just a couple of years later by 1881.
Rest in Peace, Peter Anderson.