Continued from Parts 1 – 8….from the Scotsman, Tuesday 23rd October 1877…..the day after the disaster describing events in detail of the terrible day before. Here crowds arrive around the pithead on the Monday afternoon.
“Then sharp breathing and excited groups pressed round the shaft mouth, anxious to be relieved from suspense, yet fearful that their worse anticipations would be realised, and when one after another of the limp, blackened and muddy corpses, covered by a coarse blanket for decency’s sake; was borne from the cage to the weighhouse, a hundred yards distant, it was painful to hear the shriek of agonised recognition from wife or mother in the crowd. The wright’s shop was converted into a morgue, and there the bodies were conveyed, and laid upon straw for identification.
There , too were a number of medical men, with every appliance known to science, ready to use the utmost efforts for the recovery of any who might still exhibit signs of life. But only in one case could, even the faintest trace of a struggling spirit be recognised, the case of a man named Burns, but every effort made to bring him back to life failed.
Throughout the afternoon, small groups assembled round the offices and hung about the plain hearse or straw-covered carts provided for the removal of the dead, anxious to learn if friends had been recovered or had been brought to the surface, and there, despite rain and hail, they waited – a pitiful scene.
The few bodies conveyed to the morgue were dressed as decently as the circumstances would permit and then handed over to the care of friends. It is to be noted that the bodies recovered almost all present marks of injury by burning. Some were contorted in the most dreadful manner, with the faces as black as the coal which they had been excavating. Others were torn and bruised, with dark crimson streams of blood trickling through their mud -covered and dust begrimed clothes.
A few had shreds of their pit suits torn away, while one or two were battered and bruised in a shocking manner. The small remnant who apparently had succumbed to the choke-damp wore a peaceful expression as if in sleep, and these when found were discovered lying on their faces in the levels, as if they had been making haste to the pit bottom when overtaken by the deadly, suffocating gas.
Into No. 3 pit 107 men went down to work , but , as is often the case in such collieries, the names of all were not known, because parties of two and three often join together and the work of their labour is credited to one man , whose name alone appears in the books of the justiceman at the pithead.
Combined with Pit number 2 deaths, over 200 men and boys died on Monday 22nd October 1877, to this day, still Scotland’s largest mining disaster.