Scotsman Reports Disaster – Part 7

Continued from Parts 1 – 6….from the Scotsman, Tuesday 23rd October 1877…..the day after the disaster describing events in detail from the disaster morning.

It is only consistent with the character of miners to say that the moment the extent of the calamity was realised, there were many willing hands ready to embark on the dangerous enterprise of a rescue.

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Indeed, the question seemed to be who would have the honour of descending first.

As the explosion appeared to have expended itself in the direction of No. 3 pit, it was deemed wise that a supreme effort should be made to get at the entombed men by the clear shaft of No. 2. First of all, it was necessary that ventilation should in some degree be restored and for this purpose a stream of water was poured down the shaft.

An exploring party was organised, and they descended, but the choke-damp was so powerfully felt that they had to return without result. By and by Sir James Gilchrist, manager for Mr John Watson’s colliery, appeared on the scene . He had been at one time employed in the High Blantyre Colliery, and knew intimately all the workings, so that naturally he was allowed to take the leadership in the rescue party, which consisted, besides himself, of Mr Thomson . Mr McFarlane of Allington Colliery , Mr Robeson, assistant inspector of mines, and Mr Simpson, manager of the Clyde Coal Company.

Although, when they descended, the choke-damp was almost overpowering, they persevered, and got to the bottom, the after-damp which had followed the last of the rescued colliers from the ” north dook” to near the pit mouth having by this time been all cleared away from the shaft. The gallant band of explorers when they reached the mouth of the workings, called lustily, but no reply came to their cries, and the subtle gas beginning to ‘ roll outwards again, they were forced to beat a retreat , but not before one of their number was all but overcome. Indeed, when they ascended to the surface , this gentleman had to be attended to by Dr Lennox, and restored with ammonia.

Another attempt was made to penetrate to the workings , and this time they succeeded in securing one body, which was slowly drawn to the surface. Again and again they descended, and on each successive journey one lifeless or apparently dead collier was secured; but at last, about 3 o ‘clock, the choke-damp’ got so bad that they were compelled to give up the effort, and then only when assured in their own minds that every person who had been in No . 2 Pit had then succumbed.

Pictured. Brave volunteers, miners and otherwise gather at the surface awaiting their turn or an opportunity to rescue. To be continued……

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