State of things in Blantyre

Continuing a look at the Blantyre Mining Disaster 22nd October 1877.

By road and rail, crowds of people, chiefly miners, poured into the village of Blantyre on the day of the disaster Monday 22nd October 1877 and took the liveliest interest in the progress of operations.

The trains especially were crowded to a degree never before experienced in the history of the Strathaven line, and much unruly conduct prevailed at the station, where the station officials were quite underhanded, and would have been mastered by the surging, large crowds of passengers but for the sensitive interference of the police.

These police guardians had been drafted from all parts of the county, there being no fewer than 100 constables, many of whom hailed from Lanark, and even more distant quarters, in attendance.

With the exception of the instances referred to, their services, however, were of little if any avail, for the people, even in their great numbers, gave no bother.

As you would imagine, the day was one of the most miserable that could well be conceived. Rain fell in torrents, and the roadways were covered with mud, which lay to depth of several inches.

Those few miners who had not been on their shift or who had survived unscathed counted their blessings to be alive. Shocked, some got out the rain by returning home to families, knowing there was little they could do.

Tea Break

Pubs did a roaring trade

The people, wet and dirty, seemed to flock as with one accord to the public-houses, which from morn till night were positively choke full. Standing room was at a premium, and many were relegated to consume their liquor on the door-step. The business being done by the publicans was a striking exemplification of the old saying that “its an ill wind that blaws naebody guid.

Notwithstanding the quantities of drink which must have been consumed there were few really drunk people ‘knocking about’, and of disorderlies pure and simple there was an entire absence, and this speaks volumes for the people, who numbered many thousands.

During the few lulls in the rainfall the villagers, or rather the wives of the villagers, congregated at the street corners, and in their own kindly, matronly way, gave expression of their sympathy with those who had been sufferers by the disaster. One reporter described this as “The piteous heart-breaking sorrow which found vent ever and anon in the wail “Oh, my puir dear brither, my wee wee brither,” and the expressive, heavily drawn “ah ma,” brought tears to the eyes of many a one who  before was inclined to the “melting mood.”

In the course of the afternoon, Rev. Mr Halliday, Dr Fergus Ferguson, and several other clergymen locally connected and also from a distance visited the houses of many of the bereaved, and afforded what consolation lay in their power.

As showing the community of interest which existed immediately following the disaster,  it should be mentioned that upon the news of these clergy and clerical visitations spreading, the respective houses were at once crowded by congregations, who joined earnestly in the religious services which were conducted, outside the homes of the dead.

Extract from “Hollow Earth & Hardship” by Paul Veverka

Leave a Reply