It seems barbaric to us now, but it’s easy to forget that there were ponies being used in the mines and they too were victims of the Blantyre Pit Disaster. Such animals had underground stables, living life under the ground and would surely have been blinded by sunlight if they ever came up.
Looking after the ponies was usually a job for boys and unfortunately, boys of a very young age, sometimes as young as 11, 12 or 13. We’re reminded of this when looking at events on Day 1 of the attempted rescue of the miners on that tragic day 22nd October 1877.
Several bodies had been brought up that first afternoon, but one particular visit back down by rescuers that day had a particular horror that would never be forgotten.
The search party took a different direction and arrived in those dark tunnels to a place near the underground stables, where the pit ponies were ‘looked after’.
There, the sight was gruesome. Three more bodies were observed and recovered by one of the fist gangs of explorers. The bodies were of young boys. The pony drivers.
Those Blantyre children were aged between 12 and 14 and this presented just as much as a shocking sight for those on the surface when they were brought up no 2 shaft, as it had been for the search party finding them. They were literally encased in mud; the faces were blackened and charred, and the arms, from which the clothes had been torn, were chiefly stained with blood. The poor little fellows had evidently had a fearful, but at the same time, speedy death. Two of them, named Bolton and Henry, were pony drivers, and they were discovered lying beside their dead animals who they previously had charge of. A third lad was identified as the son of a man named Gilmour, whose body was removed from the same pit at an hour earlier. The names of the three boys were Joseph Gilmour (13), Robert Henry (14) and William Bolton (13).
Extract from the book, “Hollow Earth & Hardship” by Paul Veverka