1877 Pit Disaster Volunteers

1877 the rescuers get their bibles wm

One of my favourite photos, if only as one of my family appears in it! This is of course the photo of the Pit Disaster rescuers in 1877. The men have been presented with a large bible for their valiant efforts in descending into the pit following the disaster. The term “rescuer” is perhaps misleading though for they were more “volunteers” who ended up retrieving bodies.

At least three doctors are pictured, with them, their medical chests. Amongst them is Doctor William Grant sitting near the front right.

However, there’s something strange though about this photo. Two of the men involved in the rescue were not present for the picture and were later added in. You may just be able to make that out in the back row to the left of the window? One of those men is my great, great grandfather, John Bowie who we are fortunate enough to have a detailed account of his volunteer efforts down in the water logged depth of the mine, during the aftermath of the disaster.

I feel somewhat connected to this picture, in ancestry and of course with great interest in the disaster. My photo wasn’t great in quality, but thanks to Gordon Cook for this better copy, I can zoom in on some of the detail and faces as below:

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:

Gail Gillon Oh my, what a fascinating picture. Look at those grim faces. Remarkable piece of history.
John Dunsmore Total respect for these gentlemen it must have been horendest down there
Maggie Anderson What a great picture for you to have Blantyre Project…..for your future generations to look back to x
Ruth Smith Thanks for sharing this Paul! Is Dr Grant the second from the right in the front row? I only have pictures of him as an older man so finding it hard to recognise him. Thanks
Deesha Shaw Wondering if you have names for everyone involved? My dad told me that he, or was it his father? Was involved in the campaign for the current memorial, now sited at High Blantyre, though I seem to recall that it used to be elsewhere. My dad is now dead, and I never knew his dad.
Blantyre Project Sorry, dont have all the names. Would love to see that if they’re ever found though!

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  1. My great grandfather went down the pit in the first rescue team. For this he received a pension of 5/- a year pension

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