William Boyle 1828-1877 & Simon Boyle 1862-1877

1877 Dixons Explosion. Bringing up the dead

William Boyle was born in Ireland around 1828. His parents were Hugh Boyle and Rose Ann Gallagher. William married Helen (or Ellen) McDonagh in 1860 at Airdrie and became a coal miner. The 1861 census shows Helen and William living at 1 Clarkston’s Land, Coatdyke, Old Monklands with children Rosy 13 and Mary 3 months.

In 1862, their son Simon was born.

In 1871 Helen and William was living at 8 Clarkston’s Land, Coatdyke with son Simon 8 and mother Sarah Donnagh 60.

In either 1876 or 1877, the Boyle family came to Blantyre. William and son Simon took up employment at Dixon’s Pits in High Blantyre and the family resided at Dixon’s Rows at 8 Hall Street. In 1877, William was 49 and Simon was just 15.

The explosion on 22nd October 1877 killed over 200 people, amongst them both William and Simon Boyle.

William died aged 49 at 8.45am on 22 October 1877 at No. 3 Pit Dixon’s Colliery Blantyre and was buried in Dalbeth Cemetery on 29 October. Cause of Death “Fire-damp Explosion. The Informant was Helen Boyle, widow by her X mark on the death certificate.

Simon died also on 22nd October 1877, aged only 15 but rescuers could not get to his body until 3rd November once obstructions had been cleared in the pit.

We can only imagine the grief Helen would have felt knowing husband William had died, then a few days later having to learn about her son. Women were typically not permitted to identify the bodies, but in Helen’s case, she got to identify her son Simon with the assistance of a neighbour at Dixon’s Rows, Mr John McGuiness. This was a bit of an exception. Helen was allowed into the mortuary as there had been some confusion in identifying Simon until his mother was involved.

Funerals were held in the Roman Catholic Chapel at Stonefield before a processions formed and they headed for Dalbeth Cemetery.

What happened to Helen McDonagh, the widow is interesting to add. Born in Ireland in 1841 she was the daughter of Thomas McDonagh, a farm labourer and Laura Fiddes.

Helen was a widow from 1877 until 1885, when aged 44, she re-married to Lawrence Lynch at the Roman Catholic Church in Blantyre on 18 January 1885. She lived at 14 Govan Street. Lawrence was younger, at 36 and was listed as a coal miner. Witnesses were Michael Quin and Catherine Wallace. This marriage most likely ended her entitlement to a widow relief payment made from the Blantyre Disaster fund.

The 1891 census shows Helen and Lawrence living at 28 Calder Street, Blantyre. She died aged 48 on 7th May 1895 at 28 Calder Street, Blantyre and is buried in High Blantyre Cemetery in the ‘common ground’.

From the forthcoming Blantyre mining book, “Hollow Earth, Hard Lives” by Paul Veverka (c)

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