Blood on the Coal – Part 11

A final part in the story of Auchinraith Pit Disaster which happened on Saturday 30th August 1930. Continued from Part 10 yesterday.

At the cemetery at High Blantyre, the scene was both impressive and sombre. The chief mourners passed through the ranks of St Josephs Silver Band which played the dead march from Saul and four coffins were placed on crepe covered trestles at the Blantyre Cenotaph. (War Memorial). The scene is pictured with people observing from the nearby former tenements of Cemetery Road.

For a few moments, silence filled the air which was felt by all. Then, Rev James Gibb, M.A Stonefield Parish Church who presided over the religious ceremony intimated that there would be one collective service and the coffins would then be taken to their respective graves with a smaller concluding service there in more private circumstances.

There were many ministers in attendance. Amongst them Rev Nahum Leveson, Rev James Clyde, Rev Robert Ferguson, Rev Jas. Shanks, Mr William Wilson of the Baptist Church, Captain Fred Griffin and Lieut Cyril Coates of the Salvation Army, Rev Wilkie and Walter McLagan of the Church of Nazarene. The Catholic services for Joseph Regan was conducted by Father Fennessy of St Joseph’s Church.

Rev James Gibb said he had been appointed on behalf of the ministers of Blantyre to express their collective deep sympathy with those who were bereaved. It was not necessary for him to say anything about bereavement. “We feel”, he said, “and if we did not feel, no words of mine would suffice. We knew them as you knew them and we have passed in and out of their houses. We can only give the bereaved our sympathy, not only now but at all times.” Prayers were offered by other clergy and the coffins were silently raised and carried to their respective places of interment.

The graves of four of the miners are pictured, with thanks to Robert Stewart. The lairs are as follows in case anybody ever wants to visit:

Joseph Reagan – P 142
Andreas Kalinsky – I 696
Richard King – H 237
William Sprott  – H 449
Richard Dunsmuir – A 43

The procession immediately afterwards proceeded to the house of Joseph Regan whose death had consequent loss to three already motherless children, formed one of the most fragile outcomes of the disaster. Perhaps the most woeful picture of all was that of Regan’s son, a slender boy walking slowly behind the cortege. He was accompanied by two boy cousins and a number of friends and relatives. He was obviously labouring under the great stress and his emotions showed. His lips trembled and his face was white and drawn as he bravely held one of the coffin ropes with his fathers remains, being lowered into the grave. This was the funeral of the last of the victims in Blantyre and the large crowd quietly dispersed.

The funeral of George Shorthouse, 10 Gladstone Street Burnbank took place at the same time at Bent Cemetery in Hamilton, very much quieter on a more private family scale. The arrangements for all the funerals were entirely made by the local officials of the Lanarkshire Miners’ Union.

May these men all rest in Peace and be remembered here.

With kind thanks to the Rochead family for the Blantyre Gazette which provided much of this detail.

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  1. Paul, this has been a wonderful historic series which I have thoroughly enjoyed over the past 11 days.
    The series of photographs and in depth details of events are all an incredible reflection of the hardships of miners’ lives and struggles.
    The numbers of folks turning out on the streets of Blantyre just blew me away.
    My mother would have been a 16 year old lass living in Merry’s Rows at the time of the disaster and this story makes me wonder what emotions she would have had.
    Thanks to you and all who provided support in preparing this series. All very much appreciated.

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