Lets turn another name on the list of Blantyre Pit Disaster dead into a real life, story.
When Henry Mccusker was born in 1846 in Ireland, his father, Michael, was 30 and his mother, Bridget, was 22. His brother James was born in 1847 in Ireland when Henry was 1 year old.
Between 1847 and 1851, the family travelled by ship to Scotland and settled in Lanarkshire, with Henry still only a baby. Henry Mccusker lived in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, in 1851, aged 5. His brother Patrick was born in 1852 in Bothwell, when Henry was 6 years old. A sister Sarah was born on 29 September 1855 when Henry was 9 years old. His sister Bridget was born on 23 November 1857 in Bothwell when Henry was 11 years old. His brother Michael was born on 18 September 1860 in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, when Henry was 14 years old.
Henry Mccusker lived in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, in 1861, aged 14 and it is around this time he started working, like his father as a miner. (His father Michael passed away on 15 September 1865 in Chapelhall, Lanarkshire, at the age of 49.)
Henry Mccusker married Mary O’Neil in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, on 8 July 1870 when he was 24 years old. They had four children during their marriage. His son James was born on 11 May 1871 in Bothwell, Lanarkshire. Bridget was born on 10 May 1873. Another son John was born in 1875, Jane born in 1876.
By Summer 1875 the whole family had moved across the river to Blantyre and lived at 26 Calder Street, Dixons Rows having moved from Bothwell with their growing family.
Like so many miner’s stories, Henry would only be in Blantyre less than 2 years before his life was taken. The Blantyre Pit Explosion on 22nd October 1877 snuffed out his life whilst he worked down Pit 2. His body lay in those dark depths of the pit for several weeks before rescuers could get to him.
When Henry’s body was eventually identified and his death registered on 30th November 1877 over a month after the accident, he wasn’t the first family member to lose his life. His brother James McCusker had died too, his death registered on 2nd November 1877 and that body identified by Mary Ann along with James’ wife. Poor Mary Ann having to identify her brother in law knowing her own husband’s body was still in the mine weeks later. This was a family devastated by the loss of two brothers who lived near each other.
Henry McCusker was originally buried in High Blantyre Cemetery on 26 November 1877, however this was not to be his final resting place.
A comment in the lair book stated “Removed to Dalbeath”, surely a request by this Irish family and where also were a large number of Catholic miners buried. He was unfortunately exhumed two days later, taken from Blantyre then reburied in Dalbeath on 28 November 1877.
What happened to the widow?
The story of the widow is an interesting one too. Mary Ann McCusker was left widowed with four children and like many other miners wives in the coming months, she had to leave the house owned by Dixons to make way for other, new miners. This would be especially difficult with 4 young children and she moved to a relatively new building in 1879 at Harts Land on Glasgow Road, finding herself a job as a farm servant. (This may have been on nearby Stonefield Farm.)
There, still aged only 28 and a single mother of four, she caught the eye of slightly younger man, William Graham aged 25 and on 6th January 1879, just 13 months after burying her husband, she remarried. Now, you can read into this what you want, but it is no coincidence that many widowed young mothers ended up remarrying again quickly. William Graham found himself stepdad to four children under eight, the youngest only three.
However, this was a marriage also not going to last with tragedy intervening again. Mary Ann Graham (previously McCusker) died from childbed (infection of some part of the female reproductive organs following childbirth or abortion.) Their baby John’s birth certificate sadly showing the mother had died.
Henry and Mary Ann’s children went on to have their own children as did theirs marrying into the Cushley family, so it is quite probable that there are living descendants of this family alive today with surname Cushley or McCusker.