‘Old Joe’ Davidson

At the start of July 1908, a Cambuslang man, Joseph Davidson passed away , aged 63. He was a known figure not only in Cambuslang, but also in Blantyre and was known as “Old Joe” on account of all his years spent working in the mine making him look far older than he was.

When he was around 32, he happened to be working in Blantyre at the time of the 1877 Explosion, though being off shift was not directly involved in the explosion. However, he was amongst the first to volunteer to form an initial search party. His death prompted a recalling of the horrors he had witnessed in his lifetime and how badly it had affected him.

He was in the years before his death in receipt of 5s per week from the Blantyre Explosion Fund due to the services he provided during the rescue attempts and being paid monthly had just received his most recent 20s just before his death.

Old Joe was never averse in retelling his experiences in that terrible search but left out the most harrowing of details. He had told a story of how the rescue party were handed refreshments of water mixed with brandy, and whilst he was a teetotaller, had accepted the stiff drink following the sights and scenes he had encountered. His family said that so harrowing were the sights Old Joe saw, that he had trouble sleeping for a long time well after 1877 had ended. His insomnia was constant, his mind reverting always back to seeing the mangled bodies of so many fellow humans. By his own account, on one occasion he had tramped the streets of Blantyre for nearly 60 hours straight, night and day, back and forth until eventually sheer exhaustion caught up with him and took him to a decent sleep.

Old Joe, whilst not a Blantyre man, is worthy of a mention here for his bravery and endeavours. He was buried in Westburn Cemetery in July 1908.

1877 Pit Disaster Print (purchased by PV)

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