Shortly after 8 o’clock on the morning of Monday 21st May 1894, while a mineral train was proceeding on the Caledonian Railway from Newton to Blantyre, in the vicinity of Priory Colliery, the engine driver observed 4 men walking on the line with their backs to the advancing train.
He reversed his engine, applied the brakes and whistled, but to no purpose as the men were soon overtaken by the halting train. They may not have heard the engine due to the direction of the wind and two of them were knocked down by the engine and thrown clear of the rails, a third was dragged underneath the engine for a distance of 2 hundred yards before the train was eventually brought to a standstill. The other man escaped unhurt but shaken.
Mr Thom of Messrs William Baird & Co had passed the men a few minutes previously and noticing the train approaching, turned and shouted to them, but failed to attract their attention. Two of the men were killed outright, and the third only lived about half an hour. The man who escaped could give no account of the others, as he had only met them a short time before at the Priory Colliery, where he also had been seeking employment. It was afterwards ascertained that the men had called at the colliery, and sought work as navvies, at the sidings which messrs Symington were laying from the Caledonian Railway to the new pit. Being unsuccessful in their quest, they had set out evidently with the intention of going to Hamilton next.
From police enquiries at Blantyre, it was later learned that the three men arrived from Ireland only on the previous Friday night. I have been able to determine that the name of those killed were John CASSIDY, Edward CONROY and Patrick LARKIN.
Whilst this is a sad story, I can never understand these sort of railway accidents. There are TWO lines on this track, an eastwards and westwards track. Surely they could have walked on the track which faced oncoming trains and been able to have advance warning. It seems rather incomprehensible that anybody even in those times, would walk with their backs to approaching trains.