Looking back at the Obelisk

On 4th February 23, I was honoured to preside over the unveiling ceremony of the new miners memorial at High Blantyre Cemetery. As my fundraising and co organiser colleague Jimmy Small and I stood by the new chest high memorial stones, the old Dixon’s obelisk, still rightly dominated the scene.

That same week, my history colleagues Gordon Cook, Alex Rochead and I were discussing the obelisk where I learned that a memorial had been planned in 1877, a full 6 years before the obelisk was erected.

The Scotsman, on Saturday 27th October 1877, page 6, only a few days after the Pit Disaster commented, “A proposal has, we believe, been made, and very favourably received, for the erection of a monument in Blantyre cemetery, between the two burial trenches, recording the circumstances of the accident.”

However, this memorial never came to be for a few more years. The Hamilton Advertiser, Saturday 23rd June 1883 stated, “MONUMENT TO THE KILLED IN THE BLANTYRE EXPLOSIONS.— Although, at the time of the first great explosion at Blantyre Collieries, in 1877, a proposal was mooted to mark the graves of the killed by a suitable memorial, it was lost sight of in view of the more pressing necessity of providing for the widows and orphans. In the Blantyre Parochial Cemetery, 135 of the killed in this and the subsequent explosion of 1879 lie buried; 60 are interred in the Catholic cemetery at Dalbeth, and the remainder in private ground in neighbouring churchyards. The Parochial Board of Blantyre having granted, as a free site, the central plot of the Blantyre Cemetery, Messrs William Dixon (Limited) have just caused a very handsome and appropriate memorial to be erected to the memory of the deceased, the majority of whom are buried underneath the broad green mound immediately adjoining.

The monument takes the form of an obelisk of Aberdeen granite, which, standing on a pedestal 4 ft. 8 in. square, is 20 feet in height, and forms a prominent feature as viewed from different points in the parish. It is suitably enclosed, and Mr J. M. Thomson, one of the partners, intends to send his gardener from Kilkerran to plant the ground at the base with flowers. The obelisk bears the following inscription :— “Erected by William Dixon (Limited) in memory of 240 of their workmen who were killed by explosions in Blantyre Colliery on 22nd October, 1877, and 2nd July, 1879, and many of whom are buried here.” 

Mr R. Gray, Glasgow, was contractor for the work. The Cemetery, which is situated near the village of High Blantyre, was opened in 1875.”

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  1. A super article Paul.
    Thanks to you, Alex and Gordon for the valuable history and extended thanks to everyone who cared enough to put in all the work and effort to make this happen.

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