Recalling the Disaster, 1877

Rev William C MacDougall was the founder of the Convalescent Home for Miners in Saltcoats and ran the institution in 1898. However, prior to his time on the west coast, he had been in Blantyre for some time, including being present during the Pit Explosion of 1877.

In November 1898, Rev MacDougall held a social event at the home which was well attended by both young and old people. After giving a hearty welcome, he proceeded to tell everybody about the matters which gave rise to him wanting to care for the welfare of miners.

Recalling back to his time in Blantyre and in particular to that awful time in October 1877, he remembered and told of his time keeping vigil at the pithead at High Blantyre, hoping for news, hoping for survivors and comforting families. He had seen the wretched fellows brought up, hutch after hutch of dead men to be identified by their widows and families. Children wailing as fathers, brothers and uncles were put into coffins and taken to their homes around Blantyre.

He told the crowd that he could not remember or imagine a more gruesome sight and it had deeply affected him, wanting for him to do more. The speech continued, recalling his time of visiting the desolate homes in Blantyre afterwards where 2 or sometimes 3 coffins were seen in the same house. It was a time of deep sorrow and suffering in the whole village. The scenes left him with an awful impression of what happened in those pits. One story was also told of how a young man’s body could hardly be identified, nothing left more than clothes and the mining lamp he carried. A terrible spectacle.

Thoughts then turned to 2 decades later as Rev William MacDougall told of the successes and care he and his colleagues had provided for injured miners and that how generally safety conditions in mines were very, ever so slowly improving.

Photo illustration: by AI.

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