Clyde on Fire, 1885

Here’s a story which you may not have heard of. In 1885, local people witnessed a spectacular and curious phenomenon, not seen since…. when the River Clyde was visibly on fire near Bothwell Bridge. Yes, you heard that right. The newspapers of Tuesday 14th July 1885 reported this rare and strange event as follows:

“The singular sight is at present to be witnessed of a fire issuing from the waters of the river Clyde, a few hundred yards below Bothwell Bridge, and on Sunday and yesterday it attracted to the scene thousands of curious spectators.”

“For some time back, near the mouth of the Auchenraith burn, and not far from the left bank the river, the water has in one or two places been seen to bubble up, the largest of the agitated parts marking a circle nearly a foot in circumference. Still, no heed was taken of the circumstance until Thursday last, when an angler, while wading in the stream, which, owing to the dry weather, is abnormally low, scratched a match to light his pipe, and in throwing it from him the water at once caught fire and emitted a brilliant flame.”

“It is now clear that the gas issuing from the mineral workings underneath is finding its way through a fissure in the strata to the surface of the water, and had been kindled by the lighted match. The boys amuse themselves trying, though ineffectually, to put out the tongue of flame, which at night rises to a height of four or five feet. A miner succeeded in extinguishing it with a flat stone, but it was at once rekindled.”

“Such occurrences though rare, are not unprecedented in Lanarkshire. In 1829, and for some successive years, the gas issuing from the limestone rock on the property of Holms, in Cadder parish, rose through the rock and even the water on its surface. It was easily kindled with a match, and burned brilliantly on the surface of the water. At the time of the first Blantyre explosion it was noticed as a curious fact that about twenty years before a bore was made above the fatal workings to a depth of 80 fathoms, when a jet of gas burst up, which on being lighted, continued to burn for some time. Again, eight years later, when another bore was put down about the same spot at a much greater depth, the gas issued through the aperture, and after being kindled burned for weeks.”

I’ve recently obtained the mine working plans for nearby former Whistleberry Colliery and see the underground workings ran directly below this spot. Ironically, the venting escape of this gas may actually have prevented a more serious incident below ground.

AI imagines this scene quite exclusively and imaginatively.

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