Explosion of Firedamp at Blantyre Colliery

The following is an extract [Page A] from the Blantyre Colliery Explosion Inquiry Report, dated 21st December 1877. In particular a sub report by Messrs Ralph Moore, TE Wales, and James Willis, Inspectors of Mines.

Transcribed word for word by P. Veverka it provides a great insight into the disaster and indeed mining in the area in general. Illustrated by images never been seen before, created exclusively for Blantyre Project by AI.

Explosion of Fire-Damp at Blantyre Colliery
Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (Queen Victoria)
Rutherglen, November 22, 1877.

“About 9 o’clock on the morning of the 22nd October an explosion occurred in the splint-coal workings of this colliery, which has resulted in the death of 207 persons. This is the greatest number of lives that ever was lost in Scotland in a colliery accident; the greatest number before that time being where 61 lives were lost at Nitshill in 1851, by an explosion of fire-damp.”

“We have made several inspections of the workings with a view to ascertain the cause of the explosion. We have also heard the evidence given at the public inquiry, and having considered all the circumstances, we now submit the following report.”

“During the last six years a large area of the deepest coal in the Lanarkshire coalfield as been sunk to. Within a radius of two miles from the Hamilton West Station there are 14 new collieries, with 32 pits, varying from 120 to 180 fathoms in depth. Although some of these pits are still being sunk, there are already about 4,000 persons employed in this area. These collieries have all been supplied with modern machinery and fittings and for the most part, they are worked upon in the Newcastle system of ‘pillar and stall’ or ‘stoop and room’ and are in the most respects similar to English collieries in their arrangements and magnitude. All of them give off fire-damp.”

“Blantyre Colliery is one of these, and is situated two miles west of Hamilton. It belongs to the firm of Messrs. William Dixon (Limited) and is under the care and direction of Mr. Charles Thomson, managing partner and Mr. James Watson, certificated manager. Operations were commenced about six years ago [1871], and during that period 880,000 tons of coal have been raised. At the present time the colliery consists of the following pits: – “

No 1 – 24×8 feet reached the coal in the Spring of 1872; it works the Ell coal, 7 feet thick, at a depth of 117 fathoms, and the main coal, 4.5 feet thick, at 129.5 fathoms.
No 2 – 16×8 feet reached the coal in the summer of 1872, it works the splint coal 5.5 feet thick at a depth of 130 fathoms.
No 3 – 24×8 feet reached the coal in January 1877; it works the splint coal at 155 fathoms.
No 4 – 24×8 feet reached the coal in March 1877, it works the splint coal at 133 fathoms.
No 5 – 10 feet diameter, was completed in August 1876, and is used solely as an upcast shaft for Nos 1, 2 and 3 pits; it is 127 fathoms to the splint coal.

No 2 pit is to the direct rise of No 3 and is 680 yards to the west of it. No 1 is midway between them. No 4 is three quarters mile north of No 2 [at Larkfield]. No 5 is within 30 yards of No 2 pit. There is very little water in the colliery; what little there is runs down the sides of the shaft and is drawn in “chests” or tanks at No. 1 and 3 pits by the winding engines. Practically, there is no water in the splint coal. There is no pumping engine.”

“The workings of No 1 pit [High Blantyre] are connected by means of “blind pits” with those of No.2 pit. The workings of Nos. 2 and 3 pits are connected directly in the splint coal. Those of No. 4 pit are not yet connected with the workings of any other pit. About 500 persons were employed in the whole of the pits.”

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