Firemen’s Examination, 1877

Part of the summary from the official Inquiry Report for “Blantyre Colliery Explosion” of 1877. Transcribed by myself word for word for the first time appearing online, this particular detailed section summarises the cross witnessing of the Pit Firemen:


“The day firemen of No. 2 pit went down the shaft on the morning of the explosion a little before 4.30am, which was later than usual, and their signal for the miners to come down was given at 5.20am, thus leaving an interval of only 50 minutes for their examination of the working places and travelling roads. Besides travelling from the shaft to the far ends and back again, each fireman had to inspect a large number of places most of which were bratticed.

Pickering, the oversman of No 3 Pit, who had previously been a fireman in one of those rounds in No 2, stated that it usually took him 80 minutes and that if on this occasion 45 minutes only were taken, it would have to be done running. Another important witness said it would take 2 hours to do this properly. The explosion happened at 8.45am. Time enough had therefore elapsed for the miners to be fully at work. But whether every place on the south side had been visited and found safe, and the miners put to work in all of them, there appears to be no survivor to tell. The night fireman of No 2 pit states that when he left the pit at 6am, the ventilation was as usual. The surviving day fireman who took the north side of the pit, states that his section was as usual, and that the south side fireman had returned, but that nothing passed between him and them on returning from their round to indicate that they had found anything unusual, and the men were signalled to come down the shaft.

“The day fireman of No.3 pit state that they found the ventilation as usual. The oversman had also been round part of the workings, and states that he found nothing wrong. It was the practice of the fireman to come up the shaft to breakfast after him, but on this morning, finding that the pit would be stopped for a time, the wagons at the top being full, the oversman told them they might go up with him. Two minutes after reaching the surface, the explosion took place.

“The manager was at the top of No 3 shaft, superintending the patting in of a new cage above the shaft mouth, and got badly burned by the flame which came up the shaft. He afterwards told the oversman, “Surely you had left something desperately wrong”. The oversman said, “No, everything was right.” The firemen also denied having come up in consequence of any apprehension of danger. “

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