Pit Explosion Inquiry Summary

The last part of the inquiry document, a 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 end section summarises the all the inquiry’s findings, presented to the Government at Whitehall.


In summing up the causes conducing to the explosion we find:-
– That the kindling of the firedamp and its continuing to burn at the points of issue from the coal indicated a fiery mine.
– That the mine being dry caused the issues to be inaudible.
– That the firedamp being very pure caused it to flash off ordinarily , with only a slight fluttering or lengthening of the flame and seldom any blue cap, which prevented the presence of large admixtures in the air being previously detected.
– That work was allowed to go on with safety-lamps near to and at times underneath, large accumulations of firedamp at part of the colliery where stoops or pillars were being wrought.
-That open lights were allowed generally throughout all other parts of the mine and in the return air from the accumulated firedamp.
– That the issues and accumulation of firedamp were treated as if of trifling importance.
– That the mine had been opened out too rapidly, without allowing time for the firedamp to drain out of the seam.
– That too many places were at work, with a labyrinth of old rooms or boards between the working faces and the shafts, whilst this drainage of gas was going on.
– That fast drivings were made too far in advance before ‘throughing’ or completing each stoop or pillar.
– That too many and unnecessarily long drivings were dependant upon bratticed air.
– That too many places were ventilated under such circumstances by one of the splits or divisions of air.
– That consequent upon those issues and accumulation of firedamp, excessive extension and bratticing, disregard of precautions as to lighting and blasting, and inadequate ventilation, the system broke down.
– That the mine being very dry and dusty, and the coal of an inflammable kind materially helped to spread the flame and blast of the explosion.
– The gauze safety-lamps used in Scotland being very much larger than the Davy, should in our opinion be experimented upon in an explosive current, in order to test the velocity at which the gauzes admit of external ignition.
– The Coal Mines Regulations Act 1872 was apparently not complied with in the following respects by those acting in the management, and in some of the instances by the miners.
– Numerous findings of firedamp in small quantities at points of issue and accumulated firedamp at the stooping were not entered in the Report books, there being only two such entries during the three months preceding the explosion.
– Work was allowed to go on at the Stoopings where the ventilation was not adequate to dilute and render harmless noxious gases, as required by the first General Rule.
– The Ventilation reports were, by a technical mistake of the printer, entered in books under General Rule 3 instead of 2.
– The keeping out and withdrawal of miners consequent upon dangerous firedamp were not entered on every occasion as required by General Rule 6.
– By powder being taken into the mine in paper parcels, contrary to sub-section b in General Rule 8.
– By powder being taken into panels of the mine loose in paper parcels and canisters, instead of in cartridges, during three months after inflammable gas had been found in those panels, sub-sections f and g, General Rule 8.
– By shots being fired at the Stoopings where it was not safe to do so , sub section f. No 1 division, General Rule 8.
– By shots in other parts of the mine during three moths after inflammable gas had been found, being fired without the direction and immediate previously examination of the place and the places contiguous thereto, either by the firemen who were appointed to that duty in the special rules or by some other competent person appointed the purpose, sub section f, No 1 division, General Rule 8.
– By shots being fired in certain parts of the mine, with the ordinary work persons not out of the mine or not out of that panel of the mine where inflammable gas issued so freely that it fired and occasionally showed a blue cap on the flame of the safety-lamp, sub section f, No1 and 2 divisions, and sub section b of no 2 General Rule 8.
– By, on a former occasion, but not within the required three months last past, the non-fencing off of gas at the entrance to a place not in actual course or working or extension, General Rule 4.
– No penalty that could be imposed under the Coal Mines Act would be at all appropriate to this awful catastrophe. It presents to some extent an exceptional state of things. According to the evidence no penuriousness (as might have been found accompanying the depressed state of the coal trade) contributed to it. The owners supplied everything that was required. Nearly even man who had any share in the occurrence lost his life. The manager was at his post of duty and got burned. The oversman and all except one day fireman lost their loves in one pit and those of the other pit only escaped as by the skin of their teeth. Notwithstanding what occurred, of all who knew the mine but one or two seemed at all apprehensive of what might ensue. The Inspector of Mines and his assistant had frequently visited the mine, and never complained except to suggest that the men should inspect for themselves. The owners are severe sufferers by the wreck of property and the expense of and delay in restoration. The oversman who lost his life whilst underrating the danger, as has now been proved, stated but three days before the climax, “There was no fear, there will not be a man called in the pit”. The surviving sufferers have to be relieved. All are required to join heartily to prevent the recurrence of such a disaster. Anything that might interfere with this should in our opinion be carefully avoided.

The most alarming part of the evidence is that which shows that within a radius of two miles of Hamilton West Railway Station (in which Blantyre Colliery is situated), 14 new collieries, with 32 pits, varying from 120 to 180 fathoms in depth are either being sunk, or the coal being worked under the same system of stoop and room as at Blantyre, and that all of them give off firedamp. One of these collieries, situated at Cadzow, has opened the same seam as that in which the explosion took place at Blantyre and the issue of gas had at present caused the working to be discontinued. Unless warning be taken from what has happened at Blantyre, and such seams be opened out slower, with fewer places and much less bratticing until the gas has been drained and proper attention be given with respect to discipline and the use of lights and powder, the present explosion may, it is to be feared, be on the first of a series of similar catastrophes, such as have run through several other districts.

At Blantyre roere was plenty of known firedamp without supposing that what caused the explosion came from some unknown source in the waste amongst the formed stoops, where has had only on one previous occasion been found. But if there really be still reason to suppose that such an issue of gas came out of this waste, it affords another strong reason why psych a system of working as was here pursued should not be followed. The system is fit only where the issues of gas are not large, and there is ample surplus ventilation, and those acting in the management of the miner are throughly trained to the requirement it entails.

Our acknowledgements are due to the authorities for the arrangements provided at Hamilton, to the owners of the colliery and those connection therewith to the representatives of the miners, to the mining engineers, and the coal masters and others who gave evidence.

The evidence was sifted probably in every way that was possible under the circumstances, but in considering it, it is to be borne in mind that the owners took no part in the inquiry, and that it was only on the last four days that the manager was represented.

The notes taken by Mr Dickinson at the time are hereto appended. The transcript of the shorthand writer’s notes are also forwarded herewith. We are etc, Robert MacLean, Joseph Dickinson.
The Right Hon R.A. Cross, MP, Principal Secretary of State, Whitehall.

Photo Illustration exclusively for Blantyre Project by AI.

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