Remembering John Traynor b1861 – d1877

One of the saddest things about the Blantyre Pit Disaster of 1877, was the loss of life of such young boys, who due to being born in that era had already been thrust into working in the depths of the earth from a young age. One such boy is John Traynor (sometimes Trainer, Trainor or Crowe) who lost his life in the Blantyre Colliery Explosion at just 15 years old. His story is researched here:

John Traynor was born in Old Monkland (Airdrie) on 23rd December 1861, the son of Edward Traynor and Agnes Cunningham, who was of Irish ancestry. His parents had married on 30th January 1856 in Airdrie and children soon followed. However, this family was destined to live through multiple tragedies which are only too difficult to comprehend.

A daughter was born in 1857, Catherine who died as a baby. Another baby daughter was born in 1859, but died the same year. In 1860 a further daughter Jane was born, but she only lived for a year, dying in 1861. By the fifth year of the marriage, all three children had died in infancy.

John was then born in 1861, the first child to live beyond 1 year old but of course his fate was sealed. A son Peter was also born in 1861. A daughter Agnes in 1864, son Edward in 1866 and another son James in 1869, all John’s younger siblings.

On 3rd January 1870 at the age of only 39, John’s father died of an asthma related condition. His family, including John are mapped out in this article.

By the age of 9 according to the 1871 census, young John Traynor was living with this grandmother Agnes, his mother Agnes, his Uncle James and of course his own younger siblings. It was a busy household at 88 Bell Street, Airdrie and John is noted as being a scholar in Airdrie. He wasn’t there for much longer though, for without a father figure in the household, circumstances had him having to go to work from an early age.

When the coalfields in Blantyre were sunk, we know that John Traynor had moved to Blantyre and was employed in Dixon’s Colliery Pit 2 at High Blantyre. A payslip exists showing not just his wage but confirming the pit number and noting him as a pit driver, i.e he worked underground with the pit ponies.

It was often the first task new, young lads were given-to lead the pony- to pull tubs of coal or materials- along the pit floor. Here the ponies would live in purpose-built underground stables for 50 weeks of the year. The brick-paved walk led to the 12 to 15- foot -wide passage which was divided by wooden partitions providing comfortable sized stalls and protected by thick wooden planks on huge roof supports. To put this in context this was below the land where Redburn Farm is now.

There’s a report he lived at Pilot Acre, which were miners homes in front of Blantyre Bowling Club, just off Stonefield Road (co-incidentally on the land now the home of my brother!)

On the morning of 22nd October 1877, the Pit Explosion at High Blantyre took the life of John Traynor, as well as his cousin James Clark (19), whom along with his uncle John Cunningham, it is thought he lived with at Stonefield.

By the evening of Thursday 8th November 1877, efforts to clear the debris from Pit Number 3 shaft to access the pit at that area were still underway. However, bodies were still being found, even 17 days on from the explosion and by that particular evening, access was obtained from Pit Number 2, which linked to Pit 3. It was then that three bodies were discovered, amongst them in the debris within the sump of Shaft 3, was John Traynor. He was brought to the surface via Pit 2 shaft in the early hours of Friday 8th November 1877.

He was identified at the pithead by his grieving mother. With his father no longer alive, John Cunningham John’s Uncle provided support for his sister at the loss of her child. We know this to be the case as it was written in the Glasgow Herald later that day.

John Traynor’s body was found in the No 3 shaft, which was directly below the front lounge of Redburn Farm Inn. Today, there is a memorial mirror in the lounge remembering the disaster along with various images and plaques.

There are conflicting reports of John’s age caused mostly by inaccuracy in newspaper reports of the time, but having researched this, I confirm John was indeed 15, just short of his 16th birthday. His death certificate is attached and AI images the type of work John had to endure.

In October 2022, Blantyre woman Mary Crowe, descended from this family, unveiled the new miners memorial stones at High Blantyre Cemetery, near to where John is buried, remembering John and all others by name. His story told here today, further ensures he won’t be forgotten.

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