Report on the Blantyre Colliery Explosion

The opening pages and exploring conclusions from the official Blantyre Pit Explosion Inquiry Report from 21st December 1877. Transcribed by myself here word for word for the first time, the ‘Report on the Blantyre Colliery Explosion’ was by Robert MacLean Esq of Edinburgh (Advocate) and Joseph Dickinson Esq of South Bank Pendleton (Manchester), one of her Majesty’s Inspectors of Mines.

The report was presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria.

Introduction dated 21st December 1877 – “Sirs, The announcement of your determination to have a public inquiry into the cause of the Blantyre Colliery Explosion was duly received by Mr. Dickinson on the 24th October 1877. In consequence of that announcement, he on the 27th October being the fifth day after the explosion, made an inspection of the accessible parts of the mine, in order to see the traces of the blast from actual observation, before the markings had become obliterated. We have since had the honour to receive from you a Commission in the following terms:- “I, the Right Honourable Richard Assheton Cross, one of Her Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State, hereby appoint Robert MacLean Esq of Edinburgh, Advocate and Joseph Dickinson, Esq of her Majesty’s Inspectors of Mines to be Commissioners to inquire into the case of the recent explosion at the Blantyre Collieries, and to report the result to me accordingly. Whitehall, 5th November 1877, Signed Richard Assheton Cross.”

“Having put ourselves in communication with each other and the Lord Advocate having fixed through the authorities at the time and place for holding the inquiry, and the same having been advertised in appropriate newspapers, we on Monday 12th November 1877, opened the inquiry at the County Hall, Hamilton and during 11 days continued the same from day to day until the evening of 23rd November 1877. We have since considered the evidence, and have now to report to you as follows: – “


“The inquiry was open to the public, a large number of persons attending daily. All who could give information were invited to do so. At the opening of the inquiry and throughout the proceedings, Mr. Alexander Macdonald. M.P was present, representing the Miners National Association. Mr. Strachan, advocate instructed by Mr. Lucas Solicitor, appeared for the relatives of certain of the deceased. A representative was also present, taking notes on behalf of the owners of the colliery. On the four concluding days, Mr. J.M. Robertson, solicitor, Glasgow appeared on behalf of Mr. James Watson, manager of the colliery.”

“Forty-eight witnesses presented themselves and were examined. Ten others were present for corroboration, but were not examined. The 48 who were examined consisted of the manager of the colliery, four oversmen, one miner’s agent, eight firemen, two cube or ventilating furnace men, 18 miners, two pit headsmen, one check weigher, one redsman, six coal masters, managers, or mining engineers, three inspectors of mines and one joiner.

In the examination of the witnesses, those called and examined by Mr. Strachan on behalf of the friends of the deceased, and those by Mr. Robertson on behalf of the manager, were from briefs or written precognitions. Those examined by ourselves were so examined without our previously knowing what they would say, and had to be inquired of in line which they took.

Mr. J.A Dykes, Procurator Fiscal kindly furnished a summary, showing that 209 lives had been lost in the explosion. Of these, 103 were taken out of No.3 Pit, dead and two others who died in the infirmary; 100 taken out of No 2 pit dead, and one other who died in the infirmary. At the time the remaining two were missing, but they have since been recovered from No. 2 pit, dead. 23 escaped from No. 2. On behalf of the owners of the colliery, Mr. Frederick Duncan one of their mining managers, attended during the inquiry and rendered us great service. He put in the accompanying plan of the workings; also a copy of the special rules, duly established at the colliery under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872 and provided for inspection the various report books kept under the Act.”

PV adds: We know today that though this report stated 209 people died, a further 6 were known to have been there, died at the time of subsequently thereafter from their injuries, taking the known total to 215. The inquiry findings continue tomorrow….

[Source Page A2 of the Inquiry Report]

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