Auchinraith Disaster - 30 August 1930

Six men were killed by an explosion of fire-damp:

  • Richard Cowan Dunsmuir, coal hewer, single, age 24
  • Andreas Kalinsky, coal hewer, single, age 24
  • Richard King, coal hewer, married, age 57
  • Joseph Regan, coal hewer, widower, age 43
  • George Shorthouse, coal hewer, single, age 64
  • William Sprott, underground fireman, married, age 43

Newspaper Reports 

Eight Miners Dead - Pit Accidents Near Glasgow - Serious Blantyre Explosion
Pit accidents involving the death of eight miners occurred on Saturday near Glasgow. Six of the fatalities resulted from an explosion which took place shortly after 8 o'clock in the morning in the Black Band seam of No 1 Pit, Auchenraith Colliery, Blantyre.

Five of the miners were killed instantaneously, the sixth succumbing to his injuries early yesterday morning, and nine other miners were burned.

Fatal accidents also occurred at Cambuslang and Baillieston. [click here for details]

1000 Feet Below Surface - The disaster was was of the most serious that has occurred in Scotland for a considerable time. The pit in which the accident took place belongs to Messrs Merry and Cunninghame Ltd and is situated in the Blantyre Colliery district.

The list of dead and injured is as follows:
William Sprott, firemen, 2 Auchenraith Terrace Blantyre;
Joseph Regan, miner, 7 Watson Street, Blantyre.
Robert King, miner, 182 High Street, High Blantyre
George Shorthouse, miner, 10 Gladstone Street, Burnbank
Andrew Kalinsky, miner, 20 Merry's Row, Blantyre
Richard Dunsmuir, 16 Small Crescent, Blantyre

The following were injured:
John Smith, 15 Merry's Rows, Blantyre
William Stoddart, 69 Auchenraith Rows, Blantyre
Alexander Paterson, 21 Merry's Row, Blantyre
John Copland, Radnor Place Blantyre
William Fox, 4 Victoria Street Blantyre
Robert Buchannan, 58 Craig Street Blantyre
J. Wildman, Beckford Street, Hamilton [NB Scotsman gives name as John Wildeman]
A. Russell, 74 Russell Place, Burnbank [NB Scotsman gives name as James Russell]
J Wales.

Dunsmuir and Stoddart were conveyed to the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, in a critical condition. Dunsmuir died early yesterday morning.

Manager's Statement - The general manager of the company, Mr John Hogg, in a statement to a reporter, said that he personally regretted to have to record a serious accident in the company's Auchenraith Colliery that morning. The accident, he said, occurred about 8:15am and was due, in his opinion, to an ignition of fire damp in the Black Band section of No. 1 pit. In all 15 men were at work in the section when the explosion took place. The men in the other sections of the pit being totally unaware that an explosion had occurred.

The management recognised, Mr Hogg continued, that the explosion would in all likelihood be serious, and accordingly a telephone message was sent to the Lanarkshire Rescue Brigade at Coatbridge. In a very short time at the brigade arrived, fully equipped with their respirators, and with all speed set to work underground to rescue the men.

Doctors Descend Mine - In a short time doctors were on the scene. Dr Fisher, Dr La Raine, and Dr Adam Stewart, whose father, a miner, was killed recently in a fall in a nearby colliery, rendered every possible assistance, Dr Stewart being among the first rescuers to descend the shaft to the pit bottom.

The spot in which the accident occurred is about 170 fathoms, or approximately 1000 feet below the surface of the ground. The men had been at work for an hour or two when apparently, it became necessary to insert a shot in order to loosen the seam. The shot was fired, and simultaneously an explosion occurred and a sheet of flame burst out in the face of the miners.

Ambulance Teams Efforts - The fact that something had gone amiss was soon communicated to the surface, though the noise of the explosion was not audible in other parts of the workings, and immediately every effort to succour the injured men was set on foot. Prominent in these early efforts were the Auchenraith Colliery Ambulance team. A representative of the Glasgow Herald was informed by a miner who had come off the night shift shortly before the accident, that the rescue work was done by relays of ambulance men and rescue workers, stretchers being taken down the pit to carry the men from the scene of the disaster to the cage.

Severe Burns - The call for assistance was answered with alacrity by the Coatbridge Rescue Brigade, who, with all their equipment to combat the dangerous fumes in the affected section, proceeded fearlessly to their task of removing the men from the danger zone. Their work was, fortunately, little hampered by debris, the roof and sides of the section having been scarcely disturbed by the explosion.

By 10.30 the last of the bodies had been recovered and brought up but for several hours afterwards unwonted groups of sad faced men and women lingered at the pithead and in the streets which make up the mining community

Distressing details of the calamity were revealed in interviews which representatives of the Glasgow Herald had with relatives of the injured and survivors of the disaster. The miner Regan, who lost his wife some time ago, had left a family of five children, the eldest of whom, a girl of 16 years of age, acted as his housekeeper. Smith who escaped with injuries was sitting with Stoddart about 25 yards from the coalface, taking a meal. Suddenly, Smith said, there was an explosion, which seemed to shake the earth. He saw a blinding flash that swept both of them off their seats, and both of them were knocked unconscious. Later they tried to crawl from the spot where the accident happened, but the effort was too much for them, and they remembered nothing more until they found themselves at the pithead. Smith said that if the explosion had been a moment or two later he would have been back at his place at the coalface, and, he observed grimly " would have had no more to tell."

Saved By Army Instinct - Another of the injured, Alexander Paterson, who was in bed when representatives of the Glasgow Herald saw him, bore traces of the ordeal through which he had passed. Paterson's face was disfigured by burns, and his cheeks and forehead were smeared with oil, which had been applied to lesson his pain. The shock was so severe, he said, that he was quite unable to give an actual account of the happening at the pit bottom.

"Somehow", he added "my war-time experience came back to me instinctively, and without thinking what I was doing I ducked when I saw the flame. I think I saved myself by that from being more seriously burned."

Sick Wife's Ordeal - Mrs Sprott, wife of one of the dead men, who has been ill for some time, was not aware of the explosion until after nine o'clock, and on rising then, unaware that her own husband had been involved, she comforted another woman who had collapsed. She heard her husband's name shouted among those who had still to be brought to the surface, and was so overcome by the shock that she had to be carried to bed.

Another of the dead men, Kalinsky, had started work only on Monday last after having been unemployed for a considerable time.

Three clergymen, the Rev. James Gibb, Stonefield Parish Church, Blantyre; the Rev. Naburn Levison, Anderson Church, Blantyre; and the Rev Father Fennessy, St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Blantyre, visited the homes of the dead and injured during the forenoon.

Soon after the occurrence Mr A. Stoker, one of His Majesty's Senior Inspectors of Mines in Scotland, and Mr P G Dominy, a Junior Inspector of Mines, descended the pit, and were later joined by Mr J Masteron, Divisional Inspector of Mines in Scotland.

Official Statement - Some time after Mr Masterton's return to the surface the following official statement was issued:-
The explosion occurred in a section of the Black Band coal seam, where 15 men were employed. The Rescue Brigade from Coatbridge was on the scene a little after 9am. By 10am ten men had been brought to the surface suffering from the effects of after damp or burning; two were taken to the Infirmary, the others being taken to their homes. About midday the bodies of the other five men were brought to the surface. The underground roadway and workings have not suffered much damage.

A thorough inspection of the workings, the statement concluded, has been made by the colliery officials, Mr Masteron, Divisional Inspector of Mines, and two of his assistants, along with two miners' representatives, but the cause of the accident has not yet been ascertained.

Sympathetic reference to the disaster was made yesterday in the various churches in the Blantyre area. [Glasgow Herald September 1 1930]

Blantyre Pit Disaster - Six Victims to be Buried Today - Arrangements were made yesterday by the Blantyre branch of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union for the funeral of five of the six victims of the explosion on Saturday at Auchenraith Colliery. The five men, who will be interred today in High Blantyre Cemetery are Andrew Kalinsky, Merry's Rows; Richard Dunsmuir, Small Crescent; William Sprott, Auchenraith Terrace; and Richard King, High Street - all of Blantyre; and Joseph Regan, Watson Street, Larkhall.

As a tribute to the memory of the dead miners all the pits in Blantyre and district will be closed today. The shops will also be shut for a period. Five local bands will lead the cortege.

The internment of the sixth victim, George Shorthouse, who resided in Gladstone Street, Burnbank, Hamilton, will be private, and will take place today to the Bent Cemetery, Hamilton. [Glasgow Herald September 2 1930]