26 March 1897 - Devon Colliery
6 killed by inundation by water:
- John Nicol, pitworker, Fishcross
- Peter Allan, underground oversman, Devon Tower
- David Allan, pitworker, Howetown
- George Blair, pitroad inspector, Alva
- Charles Taylor, pitworker, Alva
- William Grant, haulageman, Tillicoultry
Report by J. B. Atkinson, Esq. Inspector of Mines
On the 26th March, 1897, about 5.45 a.m., six persons lost their lives by drowning or violence in the vicinity of a dam in the Lower Five Feet seam of the Furnacebank Pit, Devon Colliery, situated near Alloa, in Clackmannanshire, and owned by the Alloa Coal Company.
A considerable volume of water, under high pressure, was collected behind the dam, and the disaster was due to the giving way of a wooden door or valve closing an opening in the dam.
I was made aware by telegram of the accident, and proceeded to the colliery at once, arriving there within six hours of its occurrence, but on descending the mine was not able to reach the dam owing to the rapid rise of the water in the Lower Five Feet seam. On subsequent occasions the mine was visited and inspection made, so far as the water allowed, by myself and by Mr. R. McLaren and Mr. H. Johnstone, the Inspectors assisting in the district ; and on the 10th May, accompanied by Mr. R. McLaren, one of the Inspectors assisting in the district, Mr. James Cook, Secretary of the Clackmannanshire Miners' Association, Mr. Thomas Patterson, Mining Engineer, of Glasgow, acting on behalf of the relatives, Mr. James Fyfe, the present, and Mr. H. Nisbet, the former Manager of Devon Colliery, and Mr. George Thomson, Manager of Bannockburn Colliery, I inspected the locus, the water then having been removed.
A public inquiry into the disaster, under the Fatal Accidents (Scotland) Act, was held before Tyndall Bruce Johnstone, Esq., Sheriff Substitute of Clackmannanshire, in the Court House at Alloa on the 17th May, when ten witnesses were examined. The Jury returned the following verdict:-
"That John Nicol, Peter Allan, David Allan, George Blair, Charles Taylor and William Grant met their death on the 26th day of March, 1897, in the Lower Five Feet seam of the Furnacebank Pit, Devon, belonging to the Alloa Coal Company, and that the accident was caused by the bursting out of the manhole door of the dam there, owing to the undue pressure of water from the Upper Five Feet seam, and that this pressure was caused by the closing of the valve on the four-inch discharge pipe leading from the dam to the pump."
The proceedings at the inquiry were conducted by Mr. J. B. Haig, Writer to the Signet, Procurator Fiscal Depute of Clackmannanshire. The owners of the colliery were represented by Mr. E. T. Salvesen, Advocate, instructed by Mr. W. B. Shand, Writer, Glasgow. The relatives of the deceased were represented by Mr. J. C. Macbeth, solicitor, Dunfermline.
By your direction I was represented by Mr. R. T. Younger, Advocate, Edinburgh, to whose skill in eliciting the facts 1 am much indebted.
Mr. R. McLaren, one of the Inspectors assisting in the district, was present; Mr. James Cook, the Secretary of the Clackmannan Miners' Association ; Mr. John Weir, Secretary of the Fife and Kinross Miners' Association, representing the Scottish Miners' Federation ; and Mr. R. Brown, Secretary of the Mid and East Lothian Miners' Association, and representing the British Miners' Federation, were also present.
The Devon Colliery is one of four collieries in Clackmannanshire owned by a private company, known as the Alloa Coal Company.
Mr. A. Roxburgh, a partner in the concern, is the General Manager for all the collieries - a position he has held for the last 23 yours. Mr. Roxburgh holds a certificate of competency as manager of a mine, but he never acted in that capacity.
Mr. James Fyfe has been Certificated Manager of the Devon Colliery since March, 1896. Previous to that date, and for six years Mr. H. Nisbet, now Manager of the Leven Colliery in Fife, was the Certificated Manager.
Mr. John Orr, who holds a certificate as manager of a mine, acted as surveyor and assistant to Mr. Roxburgh for all the collieries owned by the Company.
There was a sufficient staff of officials under Mr. Fyfe.
The plan and section on Sheet 1 show the area of workings necessary for the elucidation of this accident.
The winding shaft is sunk to the Lower Five Feet seam at a depth of 104 fathoms, passing through the Upper Five Feet seam, which there lies 55 fathoms higher. The Upper Five Feet is not worked direct from the shaft but is won from the level of the Lower Five Feet at the shaft by a level stone mine cross-cutting the metals to the dip.
Both seams are worked on the stoop and room system. Pillars of coal were formed in the Upper Five Feet extending some distance on either side of the workings shown on the plan. Some water was met with in these workings, and as the means of dealing with it was not effective it was eventually decided to abandon them for a time. The growth or feeder of water in the Upper Five Feet was not large, amounting only to about 33 gallons per minute.
Before abandoning the Upper Five Feet workings a bore was put down to the Lower Five Feet (not from the lowest point in that seam, as this had already filled with water, but from the face of a level stone mine driven forward above the level of the water as far as the workings had extended in the coal seam), with the view of draining the water from the upper to the lower seam, where pumping appliances were to be provided. This bore was 3 1/4 inches diameter and 230 feet deep, and was not tubed.
When the bore was put down the workings in the lower seam had not reached the point where it penetrated that seam.
When the dook or main dip road in the Lower Five Feet reached the vicinity of the bore its approximate location was determined by surveys and preparations made for tapping it.
A level in the coal was driven to the right from the dook in the direction of the bore. This level was about 6 feet wide by 4 1/2 feet high, and when it had been driven 12 yards a dam was built in it. This dam is shown in elevation and plan on Sheet 2. It was built of bricks and cement and was let into the roof, sides and pavement as shown. It was in the shape of an arch, the convex side being towards the bore. The thickness of the dam was 3 feet 3 inches. There were three openings in the dam.
1st. An iron pipe 4 inches internal diameter, near the top right-hand corner. This pipe was continued as a pipe 5 inches internal diameter to a Moore's hydraulic pump, capable of pumping between 200 and 300 gallons per minute, situated 92 yards from the dam, by the side of the dook and 53 1/2 feet above its level, and was intended to act as a conduit for the water behind the dam to the pump. A valve was fixed on the 4 inch pipe, close to the dam on the outside, and a similar valve was, with a short length of pipe, lying at the pump ready to be fixed on to the extremity of the 5 inch pipe. The length of pipe, made up of the 4 inch and 5 inch pipes, will be referred to as the small pipe.
2nd. An iron pipe 14 inches internal diameter, near the bottom left-hand corner. This pipe was intended to allow of the escape of water after the bore was reached, and while the door was being placed in position and screwed up. This pipe will be referred to as the large pipe.
3rd. An opening, about the centre of the dam, 2 feet 6 inches square, next the bore, tapering to 2 feet 3 inches square, next the dook. This opening was lined with wood.
The door, or valve, is shown in the opening in the dam in Sheet 2. When in position there was next the water an iron plate 1/8 inch thick, then a layer of wood 3 inches thick, consisting of three planks of red pine, placed vertically, and then a similar layer consisting of three planks placed horizontally.
The planks were grooved and feathered at their junctions. The whole was nailed together by nails driven through holes in the iron plate. An eye-bolt was fixed near the centre of the door to which a chain was attached for screwing it up. Two handles were provided on the outside of the door for placing it in position.
A bar, needled into the sides of the road on the outside of the dam, was provided with a screw arrangement for applying force to the chain attached to the eyebolt.
When Mr. Nisbet left the colliery, the Upper Five Feet, in the neighbourhood of the bore had been abandoned, the bore was completed, and the workings in the Lower Five Feet had advanced to its vicinity. The level, from the dook had been driven 12 yards, the dam was built, the small pipe had the valve fixed on it, and the door was provided for closing the manhole.
Mr. Nisbet stated in evidence, that the plan fixed upon during his term of office did not have his entire approval, and he would have preferred one of the two following plans:-
(1.) To drive a level stone mine from the pump to the bore ; or (2.) To move the pump down the dook to the level of the bottom of the bore. The advantage of either of these plans was that the water flowing from the bore would then run direct to the pump without the necessity of a dam.
The arrangements, described as complete, when Mr. Nisbet demitted office as manager were, according to his evidence, intended by him to be followed up by tapping the vertical bore inside the dam by a horizontal bore, the horizontal bore was then to be plugged with a wooden plug, a hole bored through the plug, an iron pipe inserted and wedged tight and continued up to the pump. A cock on this pipe would then have controlled the flow of water to such quantity as the pump could deal with. If this operation had been successful the dam would not have been used. Had the plan failed, to the extent of being unable to plug the horizontal bore, then the dam was to be closed, with the exception of the small pipe which would deliver the water to the pump.
Mr. Nisbet stated that he did not intend putting the full pressure due to the head of water on the dam, as he did not consider it, or at any rate the door, capable of resisting it. Mr. Nisbet further stated that the door was to be strengthened by two "skids" or blocks of wood which were not used.
The weak part of Mr. Nisbet's explanation is, that if the plugging of the horizontal bore was successful the dam was of no use, while if it was not successful, and the water was allowed to flow freely through the small pipe, it would do so in volume for greater than the pump could deal with, and would in a short time till the dip workings in the Lower Five Foot seam and drown the pump, exactly as did occur on the rupture of the door in the dam.
Again the operation of tapping a vertical bore, the exact position of which was not known, by a horizontal bore, is a possible but a very tedious operation, and almost unknown in mining practice.
When Mr. Fyfe took over the management Mr. Nisbet remained at the Colliery for a fortnight for the purpose of affording him information as to his new duties.
No satisfactory exchange of ideas as to the mode to be adopted in draining the water from the upper to the lower seam appears to have taken place, and Mr. Fyfe seems to have considered the dam and its appliances in a different light to Mr. Nisbet.
Mr. Fyfe sought for the bore for some months. The level already referred to was continued forward in the Lower Five Feet and extended to the dip without success. Some doubt existing as to whether the vertical bore had actually reached the Lower Five Feet, a stone mine was driven into a seam called Coal Mosie, lying 23 feet above the Lower Five Feet and the search continued in it. Horizontal bores were put in to test the vicinity of the vertical bore, and then the coal was removed. The stuff was brought in small hutches through the large opening in the dam.
While the search for the bore was going on shots were fired inside the dam sometimes containing as much as 3 1/2 lbs. of gunpowder, and it was the custom after lighting the shots to place the door in such a position in the large opening in the dam that it could be drawn forward readily from the outside, in the event of the shot liberating the water, and it appeared that on one or two occasions the effect of the shot was to fix the door firmly in the opening, and force had to be used to displace it.
In searching for the bore inside the darn about 9,000 cubic feet of mineral was extracted, part of this space was occupied by buildings put in to support the roof ; the free space may be put as about 6,000 cubic feet, part of this lay below the level of the small pipe in the dam but the greater part was above its level.
Two miners, named John Nicol and John Hunter, the latter the only survivor of those engaged at the dam when the accident took place, were employed in searching for the bore on the day of the accident. They commenced their shift at 10 p.m. on the previous day, and about 4.15 a.m. the bore was struck by the pick at about the highest point in the excavation. Water commenced to flow, gently at first and afterwards freely, Hunter and Nichol retired, drawing the door into position. Peter Allen, the oversman, was sent for, and four other persons named Charles Taylor roadsman, David Allan, roadsman, George Blair, fireman, and William Grant, haulageman, came to help. The door was fixed in its place and screwed up tight ; this was finished about 4.45 a.m. The large pipe was closed by screwing up a blind flange which was already in position but not screwed up, outside the darn ; this was completed at 5.15 a.m.
During these operations the small pipe remained open, and after the door was in position and the large pipe closed, it delivered water up to the pump where it was seen flowing by Thomas Dawson, fireman.
A few minutes before the accident Peter Allen closed this pipe (probably in order to fix in position the valve on the extremity of the pipe at the pump which, as already stated, was not in position owing to the pipes being used in connection with a hand fan for ventilating the space inside the dam) by shutting the valve on it at the dam, and about the same time instructed John Hunter to look at the end of the pipe near the pump to see if any water was being delivered. Hunter went to the pump and found no water issuing from the pipe, and he was returning to the darn and was near the entrance to the level when the door collapsed; he was knocked down by the rush of water and had some difficulty in escaping.
The flow of water continued for 74 hours when the whole body of water was transferred from the Upper Five Feet to the Lower Five Feet. No one was able to approach the dam for some weeks, and the pump was drowned on the day of the accident.
At my request Mr. Orr, the surveyor, calculated approximately the cubic contents of the passages occupied by the water which came through the bore at 400,796 cubic feet, and from this it appears that the flow of water down the bore was 563 gallons per minute.
Although the Moore's pump was drowned on the day of the accident it continued to work under water for between three and four weeks, when it stopped owing to a crush disarranging the pipes.
In addition to the water pumped by the Moore's pump, and after it broke down water chests were used, and the water was cleared out on the 30th April.
On the day of the accident overtures were made to divers to recover the bodies before the water was removed, but these overtures were not successful as the difficulties were considered to be too great.
The bodies were recovered on the 30th April and 1st May. Five were found in the level between the dam and the dook, and one in the dook 25 yards below the level.
Some water chests used for taking water out of the dook had been left standing in the dook just opposite the level leading to the dam, and it is possible that some of the men might have escaped but for this obstruction.
The brickwork of the dam was found to be practically intact. The wooden framework into which the door fitted was damaged, the top portion was detached arid found clear of the dam, the side portions were partly torn away next the water and the bolts bent forward to the outside of the dam, the bottom portion of the frame suffered least.
The door had been forced through the opening and was found in the level near the dook. The two outside planks of the layer of three planks nearest the dook had been torn off and one of the handles was gone.
The door was bent out of shape by the pressure to which it had been subjected, and it would appear that the top of the framework had been forced out, allowing the door to move outwards without bending from top to bottom but only from the sides.
After the bore was struck and the door placed in position and the large pipe closed, and while the small pipe was open, water from the bore would fill the space behind the dam and drive air out by the small pipe, until this pipe was sealed by the rising water; the air left in would be compressed by the continued rising of the water, until its pressure was such that it forced water up the small pipe to the pump, as fast as the bore delivered it. As the pressure of air increased the delivery of water by the bore would diminish. Eventually a state of equilibrium would be reached; the pressure on the dam would then be that due to the statical head of the water, inside the dam, from the dam to the compressed air, plus the pressure of this air; and this again would be the same as the statical head of water from the pump to the dam, plus the pressure necessary to overcome the friction in the small pipe.
Or, neglecting the influence of the compressed air and assuming the whole space behind the dam to be filled with water, the pressure on the dam would be (1) the statical head from the dam to the pump plus the pressure required to overcome the friction in the small pipe ; or (2) the statical head in the vertical bore, less the pressure required to overcome the friction encountered by the passage of water in the bore.
The pressure descending the two columns of water on either side of the dam, would gradually approximate and become the same at the dam.
It is probable that the dam and door would have withstood this pressure. On the shutting of the cock in the small pipe, near the dam, the flow of water in the bore would be checked by the increased pressure that would result from the further compression of the confined air until the flow would cease, and the full statical pressure would be on the dam; the door may then have given way, but if it had not, still further pressure might be put upon it, owing to shocks following the escape of air up the bore, and the subsequent fall of a column of water.
Any compressed air in the space behind the dam would, on the rupture of the door, expand and force out the water in greater volume than would have been the case had air not been present. If the space behind the dam was free from air when the door collapsed the pressure due to the head of water in the bore would have been instantly taken off, as the door space would deliver water faster than the bore, but with air present its elastic force would continue to act on the water until it was reduced to atmospheric pressure.
In considering the pressure in lbs. per square inch that might come upon the door, that due to the head of water or statical pressure is equal to the head in feet x 4335; or, 325 x 4335 140.9 ; and assuming this to be the maximum pressure (although, as already pointed out, the presence of confined air might lead to even higher pressures) then the total pressure on the door would be 30 x 30 x 140.9 126,810 lbs., or 56.6 tons.
The calculation of the pressure that a door, constructed and used in the manner described, is capable of resisting is very difficult, and the only safe course would have been to have made it stronger than on any supposition was necessary.
Mr. Nisbet and Mr. Fyfe concurred in stating that the door was not strong enough to withstand the statical pressure due to the head from the dam to the surface of the water in the Upper Five Feet, and Mr. Orr confirmed this opinion. Peter Allan, the oversman, however, had evidently a different view.
The formula given in Molesworth's Pocket Hook of Engineering Formula for the strength of beams supported at both ends and with the pressure equally distributed seems to be the most applicable to the case. There are, however, these differences: (1) The door in question was supported at all the four sides ; (2) the support was not of the nature contemplated in the formula, and any bending of the door would take off the support given to some parts of its edges and increase the strain on its remaining parts.
The formula is:-
W=Breaking weight in cwts.
K = Co-efficient of rupture (13 for red pine)
B = Breadth of beam in inches
D = Depth of beam in inches.
L = Length of beam in inches
W= (8xKxBxD2)/L = 3,744 cwts or 187.2 tons
As the door was in two layers and not in one solid piece, according to Rankine only 1/2 of the above could be taken or 93.6; as there was support at all the four sides 1/15 may be added or 6.24, making the total breaking strain of the door 99.84 tons, or say 100 tons ; the safe dead load would be 1/5 of this or 20 tons : the safe live load would be 1/16 of this or 10 tons ; while the actual pressure was 56.6 tons.
No offence has been committed against the Coal Mines Regulation Act in connection with this accident as it contains no specific provisions as to the strength of dams.
Mr. Nisbet cannot be held responsible after he had left the colliery, for the use of the dam in a manner in which he stated on oath it was never intended to be used by him. If the explanation he gave to his successor as to the use to which the dam was to be put was not fully understood it is unfortunate.
On Mr. Fyfe rested the responsibility and he is to blame for not satisfying himself as to the strength of the door for the use to which it was put.
Mr. Fyfe stated he never intended the cock next the dam to be closed and gave Peter Allan instructions to this effect ; if this was because he thought the door would not resist the pressure which would then be exerted on it, exactly the same reason would apply to shutting the cock next the pump, with this difference, that the latter might be closed when the men were in a safe position. If neither cock was closed the water would simply flood the mine and drown the pump and all the expenditure in connection with the dam would be thrown away.
There seems to be no doubt that Peter Allan, the oversman, took what seems to be the most reasonable view under the circumstances, viz., that the dam and door, pipe and cocks were intended to be used for regulating the now of water to the pump to such quantity as it could deal with, and so avoid flooding the Lower Five Feet and that the dam and door were capable of resisting the full pressure ; and he must have thought that it was quite safe to shut the cock at the dam, otherwise it is scarcely conceivable that he should have done so, but it is probable that he did not understand that on closing the small pipe, the small column of water in the bore was capable of exerting the maximum pressure due to the head.
The event has proved that the door was not able to resist the pressure put upon it, and Mr. Fyfe admitted at the inquiry that he has reason on looking into the matter to condemn the arrangement.
Due weight must be given to the position in which Mr. Fyfe was placed ; he took charge of the Colliery after the dam was built, and there seems no reason to doubt that he carried out bona fide the plans he thought had been matured by his predecessor and Mr. Roxburgh, but this is not sufficient, a manager in charge of a Colliery must satisfy himself that the operations carried out are in his judgment safe.
I have considered whether I should advise that, after what has occurred, an inquiry should be held under Section 27 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, into Mr. Fyfe's conduct as Manager of the mine with a view of dealing with his certificate, but bearing in mind the points that have some weight in Mr. Fyfe's favour, viz. :-
(1) The fact that the dam and its appliances were provided under the direction of a previous manager, whose skill he had no reason to doubt.
(2) That he had grounds for believing that Mr. Roxburgh had considered and approved of the arrangements.
(3) That he had given instructions to Peter Allan not to close the valve on the pipe at the dam.
(4) A previous satisfactory record.
I have not considered it my duty to recommend such inquiry.
The degree of blame attaching to Mr. Roxburgh, in connection with this accident is somewhat difficult to determine. I have always found Mr. Roxburgh most painstaking in his general direction of the Collieries and anxious to prevent any accident, and for a gentleman in his position giving much attention to minute details, but it is probable that this has misled Mr. Fyfe, who, looking upon Mr. Roxburgh as a mining expert, did not exercise his own judgment to the extent he would otherwise have done. On full consideration I do not think Mr. Roxburgh's judgment can be considered sufficient in a matter of this kind, and he should have made this plain to his managers, and if he had any reason to doubt their competency to deal with the matter he should have called in an expert.
Newspaper ReportsCatastrophe At An Alloa Pit - Six Men Drowned - Yesterday morning one of the most melancholy fatalities which has occurred in the history of coal-mining in Clackmannanshire took place at Furnacebank Pit, Devon, about two miles from Alloa, and resulted in the death by drowning of six underground workmen. The pit is the largest leased by the Alloa Coal Company, and employs about 400 underground workers. The mine in which the fatality occurred is over 100 fathoms deep, and consists of three seams - an upper and lower five feet seam and an intermediate seam of nine feet. Coal is wrought in all three seams. Some months ago it was discovered that there was an accumulation of water in the back workings of the centre seam, and as it was known that a bore passed perpendicularly from the upper to the lower five-feet seam, it was resolved to catch up this bore from the lower workings and run off the water from above. With this end in view a large dam was constructed around the line of the bore, the front being built 5ft. thick with brick and cement, with a man-hole and regulating valve inserted in the wall. Between three and four o'clock yesterday morning a shift of six work men descended the shaft and began operations as usual in the interior of the dam. After an hour's working the bore was tapped, and the water began to flew freely into the dam and then passed through the valve into the roadway of the section. It was intended to connect the valve with the main pumping gear of the pit, but as the bore had been struck earlier than was anticipated, the arrangements were not quite complete for making the connection at the moment. The water was accordingly allowed to flow out through the valve, but in the meantime one of the men was despatched for Mr Peter Allan, Devon Village, the oversman. On his arrival it was decided to shut off the valve meantime. This having been done the water rapidly accumulated in the dam, and then with absolutely no warning of what was going to happen the five feet thick wall gave way in the centre, and the water rushed out in a huge volume. With one exception all seven men were quickly overtaken by the violence of the outrush, and it was only by a desperate effort to gain high ground that John Hunter, the survivor, succeeded in reaching a place of safety in a very exhausted condition. The sad catastrophe was not known above ground until the 6 o'clock shift men descended the shaft. Hunter was discovered lying on the road in a half unconscious state, and no time was lost in getting him up to the face and properly attended to. He soon came round sufficiently to indicate what had occurred. A search party at once descended the shaft in the hope of recovering, if possible, the bodies of the six unfortunate men, but by this time the water had risen to such an extent that it was deemed unsafe to venture as far forward as the section.
Mr J. Fyfe, the manager, and Mr A. Roxburgh, the managing partner of the company, and Mr Orr, mining engineer, were early on the scene of the sad occurrence, and it was resolved to suspend work in all the seams of the pit until the water, which was still accumulating at the lowest workings, had been sufficiently pumped up to ensure the safety of the men.
Chief-Constable Scott and Sergeant Lockhart of the county constabulary, descended the shaft in the early forenoon, with the view of ascertaining all information concerning the disaster, but they found the water in the section had risen 200 yards on to the main roadway, and in some parts was level with the roof of the seam. No trace could be seen of any bodies, and it was thought that the unfortunate men had been buried with the fallen debris. Mr J. B. Atkinson, H.M Inspector of Mines, who had been advised by telegraph of the fatality, arrived at the pit early in the afternoon, and also descended the shaft, but was unable in consequence of the great accumulation of water to gather any further information than what had already been known. Pumping operations are still going on and were vigorously proceeded with, but the volume of water is so great that there is little probability of getting at the bodies for a week or two; and,the coal company have resolved to employ a diver to make a search for the bodies. The survivor, John Hunter, who is 47 years of age, said, in an interview with our correspondent, that Allan, the oversman, sent him to the hydraulic pump, which is situated 50 yards or thereby farther up the dook to see if the water was still running when the valve was closed. Hunter proceeded to the pump and found that the water had stopped and then he returned with the view of telling Allan, the oversman. When he was approaching the dam he heard a loud report resembling the report of a cannon, and as soon as this occurred lights went out, and he was struck and knocked down by a rush of water. He was temporarily stunned, but on coming to he caught hold of the cable, and by that means got himself to the high level, where he lay down, and was got subsequently in a very exhausted condition by David Hunter.
Down The Mine - Message From The Home Office - Another correspondent wires :- Through the kindness of those in charge I was allowed to descend the pit, and there had an interview with Mr J Fyfe, the manager, who had been incessant in his endeavours to perfect some system to have the water withdrawn from the mines. On account of the great distance - nearly 1100 yards from the bottom of the pit where the accident happened - this has necessarily been a laborious affair. However, the system which has been adopted is - that a long rain of hutches with movable bottoms, known as water chests, are run down the gradient into the water. The bottoms open, and the chests, which are practically tanks, become filled with water. Whenever the chests are withdrawn the false bottom loses, and the water is then taken where the pumps can catch it by the usual haulage system. The manager explained that some two years ago a large dam was built 50 fathoms below what is known as the upper 5ft. seam, which is now full of water. Then a bore of 4in. was driven down from the upper 5ft. seam to connect with the lower 5ft. seam, the idea being to convey the water from the upper seam to the lower, so that one pump, which was attached to the lower seam, could then empty both. However, the work was never actually completed, and although the dam, which was about 5ft. broad and 12ft. long, was completed, the bore had never been driven through. The men had to enter the dam by a manhole about 2ft square, and six men were engaged inside the dam trying to find the end of the bore hole. The assumption is that the men must have come on the hole practically accidentally. They were using a drill 22ft. long. Although the sides of the dam are 3 1/2ft. thick, it is not thought that they would be able to withstand the tremendous pressure of water which was standing 50 fathoms higher. However, this is a matter of conjecture, and whether the men were drowned in this dam, or the dam burst and they were carried away down into "the dook," cannot yet be ascertained. The man Hunter, who escaped, was about to enter the death-trap when the water rushed in, and then he had a race for life with the water up the gradient. However, he reached some men who assisted him to the pit bottom. While I was down the pit a telegram of sympathy was brought to the Inspector of Mines from the Home Office, which was as follows :- " Whitehall, 6 P.M. - To Atkinson, H.M. | Inspector of Mines, Devon Colliery, Clackmannan, - Secretary of State deeply regrets to hear of accident and loss of life at Devon Colliery. Please convey expression of his sympathy to relatives of deceased. Report fully ; as soon as possible. - KENELM DIGBY, Under-Secretary, Home Office.
The men who are lost went on duty at 10pm on Thursday, and would have left at six on Friday morning. The names of the drowned men are:- Peter Allan, oversman, Fish Cross, married and a large family ; his brother, David Allan, unmarried; George Blair, Alva, married and a small family ; Chas. Taylor, Alva, married ; John Nicol, Fishcross, married and a family ; William Grant, Tillicoultry, married and a large family. This is Mrs Nicol's second husband, and both have been killed in the same pit*. Nicol's stepson was to have been married last night to a daughter of George Blair, Alva, one of the drowned men. Much sympathy is felt for all the bereaved families in the district. The tidings were broken to the Allan family by Mr Paterson, the schoolmaster at Fishcross, but until the list of names of the missing men were posted, many were hurrying to the pit looking for their sons. The great uncertainty of recovering the bodies for weeks - perhaps months - adds considerably to the strain on the bereaved families.[Glasgow Herald March 27, 1897]
* Christina Nicol, M.S. Sorley, was previously married to Alexander Adamson who was killed in Furnacebank Pit on 8th February 1883. James Adamson married Elizabeth Hunter Blair on 26 March 1897