Britton Pit 1 August 1864

Fearful Coalpit Explosion - Three Men Killed - Early on the morning of Monday last, a terrific explosion of fire damp occurred at the Briton Coal pit, Calder Ironworks, the property of William S Dixon, Esq. The pit has been sunk down to the Kiltongue coal, and is 77 fathoms in depth, the workings there only penetrated about 30 fathoms into the interior. At the time the explosion occurred there were ten men at work below ground, and the catastrophe is supposed to have taken place in consequence of the incaution of one of the men named Jas. Sneddon. It appears that Alex. Love, the fireman of the pit, had examined all the workings in the morning, with the exception of two headings, these were being let by contract to Sneddon, Craig and others, one of the conditions of the contract being that they should look after their own places. Sneddon, it is said, went forward into his heading with the "Davy" lamp in one hand and his unprotected light in the other. A fearful explosion immediately ensued, the force of which carried away a large portion of the bratticing, or air course, besides completely destroying a portion of the midwall in the shaft and causing the cage to remain fast in the shaft. On the alarming nature of the occurrence becoming known at the pithead, steps were instantly taken to ascertain the condition of the men below. By means of a pit kettle a descent was made into the pit and on reaching the bottom the bodies of Robert Duncan and Robinson Craig were found, life in both cases being quite extinct. Duncan was a married man residing in Greenend, and leaves a widow and six children to lament his loss. Craig was also a married man, belonging to Airdrie, but we could not learn whether he had any children. A little farther on the relieving party picked up Frank Hamilton, Greenend, and David Hamilton, Calder, but the poor fellows were found in a shocking state. Frank Hamilton, who is married, and has three children, died, we are sorry to say, in the afternoon; and David, who is unmarried, is not expected to live. There were still awanting six men who were in the pit at the time the explosion occurred; and the search being continued they were fortunately reached and at once taken up to the surface, although they were all in a very exhausted state, arising from the choke damp which followed the explosion, the air course being destroyed. Their names are James Hunter, Coatdyke; James Quin, bottomer, Boagside; Alex. Love, oversman, Airdrie; William Duncan (son of Robert Duncan, who was killed); James Sneddon, Airdrie; and Edward Sweeney, drawer, Airdrie. Sneddon and Love are very seriously injured, the former especially, who is scarcely expected to survive. Hunter is also seriously hurt. Great praise is due to John Robertson, pit manager; James Donaldson, Hugh Richardson, oversman, and William Duffy, brusher. These four, at the imminent risk of their lives, descended the shaft, and brought the ten men to bank; as also other five men who were working in the Virtue Well coal seam, 20 fathoms above the scene of the catastrophe. The sufferers were at once conveyed to their homes, with the least possible delay, and Drs Robert Wilson, Coatbridge, and Rankine, Airdrie, were promptly in attendance. During the day men were busy repairing the mid wall of the pit, which had been destroyed by the cage, when blown up by the explosion; and the repairs were so far effected that the air was descending the downcast shaft, and forcing, by the upcast shaft, dark clouds of the deadly vapours or choke-damp.

The sufferers are reported as progressing favourably. The government inspector of mines, William Alexander Esq., visited the pit on Tuesday, and along with Mr Robertson, the manager, inspected the workings as far as possible. The two headings where the explosion took place could not be got into, as they were still in a dangerous state, and will be so until the air course is repaired for ventilation. Mr M'Donald, fiscal, and Captain Clark, Airdrie, were also at the pit on Tuesday making the necessary examination for future investigation. [Hamilton Advertiser August 6 1864]

Coatbridge - The Briton Pit, Calder Ironworks - The damage done by the explosion in this pit has been all put in order, and it is again in a working state. The Inspector of Mines made a second examination on Monday, when access was got to every part of it. The whole of the men who were injured, with the exception of Quin, the bottomer, are getting on very favourably. Regarding the latter - who it seems was severely hurt with a piece of iron - little hopes are entertained that he will ever again be fit for duty. [Hamilton Advertiser 13 August 1864]