Mauricewood 5th September 1889
Report by J B Atkinson, Inspector of Mines
Mauricewood Pit Disaster
5th September 1889 - Mauricewood pit, Penicuik Coal and Iron Stone Mine
Fire resulting loss of 63 lives
Description of the mine
The workings of the Mauricewood pit are situated in the parish of Glencorse, county of Edinburgh.
The mine is owned by the Shotts Iron Company Ltd and has been in their possession since the year 1875. The Shotts Iron Company own other collieries and mines in the counties of Lanark and Edinburgh; and have blast furnaces in operation at Shotts in Lanark.
The affairs of the company are controlled by a board of directors, of whom Mr Robert Bell is chairman, Mr A W Turnbull is the secretary and general commercial manager. Mr John Love is the certificated manager of the Penicuik mine; the other officials at the Mauricewood pit at the fire were:-
George Muir, overman, killed by fire
Edward Lyden, Inspector or fireman
George Hunter, inspector or fireman
David Hunter, inspector or fireman, killed by fire
Robert Dickson, roadsman, killed by fire
James Somerville, roadsman, killed by fire
On the 5th September there were employed at Mauricewood Pit-
Underground - 77 persons
Above ground - 25 persons
Total 102 persons
When the fire was observed there were 70 persons underground and of this number 63 were lost and 7 survived.
Above: The scene at the pithead
Narrative of the accident
On the 5th September H Hunter, the engineman at the engine at the 160 fathom level, came to the surface at five am; the engine pumped up to the time he left. He had observed no signs of fire near the engine house.
George Hunter and E Lydon, the night shift inspectors, who in the mine from 10pm on 4th to 7 am on the 5th, examined the mine before the entry of the day shift workmen as required by general rule 4, and wrote report to the effect that all was right. The miners descended the shaft and main incline about 6:30am and work went on as usual up to 12 noon
The manager Mr Love met the oversman George Muir on the surface when he came up for breakfast about 10am. Muir returned to the mine about 11:15am. He went to the 160 fathoms level and was seen there last by W Robb the bottomer.
For the purpose of doing some repairs to the engine at the 80 fathoms level, William Gall, the Mechanical Engineer and John Walker a Labourer, descended to it about 11:30am; the day shift engineman, H McPherson was there when they arrived.
There were then 70 persons underground, distributed as follows: -
Between the dook head and the shaft, five persons
At the 80 fathoms level 3 persons
At the 160 fathoms level 62 persons
About 12 noon a pony driver named Mitchell Hamilton came from the east side to the foot of the main incline and called the attention of Robb the bottomer to a fire in the engine house. Robb went into the engine house and saw that the door leading into the return upset was on fire. He came out of the engine house, shutting the door leading into it from the level, and raised the alarm, and some boys at the foot of the incline ran to warn the miners. A signal came to the 160 fathoms level to send away the carriage for men at the 80 fathoms level. As the carriage moved away Robb stepped onto it; before he reached the 80 fathoms level he met smoke; and when the carriage stopped at the 80 fathoms level he found smoke pouring out past the door leading to the engine house. The carriage was eventually drawn to the dook head and Robb was the only survivor from the 160 fathoms level.
About the same time that the fire was observed by Robb, William Gall, John Walker and H MacPherson at the 80 fathom level engine, or alarmed by bad air and smoke coming to them, and leaving the engine the came through the door to the main incline and signalled for the carriage. Gall states that he heard the door shut after they all came through. Smoke followed them in dense volumes. Walker and MacPherson lay down between the incline and the door, while Gall commenced to climb the incline and succeeded in reaching the dook head level.
After it was known what had occurred the carriages were run up and down several times without signals, and on one of the ascents four persons were drawn up who were either dead or died immediately.
Attempts were made to reach the 80 fathom level on the carriages, but it was found impossible to do so owing to smoke eddying upwards for at distance of about 10 fathoms. The smoke was principally coming past the door leading to the engine house, and to a lesser extent through the barring lining the side of the main incline. The speed of the fan was increased and the area of the incline was reduced by brattice cloths to half its size, commencing as near the 80 fathom level as the smoke would allow, in that the hope that the increased velocity of the air in the remaining half would sweep away the smoke. This was to some extent successful, and probably coupled with changes taking place in the airways below owing to the action of the fire the issue of the smoke became less; the 80 fathom level was reached about midnight on the 5th, and the bodies of MacPherson and Walker recovered. By means of a long pole and endeavour was made to shut the door at the 80 fathom level, which was supposed to be open, and to close the mouth of the rhone. The men who used the pole for this purpose stated that the door appeared to be a few inches open and that, on pressing it shut, it sprang back to the same extent, and that they were unable to close the rhone. It did not appear that the smoke passing the door was much lessened even when it was pushed close. It was stated that the bodies of Walker and MacPherson were clear of the door.
The stopping of brattice cloths were placed across the mouth of the 80 fathom level on the east side of the main incline. About 1:00pm 16 September, or 25 hours after the fire broke out, the 120 fathom level was reached. Smoke still hung in incline below, but on shutting the door in the air crossing at the 120 fathom level it cleared away, and the 160 fathom level was reached about 2pm on 6th.
It was found that the fire had extended from the engine house along the east side level to within a few yards of the foot of the main incline; the timber was burning briskly, and the road over which the fire had passed was heavily fallen and nearly closed. Near the foot of the incline, and between this and the coal workings on the west side, 19 bodies were recovered.
The fire was played upon by a fire engine hose and every effort was made to recover all the bodies, but the rising of the water stopped all further operations here will stop
And endeavour was then made to reach the east side workings by opening the door at in the air crossing at the 120 fathom level and proceeding in by from that point. On opening this door it was stated that smoke again came onto the main incline at the 80 fathom level, and the effort was abandoned, and it was decided to close the mine.
An air tight scaffold was placed on the top of the Mauricewood pit and on the top of Greenlaw pit, and No. 1 incline there. This was done about 3pm on 7th September; a day or two afterwards the scaffold were removed from the Greenlaw pit and incline, and a stopping erected in a communication road near Greenlaw.
On 4th October the mine was reopened, the fire appeared to be extinguished, and measures were commenced for taking out the water which had risen 37 fathoms on the slope from the bottom of the main incline. On 7th October smoke was observed ascending the pipe upset at the 80 fathom level, and stoppings were placed in the roads leading downwards immediately below the 80 fathom level.
The stoppings were afterwards removed and operations for un watering the mine and recovering the remainder of the bodies were commenced.
The 160 fathom level was reached about 16th March 1890 and between that date and the end of March the 36 bodies left in the mine were recovered. 3 were found in the sump at the bottom of the main incline, 29 were found on the east side, of this number 17, headed by George Muir, the oversman, were found on the intake side of the door separating the east side in take and return air currents; the remaining four bodies were found in the west side return airway.
The position of these bodies does not throw any light upon the origin of the fire.
It seems probable that the workmen on the east side had lived for some time after the outbreak of the fire. It was found that they had erected 2 stoppings in the intake airways near the face in order to keep back the smoke.
The 160 fathom level next the engine house was fallen close and a road was made through the fall on the dip side of level. The engine house has not been reopened.
It was found that the fire had extended up the pipe upset to within a few fathoms of the 80 fathom level.
Names of Dead
The alphabetical list of names below is from a report in the Scotsman. To view the list of names with dates bodies were recovered (from the Inspector of Mines report) click here
Thomas Adams, 7 Manderston Place
David Anderson, 1 Manderston Place
T Bennett, 4 Lindsay Place
William Brockie, 13 Walker Place
William Brown, 1 Lindsay Place
William Brown, Glebe
William Daly, 3 Fieldsend
J Davidson, Edinburgh Rd
Robert Dempster, father, 6 Lindsay Place
R Dempster, son, 6 Lindsay Place
William Dempster, 19 Walker Place
Robert Dickson, 13 Fieldsend
Thomas Foster 13 Leslie Place
John Fraser 27 Napier St
John Glass, Pryde's Place
William Grieve, 5 Leslie Place
C Hamilton, son, Greenlaw Cottages
Mitchell Hamilton, father, Greenlaw Cottages
Mitchell Hamilton, son, Greenlaw Cottages
Robert Hamilton, 4 Leslie Place - uncle of Richard Hamilton, brother-in-law of Robert Tolmie
Richard Hamilton, 4 Leslie Place - nephew of Robert Hamilton
Robert Hunter, Roads farm
William Hunter, 8 Walker Place- father-in-law of David Penman
Thomas Hunter, Pike
James Irvine, 10 Leslie Place
David Kinnimont, father, Roslin
Robert Kinnimont, son, Roslin
William Lamb, 5 Walker Place - son of Robert Lamb, Leven, Fife
George Livingstone, 22 Fieldsend
Alex McInlay, 12 Leslie Place
David McKenzie, 10 Lindsay Place
Hugh McPherson, father, 12 Lindsay Place
Peter McPherson, son, 12 Lindsay Place
Thomas Meikle, 5 Lindsay Place
William Meikle, father, 6 Leslie Place
William Meikle, son, 6 Leslie Place
Walter Meikle, 6 Leslie Place
Robert Millar, 3 Fieldsend - stepson of William Daly
William Miller, 3 Fieldsend - stepson of William Daly
Martin Morgan, Pryde's Place
G Muir, Greenlaw Cottages
David Penman, 8 Walker Place - son-in-law of Wm Hunter
George Pennycuik, father, 12 Walker Place
George Pennycuik, son, 12 Walker Place
D Porterfield (brother of Robert Porterfield)
Robert Porterfield (brother of D Porterfield)
James Porteous, 5 Walker Place
J Purves, 10 Lindsay Place
John Sinnott 7 Fieldsend
James Somerville, 18 Napier St
Alex Stewart, John Street
James Stark, nephew, Pike
M Stark, uncle, Pike
Thomas Strang, 2 Walker Place
Robert Tolmie, brother-in-law of Robert Hamilton
William Urquhart, Eskbridge
John Walker 4 Fieldsend
John Walker, James Place
Andrew Wallace, brothers, 2 Lindsay Place
David Wallace, brothers, 2 Lindsay Place
James Wright, brothers, 9 Lindsay Place
William Wright, brothers, 9 Lindsay Place
Matt Wright, 8 Leslie Place
The terrible mining disaster in Mid-Lothian, reported this morning, is surrounded by circumstances of a peculiar nature. It does not appear to have resulted from blasting, or explosion of firedamp, or any of the miscellaneous causes generally associated with catastrophes of this nature. According to the most reliable accounts the spot where the fire broke out yesterday in the Mauricewood Pit is removed some considerable distance from any point where working operations were being carried on. The pit, which belongs to the Shotts Iron Company and contains both coal and ironstone, has a vertical shaft driven down for eighty fathoms, and also an incline which slopes down to a distance of other eighty fathoms. Some portions of this incline are lined with wood, and the surmise is that the fire had its origin in the woodwork. When the blaze broke out, from some cause as yet unknown, the chances of escape for the men labouring at the bottom of the mine were small indeed. Their only way of retreat was barred by a sword of fire. No second opening exists for the deepest workings, the double shaft extending only as far as the first eighty fathoms. The unfortunate miners, therefore, had either to attempt to evade the suffocating smoke in the deep recesses of the mine or to run the gauntlet of the fire. Some who chose the latter alternative had a marvellous escape with their lives, while others were scorched, and died as soon as they had reached a haven of comparative safety. Whether any have been able to escape in other directions it is impossible as yet to say. Sixty of the men and boys who descended the mine yesterday morning have still to be accounted for. All hope of rescue was not given up at a late hour last night; but that is about as much as can be said. As time went on the fire in the pit seemed to increase rather than to diminish : and though the efforts of those engaged in the humane work of rescue did not for one moment flag, the odds against them became appalling. The experience gained from a previous outbreak of tire in the pit some years ago has also a discouraging aspect. No life was in danger on that occasion, but before the workings could be entered it was found necessary to damp them down for several days. Such a process may have to be resorted to now, though it may be taken for granted that this will not be done until all hope has gone of finding any of the miners alive. When the formal investigation into this disaster comes to be held, some explanation will be necessary for the absence of a second outlet from the lowest part of the mine. The law has always made double shafts obligatory, and it will be remembered that the Act of 1887 not only enforced the prohibition of single shafts, but provided that the two outlets must be separated by a distance of not less than fifteen yards. It remains to be seen what defence will be offered for the apparent neglect of these important rules, in the case of the Mauricewood pit. It looks in the meantime as if the Inspectors of Mines would have a sad record to present for the current year. Only a few days ago, in their reports for 1888, they were congratulating the public on the fact that the number of lives lost in Great Britain had been less than that of any previous twelve months. In addition, however, to the usual underground casualties which are of almost daily occurrence, three disasters of a serious nature have already occurred this year. In the latter part of January an explosion, by which twenty-three miners were killed, took place in Cheshire, and some two months later North Wales was the scene of another catastrophe involving the loss of twenty lives. Now, as there seems too much reason to fear, this heavy death list may be increased by some sixty more. [Glasgow Herald 6 September 1889]
Terrible Mine Disaster In Mid-Lothian - Pit on Fire - 60 Miners Entombed - Marvellous Escapes - Narrative By Survivors - One of the most appalling mining disasters of recent years in the East of Scotland occurred today at Mauricewood coal and iron pit, Penicuik, by which there is unhappily little reason to doubt, sixty three men and boy have lost their lives. Mauricewood Pit, which is the property of the Shotts Iron Company, is situated about mile and a half north from Penicuik, close to the Edinburgh road and near to Glencorse. It is on the estate of Sir George Clark, and it has been worked by the company since they started it in 1875. At first it consisted of a vertical shaft, driven down for 80 fathoms, with horizontal workings extending ultimately to connect it with Greenlaw coal and iron pit over a mile away a Glencorse. In 1876 an incline was formed from a point in the workings about 50 fathoms from the bottom of the shaft at Mauricewood, and this incline following a coal seam was driven downwards with a slope of 4 in 5 to a distance of 160 fathoms. Half way down cross workings were driven and a powerful. pumping engine was stationed at the inter section. At the bottom of the incline horizontal working in three directions has been carried on since the incline was finished and some of the places are now about 200 fathoms horizontally removed from the bottom of the incline. The mine has thus no second shaft leading to its utmost depth, as the Greenlaw connection only extends down to the 80 fathom level. The coal and iron was conveyed up the incline by hutches running on rails, and thence up the vertical shaft in the usual cages. The coal sides of the incline were lined with wood, but the roof,which was of ironstone was bare. A travelling shaft runs parallel with the incline, and removed from it by a few feet of rock, but it was not used for communicating with the upper workings. Indeed, its high temperature, caused by steam pipes being led down it to the pumping engine, would have precluded any idea of so using it.
There has been no night shift worked in the mine, and yesterday morning at seven o'clock 65 men and boys went down the shaft and commenced to work in the mine. William Robb, a bottomer, who escaped, was stationed at the foot of the incline, and states that the pit was all right at corning time when the ponies were fed. This was at half past ten o'clock. But half an hour afterwards he and some boys felt a smell of burning. On opening a door at the end of the incline he noticed sparks falling, and at once made his way to the surface to spread the alarm that the pit was on fire. In so doing he saw that the flames made great progress in the incline, and when he and the rescue party which was hurriedly got together attempted to return the way was found to be barred by the furious heat and dense clouds of smoke. Immediately after Robb reached the surface three boys and a man were brought up in the cage. Two were found to be dead, and the others breathed their last when brought to the light. The bodies were somewhat bruised and marked by fire. It was evident that they had come up the incline in the carriage, and had been thence transferred to the cage, which took them up the vertical shaft. William Gall, an engineer, had been employed repairing the pumping engine in the incline, and on seeing the fire below threw off all his clothing except his shirt, and thus escaped to the top. Before leaving he saw the bodies of two old men lying some distance away, but was unable to reach them. Although somewhat injured, Gall rapidly recovered under medical treatment, and willingly joined the search party which was at once organised. The party included Messrs Love (manager), John Watson, William Robb, James Wishart, William Stalgate, Ned Lydon, and George Hunter.
From all the evidence that could be gathered at a time of such overwhelming anxiety and excitement, it appeared as if the fire had started about 40 fathoms from the bottom of the incline and thus midway between the pumping engine on which Gall had been engaged and the workings in which the men were employed. Hence the poor fellows, without any other mode of exit afforded them, had a furious fire to encounter if they made any attempt to escape from the doomed mine, and it is probable - for indeed they had no other alternative except that of immediate death - they would retire ta the most remote parts of the pi to avoid, as long as possible, the suffocating smoke. When the relief party descended they at once saw the utter impossibility of passing the barrier of fire at the lower end of the incline, and during the entire afternoon all their efforts were directed to the construction of an extempore brattice of canvas for the purpose of obtaining an upcast and downward current of air. If this could be effected they thought that the flame and smoke would be carried up by the one channel while the pure air rushing down the other would clear a way for the workers to the bottom. For hours they laboured with this object, but finally the work had to be abandoned, the blast from the fire being so strong that the canvas could not be kept in place, notwithstanding that every expedient that could be devised was adopted to secure it at top and bottom. Between five and six o'clock Mr Robert M'Laren, Her Majesty's inspector of mines, Uddingston, and his assistant, Mr Johnston, arrived on the scene of the disaster, and at once descended the shaft. The names of the four miners whose bodies were brought up are :-
William Hunter, 60, married; he leaves a widow and daughter.
Robert Tolman, 16, son of James Tolman, blacksmith.
Thomas Foster, 17; resided with and assisted to support a widowed mother.
George Penicuik, 15.
It appears that just before eleven o'clock slight smoke was noticed about the mouth of the shaft, and that immediately afterwards Robb came to the surface with the dreadful tidings that the pit was on fire. With the next cast of the cage the four bodies referred to came up. How they were transferred from the carriage which must have brought them up the incline to the cage is not clear. All the bodies were bruised, and scorched. Traces of life were only noticeable in two of them, and even these soon became extinct. Dense volumes of smoke now poured out of the shaft, but the cage was continually kept running in the hope that someone might be able to gain it. The steam fans were also kept going. The news of the disaster spread with the the rapidity common on such occasions; but there were few such heartrending scenes about the pithead as are sometimes to be seen at such times. The miners as a whole were a superior set of men for their class, and though they lived for the most part in a separate quarter of Penicuik called Shottstown they habitually mingled freely with the other people of that town. Troops of people made their way to the pit, prominent among whom at first were the wives and children of the miners. As the locality, however, does not contain a very large population, there was at no time a very large crowd. Still, people came not only from Penicuik but from Glencorse and other villages in vicinity. But it was seen that as the search party had gone down, and as there was information that they were making slow progress, nothing could be done but to wait with what patience could be commanded. One or two piteous scenes of women weeping were observable, but generally the women early betook themselves to their homes, there to sorrow as those with almost no hope. Shottstown and Penicuik proper presented a melancholy aspect of desertion, many people who did not go to the pit preferring to remain indoors. Here and there a few silent, sorrowful groups would be seen hanging about. Near the mine throughout the afternoon groups of people were noticeable going and returning, but always with no news. As the afternoon wore on a wet fog which had been threatening came down with great density, and added to the melancholy aspect of affairs. A body of the county police were early on the scene, and a considerable detachment of the Scots Greys from Glencorse arrived, but little required to be done for the preservation of order. The people hung about and discussed the chances of the men below, but there was soon a general opinion that very little hope could be entertained. The the news came of the failure of the canvas brattice in the incline, and the arrival and descent of Mr M'Laren and Mr Johnston could not prevent a giving way to despair.
The cause of the fire is, of course, at present a mystery, but the similar outbreak which occurred three years ago in the Mauricewood pit may throw some light on this circumstance. On that occasion the wood lining of the incline caught fire, and this communicated itself to the coal seam; but, happily, all the men at work managed to escape. But the flames were not easily extinguished, and it was not until the damping down process had been carried on for four days that an entrance to the workings could be effected. At that time a question regarding which there is now sure to be a great outcry was never raised - tha fact that the mine was provided with only one shaft to the lower workings. There is at present a communication between the 80 fathom level of the Mauricewood and the Greenlaw pit, but to the seams 160 fathoms beneath there is only the single exit by the incline so frequently mentioned. Some time ago there was a project spoken of to run a passage from the lower workings to the bottom of the Greenlaw mine, but the propositions then made were never carried out.
Two men named William Porterfield and John Greig had a marvellous escape. They slept in in the morning, and accordingly determined not to go down the pit that day.
Latest Particulars - At ten o'clock last night, so far from any progress being made by the rescue party, which had now been greatly augmented in numbers, it was reported by several that the smoke from the shaft was gradually sending them further back. About seven o'clock the report was made by one man who had been with the rescue party, that the smell indicated too plainly that the coal really had taken fire and was developing so rapidly that, whereas, before they could get within five fathoms of the central pumping machine on the incline, they had been driven back other four fathoms. The ventilating fanners at the head of the pit were kept steadily going to keep the main shaft clear of the smoke in order that the rescuers might not be hindered in their work. What effect this would have upon the entombed men's chances of escape, however, was eagerly discussed, though few felt entitled to express a firm opinion. As the afternoon and evening passed and no progress had been made in the recovery, or definite information, obtained as to the fate, of the men imprisoned at the bottom of the pit, the faces of the rescuers and of the great concourse of relatives and sympathisers which thronged round the pit head began to wear a very downcast and troubled aspect. That great exertions were made by the brave men who risked their lives for those of their unfortunate brethren there could be no doubt. Several on ascending were very ill for some time from the effects of the dense smoke encountered, and required all the attention which the willing hands above could bestow on them. That there were hundreds of willing hands unfortunately unable to make the smallest effort was certain. People having got away from their daily toil, all around the pithead probably close upon a thousand persons of both sexes and all ages were congregated. The scene for several hours was one of great sadness. There were few open outbursts of grief, and many maintained a firm hope of ultimate safe recovery, but the faces of the women were inexpressibly concerned, and full of grief.
A number of circumstances concerning certain of the entombed man were circulated and discussed by those who had a mind for such mournful gossip. One young fellow was shortly to have been married, and the boy Penicuik, who was taken up dead, and whose father is one of the unfortunates, is one of five children who will be left orphans should the breadwinner not be saved. A young man who had been assisting at the celebration of his father's silver wedding was fortunate enough not to have turned up to his work in the morning, and one man, less fortunate, had obtained a good situation in Australia, had sold off his effects, and was to have bade farewell to his work in this country last night. Of another young man it was said that his father had lost his life in an accident which occurred in the same pit some years ago. This and other stories of a similar nature were the sad but kindly remembrances concerning men who were considered by most to be doomed. Indeed, it was said by one who knows the locality well that almost every house in the village of Shottstown is a house of mourning, and in several of them there is more than one member a victim of this appalling disaster.
Later at night the exact number of men entombed was ascertained to be 58 instead of 59, making a total of 62 dead and missing and two escaped. Out of the total of those who went down the pit in the morning of 64. Mr Love, the manager of the mine, remained down the shaft the entire day and evening. The scene was visited by the Rev. Mr London, of Roslin, and the Rev, Mr Hunter, of Rosewell.
William Robb, aged 39, married, and residing in Shottstown, made the following statement to our reporter:- I went down the pit this morning at six o'clock. I am a dook bottomer, and was working as usual beside the lower pumping engine, which is situated on the dook at the bottom of the incline. Everything went well till about ten minutes past twelve o'clock, when the pony driver, Richard Hamilton, a boy of about 17, came past the engine house, and shouted to me that he saw sparks. I tried to find the underground, manager, but could not. I looked back, and saw sparks, and I sounded for the carriage. Before that I had shut the engine-house door, and also the trap to the blast door at the bottom of the incline, with the view of preventing a draught. I jumped into the carriage, and as it ascended and passed the other engine-house half-way up the incline, I shouted to the man Gall for God's sake to warn the men in the mine that fire had broken out. Then I got up to the top and gave the alarm, and afterwards went down several times with the rescuing party. From my knowledge of the mine I have little or no hope whatever of any of the miners escaping with their lives. Robb was so thoroughly exhausted with the events of the day and the fatigue he had undergone that he could add no further details.
Wm. Gall, who is a young married man, was visited in his house last night by our representative. He was in bed, and was so ill that he could only say a very few words, and these disjointedly and with difficulty. He said that in company with the men Walker and M'Pherson he went to repair the pumping engine halfway down the incline. The ordinary normal heat at that point being very great, he stripped himself nearly naked to carry on his work. He had just accomplished the undressing when he felt the smell of smoke. He saw that something was wrong, and accordingly rang the bell for the carriage. As the carriage did not come at once he commenced crawling up the steep incline. After much difficulty he at length reached the top, and getting into the carriage was hauled up the vertical shaft to the open air. He could not say what had become of Walker and Macpherson.
During the day and last night the following medical men were in attendance at the pit, though unfortunately there was not much call for their services:- Drs Badger, R. Badger, Willins, R. Riddell, and R Riddell, jun., all of Penicuik, and Dr Anderson from the depot of the Royal Scots at Glencorse. It may be mentioned that there are no local ironworks in connection with the mine, as the ironstone is sent through to Shotts to be smelted and the coal is sold in Penicuik.
List of Miners In The Pit
The following is a list of those under the ground, but it is imperfect, as there are a number of boys and others amissing:-
James Porteous, married and family.
James Irvine, married and family.
Thos. Mickle, old man, married.
Wm. Mickle and two sons, William and Walter.
Wm. Greave, married.
Thos. Strang, married.
David Porterfield, single.
Robert Porterfield, single.
John Purves, married.
Daniel M'Kenzie, boy.
Mitchell Hamilton and two sons.
William Lamb, single.
William Wright, single; Matthew, married and family, and James, all brothers.
William Brown, Imrie Place.
Robert Dempster, married: also a son of his.
Thomas Bennet, married and family.
David Anderson, married and family. Martin Morgan, single. Hugh M'Pherson, old man. John Walker, married and grown-up family
John Davidson, married and family.
William Daly and two sons, married.
A. M'Kinlay, married.
Martin Stark, married.
George Pennycook, unmarried.
Robert Hamilton and boy, married.
David Wallace, single.
David Kinnenmont and boy.
Henry Hope (?)
John Fraser, boy, leaves widowed mother
Thomas Adams, married and two of family
Jas. Somerville, leaves widowed mother.
Thos. Hunter, married and family.
Jas. Stark, single.
John Walker, Fieldsend married and eight of family.
Alex. Stewart, single
George Livingstone, single, leaves a widowed mother
George Mair, underground manager, married and family
David Penman, inspector of roads, married
John Glass, married
- Sennet, a boy, Fieldsend [Glasgow Herald 6 September 1889]
The Terrible Mining Disaster In Mid-Lothian - Recovert of Bodies - The Condition of the Pit - Yesterday's proceedings at the Mauricewood gave something like an accurate idea of the extent of the terrible disaster. Sixty-five or sixty-six men and boys entered the mine on Thursday morning. Of this number, two men alone escaped by desperate flight; of the remainder who were entombed in the workings, body after body has been brought to the surface, and there can be no doubt that all who, unlike Gall and Robb, had not prompt intelligence of the outbreak, have perished by fire or choke damp. This gives a total mortality of over 60 men and boys, and it is no exaggeration to say that every alternate house in the little village of Shottstown has lost a father, a son, a brother, or some near friend or relative. It was saddening to look on the hysteric wretchedness and the tearless misery which the visitation has caused. One young girl was led through Penicuik from the railway station crying aloud for her father, who was among the victims. Others there were whose grief was more heart-appealing, because it appeared too deep for tears. Here an old woman sat in the doorway of her cottage gazing abstractedly on the ground; there a mother wandered aimlessly about, seemingly avoiding the sympathetic outpourings of friends, a barefooted child held by the hand and another ragged urchin playing in her footsteps; while everywhere there were groups of women standing on the highway, wistfully looking in the direction of the colliery for the dismal train of body-laden carts which was the uttermost that many of them could hope to see. The village was one great house of mourning, and the sorrowing which was visible in the streets and roads was only a small part of that which the closed doors and drawn blinds concealed.
Working continuously day and night with relays of relief men the search party made little progress until yesterday forenoon, when the bratticing began to be effectively placed, and an advance down the fatal incline was gradually made. About noon the seat of the outbreak had been gained; at a somewhat later hour the bottom was reached, and about one o'clock the first body, after the long interval between that time and four in the morning, was brought to bank. Thereafter the sorrowful work of bringing to the surface the numerous bodies, which were found almost in a cluster in the west workings, was carried on rapidly. Each one as it arrived, swathed in sackcloth or any covering that would hide the disfigured features and dead limbs, was borne to the carts a little distance away. Here was collected a crowd, including many of those whose every thought was centered in the doings of the stalwart men who ever and anon brought their ghastly burdens to the light. Sometimes there would be a little convulsive sobbing from the women, but on the whole they imitated the composure of the men, who, not indifferent, but self-repressed, watched the workers come and go. Sometimes there was a little delay in the departure of the carts caused by the difficulty of identifying a poor, blackened corpse. On one of these moving occasions a woman, stepping timidly forward, lifted with a nervous hand the trouser of a recumbent body, and dropping it immediately with a sigh, perhaps half of relief, said, "It's no him." She had expected to identify the body by the stockings worn. The men brought from the west workings - the east being unapproachable by reason of the fire raging - had all evidently succumbed to the dreadful fire damp, some probably instantaneously and some lingeringly. One unhappy man, Robert Hunter, had worn his fingers to the bone in his terrible agony and unavailing attempts to reach the air, and the faces of some were bruised and distorted. One had tightly grasped beneath his arm the tin can in which his coffee had been carried, and the calm, unexpressive feature of others showed that they, too, had had a swift departure. One by one the carts moved off in a melancholy procession, and, arrived at their several destinations, were met by the wailing of women and children, and the weeping of those who also mourned because their dear ones were not there, and because they had not yet the consolation of seeing their changed countenances. This community of sorrow may have had some neutralising effect on individual grief, but it was not apparent when the sad home-bringing brought their loss immediately under the eyes of the bereaved.
Details of the Search - The search party continued throughout the forenoon, the efforts which they began as early as possible on Thursday with the object of getting a draught of pure air down the incline. Now and again, relieved by men from the surface, they engaged in the desperate conflict with the fire and smoke - the density of which could be guessed by those on the bank from the blue volumes of choking fog brought up by the fan - and foot by foot the sturdy workers succeeded in erecting the bratticing along the "dook." in order to cool the beclouded atmosphere, water was run down an. old shaft, but it is doubtful if the workers on the incline felt any benefit from the device. At half-past eleven the word came that the brattices had been placed within twenty-five fathoms of the bottom, and thus in close proximity to the point where the outbreak is supposed to have begun. About mid-day Mr Love, the manager, and Mr M'Laren, assistant inspector of mines, came to the top and stated that the party expected soon to reach the bottom of the incline.
All the long hours crowds of men, with here and there women and lads, had waited in almost silent expectancy outside the barriers which had been erected, and which, guarded by the county constabulary and Royal Scots, prevented too great a crush near the pit mouth. In the immediate vicinity of the shaft were groups of clergymen - Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic - all forgetting their common differences in a common sorrow; some of the directors of the company, including Mr Carlow, chairman of the board; and numbers of men ready to relieve those who worked below. The incessant whirr of the fan, scattering abroad clouds of foul-smelling smoke, and the monotonous striking of the gong which signalled the ascent or descent of a cage, were almost the only sounds which broke the impressive stillness. Down below it appeared that the inspector and other officials stood at a point about 70 feet down the shaft, where the cold water falling from above refreshed the atmosphere, and whence they directed the operations of the relief party. Some of these latter descended to the 80-fathom level, and from the top of the " dook " they ran in carriages into the heat and smoke of the incline, skilfully fixing, when they gained the limit of descent, the props on which the canvas of the brattice was nailed. Returning, sometimes delayed and stupified by the hurried journey, the place of these earnest men was taken by others - four at a time - and thus the work was rapidly executed. At one o'clock some of the exploration party came to the surface, and stated that the bottom of the incline had nearly been attained. Up to this time there had been no bodies' brought up from the ascent of the men at four o'clock in the morning with the corpse of Hugh Macpherson - and parenthetically it may be said that the bravery of these smoke begrimed warriors, who felt their way among the dangers of the incline in a darkness that literally could be felt in order that they might not rescue the living, but give the dead to the bereaved, cannot be too highly extolled. But a little after one three sonorous strokes of the gong betokened the ascent of the cage, and presently the workers brought up the body of a lad. Wrapped in a rough sack-cloth, it was laid among the straw of a waiting cart, which was soon surrounded by a crowd of eager men and women all ignorant of the identity of the lad, and many fearing him to be their own relative. It appeared afterwards that the poor boy was a fankeeper named John Sinnet, and that he had been only three days at work in the pit. His father, a cattleman on an adjacent farm, lives at Fieldsend, and the lad is one of a family of five. A sorrowful incident of the affair is that the mother of the family is confined in a lunatic asylum. From the story of the men, it transpired that when the "dook" bottom, was gained a worker stepped on a dead pony, while immediately afterwards Sinnet's body was seen lying face downwards half over the carriage on the incline, as though his last endeavours had been overpowered just when he had dragged himself to the vehicle. From the bottom a number of passages diverge, and in these several bodies were seen, but with the fire raging on one hand and the deadly choke-damp everywhere on the other it was impossible at that time to make an advance. This statement was corroborated by the inspector, who stated that the fire was raging in the last workings, and that although bodies could be seen by the glare no effort to reach them could be successful. All hope of there being life in the mine seemed now to be abandoned, because, in addition to the calamities of fire and choke damp, there was to be taken into account the fact that owing to the incapacity of the pumps at the middle and bottom of the incline the pit was slowly filling with water. As Mr M'Laren informed our representative, "The fire is blazing away at an awful rate. The west side is full of damp, and a door through which air might have been got, and which it was hoped would have been open, was found to be closed, thus precluding the possibility of their being anybody alive at the west side."
At two o'clock two more bodies found at the west mouth were brought to the top. They were those of Robert Hamilton, coalman, a married man, whose only son is also among the number in the mine, and John Walker, coalman, who leaves a widow and eight children. The bodies are not marked by fire, and the poor men had apparently been overcome by choke damp when hurrying to the foot of the incline.
A little after two o'clock several bodies were discovered at the west side of the workings, the corpses being unscarred by fire, and showing all the characteristics of death from black damp. The first to be carried to bank was the body of Alexander Stewart, a single man, and then came the following :-
James Stark, boy. Penicuik.
William Daily, coalman. Shottstown
Richard Millar Daily, grandson of the above.
Andrew Wallace, boy, Shottstown.
Joan Fraser, 17, Fieldsend.
George Livingstone, 45, Shottstown; lived with his mother
William Urquhart, 16, Eskbridge.
David Wallace, 22, single, Shottstown.
James Wright, boy, Fieldsend; his brother was also in the mine.
Robert Hunter, Roads. married; leaves a widow and family of five. The body was much disfigured.
The following is a list of the men and boys whose bodies are still to be recovered:
George Muir, underground manager, Greenlaw Mains - leaves a widow and family
Robert Dempster, Shottstown - leaves a widow and five children
Thomas Dempster, son of the above
William Lamb, Shottstown - single
William Wright, Shottstown - single
William Dempster, Shottstown - single
William Brown, Shottstown - single. He was to have been married last night.
James Porteous - leaves a widow and two children
Thomas Strang - widow and two children
Mitchell Hamilton - leaves widow and three children.
Charles Hamilton and Mitchell Hamilton, sons of above.
James Irvine, leaves widow and three children.
William Brown, single.
W. Meikle, Shottstown, leaves a widow and two children.
William Meikle, son of the above
Walter Meikle, son of the above.
Thomas Meikle, Shottstown leaves widow and three children.
R. Porterfield, Shottstown, single
D. Porterfield, Shottstown, single
W Grieve, Shottstown - leaves widow and six children.
Daniel M'Kenzie, a boy adopted by W. Grieve.
John Purves, leaves, widow and three children in Shottstown
Thomas Hunter, The Pike - widow and three children
John Davidson leaves widow and four children.
John Glass - widow and three of a family.
Matthew Wright, widow and four children.
Alexander Stewart, single
James Bowie, Roslin, leaves widow and family.
A boy, name unknown
Alexander Kinlay, leaves widow and family.
James Adams, widow and two children
David Penman, inspector, married, no family.
Thomas Hunter, widow and three children.
Robert Dickson, Fieldsend, roadsman widow and four children.
James Sommerville, Fieldsend, roadsman, single, lived with his widowed mother.
Thomas Bennett, Shottstown leaves widow and three children.
David Anderson, Shottstown widow and two children
William Brockie, Shottstown, widow and two children.
Frank Morgan, Pride's Place, single.
Operations For Cooling The Mine - Just about six o'clock the preparations for cooling the mine were completed. The fire was then raging in the eastern section of the "dook," which is the deepest part of the mine. In this section all the men whose bodies are unrecovered were working. An attempt was made earlier in the afternoon to get into this working by a semicircular passage leading off and having entrances in both the eastern and western workings. By this route Mr Anderson imagined he might get beyond the seat of the fire. He did make progress for about a hundred yards when his light was extinguished by black damp, and he also heard a shout from the men who had accompanied him to the foot of the incline that the black damp was increasing. He therefore considered it advisable to return. The stables are in this back passage, and Mr Andersen noticed the bodies of several of the ponies. As there were a number of flasks lying on the ground he conjectured that these had been thrown down by some of the men. whose bodies were found nearer the foot of the incline. The fire at that time was situated about the engine-house, or ten yards east of the entrance on the "dock." The roof had fallen in, and the way was blocked. Pit props were taken down, and the walls and sides secured in order that those engaged in the cooling down might proceed in safety. Two hand-pumps were got, and with a quantity of hose taken down. Since the fire broke out the customary pumping operations in the "dook" have of course been at a standstill, and thus there has been a natural increase. A plentiful supply of water was therefore at hand to pour on the fire, and the late afternoon and evening were occupied in endeavouring to get the fire under. The efforts of the men in this direction were very much hindered by the fast rate at which the water was rising, and which threatened to force them out of the lower workings altogether. An additional element of danger was reported about half-past nine o'clock to have occurred, and a portion of the rescuing party which then ascended stated that the position of affairs below had become very serious, portions of the roof against which the hose was being played continuing to fall. It is, therefore, unlikely that more of the bodies will be got out for some time. At half-past ten a portion of the rescue party which then ascended corroborated this information. They had forced their way forward nine fathoms by means of the hand-pumps. The water in the mine had risen two feet, however, and was rising at the rate of nearly two inches an hour. Beyond this point the fire was raging fiercely, and the cutting resembled a great red-hot tunnel. The rescuing party had to get over two heaps of debris rising breast high, and their hopes of getting at the bodies were becoming less certain. Indeed, it was thought not improbable that what between the falling in of the cutting and the rise of water that efforts would have to be suspended for a time. Notwithstanding the improbability of any further progress meantime being made in the recovery of the bodies, and that the natural darkness of the night was intensified by the thick fog which swept in from the North Sea, the crowd around the scene of the disaster was very large all the evening. Shortly after seven o'clock the carts which had been engaged in the removal of the bodies recovered to the bereaved houses earlier in the day were withdrawn. It is understood that arrangements have been made for a public funeral of the victims of this disaster. The clergymen of the district are said to be favourable to such a proceeding. Today it is expected that the interments will take place of those miners whose bodies were brought to the surface on Thursday.
It is understood that communication have been opened with the Lord Provost of Edinburgh by the directors of the company with the view of raising a subscription in aid of the sufferers from the disaster, the dependents of those who have lost their lives in it, and the Shotts Iron Company have promised to head any such subscription list with a donation of £500. Mr A. W. Turnbull, the manager of the Shotts Company, the owners of the Mauricewood Pit, was on the spot throughout yesterday, and the scene of the disaster was also visited by several of the directors of the company, among whom were Mr Bell of Cliftonhall the chairman of the company, Mr Jordan, and Mr James Thomson, shipowner, Leith. The directors acknowledge the kindness and valuable services rendered by the managers of other companies, among whom are Mr Wood, of the Clippens Oil Company; Mr Menzies, of the Gilmerton Collieries ; Mr Morrison, of Newbattle; Mr Blyth, of Bent; Mr Anderson, of Lochgelly; Mr Baxter, of Niddry; and by other practical men, including Sir James Ormiston, a son of the late manager of the company; Mr Charles Carlow, manager of the Fife Coal Company; Mr James M'Crae, consulting engineer and Mr Beith, the manager of the Loanhead Collieries of the Shotts Company.
We understand that Mr Ronaldson, H.M, Inspector for the West of Scotland, left Glasgow yesterday for Penicuik, by instructions of the Home Secretary, with the object of inquiring into the cause of the disaster.
Telegraphing at two o'clock this morning, our correspondent at Penicuik says :- At 12.15 a.m. a large search party, in charge of Edward Leyden, again made an attempt to re-explore the west side. After an hour the cage came up with the body of Robert Dickson, and the news that six bodies had been recovered further along the mine than the bodies found in the afternoon. Efforts are still being made to extinguish the fire, but with small success. The east side is still closed against the rescuers. [Glasgow Herald 7 September 1889]
The Mauricewood Disaster - At six o'clock on Saturday the night-shift; cams off work after repairing the damage down in the incline which was found out the previous evening to be diverting the pure air from its proper course through the mine above the 120 level. The temperature at the west-level door at the top of the incline was then found to be 72 decrees, being a fall of two degrees in two hours, but the air had not up to that time fully developed. At half-past six an exploring party, consisting of Mr Love, William Gall, Thomas Cairns, and John Grieve, proceeded to the 120 level, which they entered, and pausing along about 100 ft. the upcast was reached by taking a turn on the level. This place was found partially blocked with cinders, charred coal, and wood, and the 80 fathom level on the west side was completely blocked immediately off the incline. Although there was no smell at smoke, or appearance of fire, after a consultation with Mr M'Laren, the manager resolved to introduce a hose and run water down the upcast from the 120 point they had entered, so as to avoid any possibility of the fire still existing. The party then returned to the surface for refreshments, bringing with them specimens of the burned coal and wood, which were shown to those on the pit head. Messrs Atkinson and Johnstone having joined the party, it was agreed, after the water had run for a considerable time, that the fire was now out. As only one cage has been running on the incline it was resolved to try and put the other in use also, but it having been found to be embedded in the mud or fixed at the bottom this could not be done till the water had all been pumped out. This was considered a very important idea, as it was thought there might be bodies on or about the cage. The pumping capacity at present ought to empty the mine is about two months. Special pumping engines will be introduced into the incline on the cage and levels to pump the water to the 86 fathom water lodgment, where it is pumped to the perpendicular, and in turn to the surface by the one there. [Glasgow Herald 7 October 1889]
Mauricewood Pit Disaster - Patient labour and diligent search were rewarded yesterday in the recovery of the last seven of the bodies of the unfortunate victims of the Mauricewood Pit disaster. At an early hour in the morning, a party of explorers came upon two bodies at the top of a wheel brae at the end of the double lie in the west workings, about 80 fathoms from the bottom of the main incline. Taken to the surface they were identified as those of David Kinnenmont, 45 years of age, and his son Robert, 15 years of age. In the course of emptying the "sumph" at the bottom of the incline three bodies were found; and these were subsequently ascertained to be the remains of Matthew Wright, aged 32; George Pennycook, 44 years of age, and the boy Mitchell Hamilton. Pennycook's identity was established by his widow recognising his tobacco box, his boots, and the neck of his shirt. The scene after Mrs Pennycook saw these articles was of the most affecting description. She arrived at the pithead with her baby in her arms and waited until two bodies from the sumph had been brought to the bank. Previous to viewing the corpse, she gave the baby to a neighbour, and then went forward to the mortuary. After realising that it was the body of her husband she completely gave way, and bemoaned the fate that had overtaken him. After the sumph had been thoroughly cleared out, and it was ascertained that no more bodies were in it, a search was made for the two missing corpses - those of John Davidson and John Glass. Late in the afternoon they were found some distance beyond the place where the Kinnenmonts were discovered, and were brought to the surface and coffined. Great relief was felt that the work of recovering the bodies was at last completed. The funerals of Wm. Brockie and Matthew Wright took place yesterday. Brockie was one of the Royal Scots Reserve, and his remains were interred with military honours; the coffin being carried shoulder-high from the deceased's house in Shottstown to the cemetery by men of the Royal Scots from Glencorse Barracks, and followed by relatives and friends and a small company of the soldiers. The procession was headed by the pipers of the depot, who played 'The Land o' the Leal.". ThenRev. Mr Elrington, Episcopal minister, read the burial service at the grave. The remains of George Muir, the underground manager, are to be buried today. The body is to be conveyed from the pit mortuary to his house in Shottstown, and thence by hearse to Edinburgh, whence it is to be taken by train to Fauldhouse, and interred there at three o'clock. The Kinnenmonts are to be buried on Thursday at Roslin. [Scotsman 1 April 1890]
Mauricewood Pit Disaster.
On the forenoon of 5th September 1889 occurred the ever- memorable Mauricewood pit accident, which caused the death of sixty-three men and boys. The workings of the colliery are in Glencorse, but with one or two exceptions, those who perished resided in Penicuik parish; and it is fitting that an event which brought such suffering to many homes in our district should be included in this history.
None who heard the dread news on that September forenoon, that Mauricewood pit was on fire, and that the miners were entombed, will ever forget the moments of intense excitement which they caused, and the terrible time of suspense and anxiety which followed. When the fire was first observed there were seventy persons underground. Of this number only seven survived ; two of them escaping death in an almost miraculous manner. The fire, which originated in an engine-house at the 160-fathom level, was first observed about twelve o'clock noon by a pony boy, named Mitchell Hamilton, who had come from the east side of the workings to the foot of the main incline. He at once called the attention of Robb, the bottomer, to it. The latter went into the engine-house, and saw that the door leading into the return upset was on fire. Alarmed by the sight, he immediately despatched some boys at the foot of the incline, to run and warn the miners of their danger. A signal had meanwhile come to him to send up the carriage for men at the 80-fathom level, and as it moved away he stepped on to it. Before reaching the place he met smoke, and when the carriage stopped he found quantities of it pouring out at the door leading to the engine-house at the 80-fathom level. The carriage was eventually drawn to the dook-head, and Robb was the only survivor from the 160-fathom level. About the same time that the fire was observed by him, William Gall, John Walker, and Hugh M'Pherson, at the 80-fathom level engine, were surprised and alarmed by bad air and smoke coming to them. This caused them to leave the engine and make for the main incline, where they signalled for the carriage. Smoke followed them in dense volumes. Walker and M'Pherson both lay down, waiting its arrival; but they were speedily overcome by the noxious fumes. Gall, who was a younger and more active man than his companions, afraid to linger, commenced to climb the incline - an operation which, though difficult and dangerous, he successfully accomplished, reaching the dook-head level in safety. After it became known above what had occurred, Mr. Love, the manager, at once gave orders to run the carriage rapidly back and forward, and, in one of the ascents, four persons, an old man and three boys, were drawn up; but two were dead, and the other two dying, when they reached the top. Every effort was subsequently made to reach the fatal 80-fathom level, so as to stop the smoke. Many deeds of heroism were performed by the noble band of rescuers, led by Mr. Love and his son - the latter an underground manager at the Greenlaw pit, also belonging to the Shotts Company. The speed of the fan was increased, and the area of the incline was with immense labour reduced by brattice cloth to half its size, in the hope that the increased velocity of the air in the other half would sweep away the smoke. Meanwhile thousands were congregated at a little distance from the shaft's mouth, and sad were the scenes to be witnessed there. Many of the poor women and children, whose husbands and fathers were below, could be seen moving to and fro, mute with suspense and agony. Managers from neighbouring collieries, including Mr. John Anderson of Lochgelly, formerly in charge of the Mauricewood and Greenlaw pits, arrived in quick succession to render aid by advice or active service; while Mr. A. W. Turnbull, the able secretary and commercial manager of the Shotts Company, hardly ever left the ground. The 80-fathom level was reached about midnight of the 5th, and the bodies of Walker and M'Pherson recovered. About one o'clock p.m. on the following day, or 25 hours after the fire broke out, the 120-fathom was reached, and about an hour afterwards the heroic rescue party arrived at the bottom. It was found that the fire had extended from the engine-house along the east-side level, and the road along which it had passed was nearly closed with heavy falls of debris. Near the foot of the incline, and between it and the level workings on the west side, the bodies of nineteen workers were found, who had succumbed to the fatal smoke. These were sent to the surface, and taken in carts and other conveyances to the homes which they had left in health and strength in the morning. The fire-engine hose was then brought to bear upon the flames, and every effort made to recover all the bodies; but the rising of the water stopped further operations at that level. An endeavour was then made to reach the east-side workings, where the majority of the workers were entombed by the door or the air-crossing at the 120-fathom level. On opening it smoke again came on to the main incline, and the effort was abandoned with great reluctance, and, in the full assurance that there could be no living man below, it was then decided to close the mine, and an air-tight scaffold was placed upon the top of the pit.
The funeral services, in connection with the interment of twenty-four of the deceased miners on Sabbath, the 8th September, brought multitudes of visitors to the village. It was reckoned that about ten thousand spectators and mourners witnessed the sad spectacle. Services were conducted for the Presbyterians in the U.P. Church, in the Fieldsend Mission Hall for Episcopalians, and at the Roman Catholic Chapel for members of that communion. Outside the churches the procession was formed in the following order:- Volunteers, under command of Captain Craster, Presbyterian funerals, Episcopalian funerals, and a Roman Catholic funeral, public bodies, general mourners, Boys' Brigade, and military. Eloquent allusions to the sad disaster were made in all the churches by the local clergymen. Temporary relief and tender help had been rendered to the distressed widows and children in Shottstown by the Fieldsend Mission workers, organised by the Rev. S. R. Crockett, of the Free Church, and by many others, whose hearts were stirred to aid the poor sufferers.
In response to a meeting summoned by Mr. Cowan of Beeslack, a representative gathering met in Mr. M'Kerrow's church on Monday evening, the 9th September, to organise relief and solicit subscriptions for those whose breadwinners had perished in the disaster. Sir Charles Dalrymple, Bart., M.P., Messrs. John Cowan of Beeslack, C. W. Cowan of Loganhouse, A. W. Inglis of Loganbank, John J. Wilson, banker, and the Reverends S. R. Crockett, R. Thomson, J. M'Kerrow of Penicuik, and J. Thomson, of Roslyn Chapel, took part in the proceedings. An influential general committee of county gentlemen was formed, and a large local committee appointed, with Rev. J. M'Kerrow as convener, to administer such funds as might be collected for the sufferers. On the 1Ith September a meeting of Edinburgh citizens was also held in the Council Chambers for the purpose of appointing a committee to co-operate with the Lord Provost's Committee in collecting subscriptions. The result of the appeals by the county and city committees was that about £20,000 was contributed by a generous public; and this sum was f1nally placed under the control of a joint aggregate committee, with a secretary and treasurer in Edinburgh, and a local secretary and treasurer in Penicuik. It is satisfactory to record that about £1200 of the total amount collected was contributed by the parishes of Penicuik and Glencorse.
On the 4th October the mine was re-opened ; but three days afterwards smoke was again observed ascending the pipe upcast at the 80-fathom level. Stoppings were afterwards placed on the roads leading downwards, and the fire was finally overcome. A weary time was, however, to ensue before the water which had accumulated in the mine could be got rid of. It was not until about the 16th of March 1890 that the 160-fathom level was reached, and it was the end of the month before the thirty-six bodies left in the mine were recovered. Three were found in the sump at the bottom of the main incline, twenty-nine were found in the eastern workings, including George Muir, the oversman. The remaining four bodies were found in the west side return airway. With the exception of a few words of comfort, addressed to his wife and children, scratched upon his flask by good Thomas Meikle, no other message from the dead was discovered. That the poor fellows had lived for a little while is evident from the fact that two barricades had been erected by them in the intake air-ways to keep back the smoke. The power of man, however, could not save them, for it was the will of Providence that they should be taken from this life while busy toiling for the dear ones whom they were never again to see upon the earth.
The usual inquiries by the Procurator-Fiscal and by the Inspector of Mines were made after the accident. A special inquiry, under section 45 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, was also held by direction of her Majesty's Secretary of State. Evidence was then led at considerable length, and it was satisfactorily proved that there was no cause for any serious reflection upon the owners of the mine. [from The Annals of Penicuik by John James Wilson, 1891]