Auchengeich 22 January 1931

Six men killed by explosion:

  • Robert Gray, mining contractor, married, age 39, 30 Mossvale, Chryston, died 23 January, Glasgow Royal Infirmary of burns.
  • Edward Haughey, brusher, single, age 33, 20 Pollok Street, Pollokshaws
  • Daniel Henery, brusher, married, age 43, 50A Dundyvan Road, Coatbridge
  • James O'Donnell, brusher, single, age 24, 16 Salisbury Street, Glasgow
  • James Shearer, brusher, single, age 24, 32 Bothlyn Road, Chryston
  • James Smith, brusher, single, age 23, 29 Alexandra Place, Muirhead

Newspaper Reports

Air Tubes Destroyed- Miners' Sacrifice to Save Their Workmates

Five miners were killed and six injured in an explosion which occurred early yesterday morning in a Lanarkshire colliery. Several men escaped injury in the explosion, but returned immediately to the danger zone in an effort to assist their comrades, and were overcome by gas fumes.

The explosion took place about four o'clock in the morning in the Auchengeich colliery of James Nimmo & Co.(Ltd.) at Chryston, on the north-eastern outskirts of Glasgow.

Night shift men-were at work in No. 2 Pit, known as the Round Pit. when a violent explosion occurred. Within 25 minutes of the disaster the Coatbridge Rescue Brigade went down the pit, and although seriously hampered by fumes, they performed gallant work in bringing out the victims. The names of the dead are:-

  • James Shearer, Bothlyn Road, Chryston.
  • James Smith (23), Mossvale, Chryston.
  • Daniel Hendry (45). 50 Dundyvan Road, Coatbridge.
  • Edward Haughey (29), 20 Pollok Street, Pollokshaws, Glasgow.
  • James O'Donnell 16 Salisbury Street. Glasgow.

The injured who are detained in the Royal Infirmary Glasgow, are:-

  • George Smith, Auchenloch, Lenzie - gas poisoning.
  • David Tucker, 53 Canal Street . Kirkintilloch - gas poisoning.
  • George Brannon, 37 Victoria Street, Kirkintilloch - gas poisoning.
  • Joseph Branson, 93 Bridge End, Chryston - gas poisoning.
  • Peter M'Crudden, 27 Grier Street, Parkhead - gas poisoning.
  • Robert Gray, 30 Mossvale, Muirhead, Chryston - general burning injuries.

Probable Cause of Accident - About 50 men were working in the pit at the time of the disaster, and ten of them were in the section affected. How the accident occurred is meantime unknown, but it is presumed that an accumulation of gas exploded following the firing of a shot, and five of the miners were killed instantaneously. The men were working about a quarter of a mile from the bottom of the shaft. The five other miners, who managed to get out of the section unaffected by the explosion, went back in search of their comrades, but were overcome by gas fumes, and had to be rescued. One of the dead, James Smith, was shortly to have been married, while his mate O'Donnell had only recently commenced working in the pit.

The noise of the explosion attracted other miners to the section, but the presence of "black damp" rendered rescue work dangerous. Officials at the pithead immediately summoned the . assistance of the Lanarkshire Rescue Brigade, and the St Andrew's Ambulance Association, Glasgow, were instructed to send ambulance waggons to the colliery. News of the disaster rapidly spread in the neighbourhood, and,for a time a series of alarming rumours were current Despite the early hour of the morning, crowds of people flocked to the colliery to glean news of relatives who were working in the pit at the time. Regardless of the chilling atmosphere, men, women, and children waited in the gloom, and no more pathetic scene could have been witnessed. Occasionally one heard the shrill cry of a woman as the rescue party were conveying the victims from the shaft to a nearby shed. There was no lack of sympathisers , and immediately anything like authentic information could be obtained it was passed to the crowd.

Within twenty-five minutes of the disaster the Lanarkshire Rescue Brigade were descending the pit equipped with gas helmets. Their number was reinforced by some day shift men who had arrived. On proceeding to the section the rescuers found that there had been a slight fall in the neighbourhood of the explosion, and there was a good percentage of black damp in the atmosphere. It was apparent that the explosion had been violent. The five bodies were recovered within a comparatively short distance of each other, and were conveyed by stretcher to the pit bottom and from thence to the surface.

Eye Witness's Account - A graphic account of the accident was related to our representative by George Egan, of Bridgend , Chryston, who was working in the section and had a remarkable escape from death. Egan said he was working at the engine when the explosion occurred.

"I had just let down a rake of hutches,” he said, "and was going out on to the main road to bring in some more when I was lifted bodily from my feet and thrown to the ground. I have no recollection of how long I lay there, but when I recovered my face, legs, and elbows felt painful . I told Mr Marshall, the 'gaffer,' what had happened and he telephoned to the pithead for medical assistance. When we returned to the section we saw men lying about. The light from our lamps was not too strong, but we distinguished the bodies of some of the men. Some were trying to get up, while others looked deadly still. We began to help out the men though the fumes were very thick. Dr Jamieson, of Muirhead , appeared, and he bandaged the man Gray, who was suffering from burns and gave directions for artificial respiration to be applied to the men who were suffering from gassing . There was a number of rescuers down at the section by this time, and some were engaged repairing the air tubes which were burst by the explosion. Three of the injured came tottering out from the coal face and collapsed in our arms. The rescue brigade from Coatbridge arrived and, donning their gas helmets, they went into the gas-filled section and brought the dead. Some of the victims were quite unrecognisable owing to the terrible burning injuries they had sustained, while others apparently had met their death by inhaling the poisonous fumes."

Rescue Leader Overcome - Mr Egan added that the superintendent of the rescue brigade was overcome by fumes when he first attempted to enter the section. He had to receive treatment from the doctors and after recovering pluckily led his men into the section.

One of the miners stated that although the sound of the explosion was not heard in all sections of the pit it must have been pretty severe, as a fall took place immediately afterwards. The presence of fumes was discovered in the usual way by taking a canary into the affected section. The canary collapsed in its cage, but later recovered when it was given some oxygen.

One of the rescuers paid a warm tribute to the man Gray who is confined in the infirmary suffering from burning injuries to the body. He stated that Gray was fortunate in escaping from the first effects of the explosion, but when he went into the section to rescue his ill-fated comrades he was badly burned and also suffered from gassing.

The manager of the colliery stated that it was impossible as yet to ascertain the cause of the accident. It was a shocking business, and up to the present the pit had been comparatively free from accidents of that kind.

Burst Air Tubes - One of the rescuers, John Sommerville, of Chryston stated that he was awakened by a colliery official and informed of the tragic occurrence. He said he was due to commence work on the day shift some time later, but immediately he got out of bed, hastily dressed, and rushed to the pit.

"We went down the pit," he said, "to render what assistance we could, but precautionary measures were necessary owing to the presence of black damp. Miners from other sections had rushed to the affected seam and were heroically risking their lives to aid their mates. A large section of the air-tubes had been destroyed by the force of the explosion, and every effort was made to repair the damage, which entailed hazardous work''

During the day Sir Henry Walker, Chief Inspector of Mines for Great Britain, visited the colliery accompanied by Mr J. Masterton, Scottish Divisional Mines Inspector, and colliery and Union officials. On the previous day Sir Henry had been the chief speaker at a conference in Glasgow, when the subject under discussion was "Explosions in Mines."

As is customary with fatal accidents in collieries, work was suspended and will not be resumed until the Mines Department complete their investigations As soon as all the information is collected a public inquiry will be held into the causes of the explosion.

Progress of Patients - On inquiry at the Infirmary last night it was learned that five of the six men admitted were making favourable progress. Gray, who is detained in the burns ward, is critically ill, but the others, who suffered from gas poisoning, will in all probability be allowed home to-day. [Scotsman 23 January 1931]

Chryston Pit Disaster - Moving Scenes at Funeral - There were touching scenes on Saturday afternoon at the funeral of James Shearer and James Smith, the two young Chryston men who were among the victims of the Auchengeich Colliery disaster. A religious service was held in the Chryston East Parish Church, where the Rev. A. L. Bennett officiated. The church was crowded. Many were visibly affected, and it was in tremulous tones that the congregation entered upon the singing. Smith's fiancee was assisted up the aisle weeping bitterly. For a minute or two the rays of the sun broke through and illumined the church during the service.

The minister said that when he had gently raised the improvised covering and looked upon the faces of the victims on the morning of the disaster, he could not help but think of the hazardous calling of those who minister to our needs and comfort. Alas, we were only too prone to forget at what cost we derived the ordinary blessings that enriched our lives.

Well on for a thousand men lined up behind the hearses on the way to Bedlay Cemetery. In the company were half-a-dozen miners with black faces and grimy clothes, who had just come off their shift in time to join the funeral procession.

Robert Gray, Mossvale, Chryston, who has been added to the list of victims, was an uncle of James Shearer. [Scotsman 26 January 1931]

Pit Victims Buried - The funeral took place yesterday of other three victims of the Auchengeich Colliery disaster. Robert Gray, who was a married man of 44 years and leaves a family of two, was interred in Bedlay Cemetery, where other two of the victims were interred on Saturday. All three were connected with Chryston East Church. Daniel Hendry, whose funeral took place from Coatbridge, leaves a widow and a family of ten. He was 43 years of age. The funeral of Edward Haughey took place from Pollokshaws to Eastwood Cemetery. He was 33 years ol age. [Scotsman 27 January 1931]