Carbarns 12 February 1900

Fire Damp Explosion in Carbarns Pit
Manager, Oversman and Fireman Killed
Another Seriously Injured
Gallant Rescue Work
On Monday intense sorrow and regret was felt over the whole district when it became known that an explosion of fire damp had occurred in Carbarns Pit, causing death and serous injuries to several of the workmen. Particulars of the accident were eagerly sought after, but it was not generally known till the following day what the actual extent and results of the explosion had been.

Carbarns Colliery is the properly of Messrs William Hudspith & Co., and is situated near Cam'nethan Old Graveyard; in fact it was known at one time as the Old Graveyard Pit.

From information, we learn that the pit is riddled by what is known by miners as “troubles,” some parts of the seams of different coals being on the same level. The coal is all brought to the same level, and wherever the seam is, up or down, a mine is driven towards it. In this case, a seam of ell coal was being opened up about seven fathoms nearer the surface than the main coal, and for the purpose of getting the air to circulate in this seam, what is known as a ''blind pit" was made perpendicular from the main coal seam to the ell coal seam. At another place, a slanting mine was driven, and two miners had latterly been engaged making a communication between the slanting mine and the blind pit. When they turned out on Monday morning, owing to the fireman having reported the place full of gas, they were not permitted to start work. They tried for a time to blow out the gas with a hand fan, but as they found they were making no impression, they left and went home about 11.30a.m. At the time of the accident - 12.45 p.m. - the manager, oversman, fireman, and an oncostman were engaged looking if the place was not getting any clearer of the gas. Their names are as follows:-

Henry Danks, 64, manager, Danks' Land, Marshall Street; married.
George Hill, 49, oversman, Kirkhill, Carbarns; married.
James Dickson, 27, fireman, Marshall's Land, Main Street; married.
William Knox, 36, oncostman 251 Caledonian Road; unmarried.

It is alleged that Danks and Hill, who had naked lights, remained at the bottom of the causey while Dickson and Knox, who were provided with Davy and Glennie safety lamps respectively, went up the mine, and when the two last-named left, Hill was holding up his lamp to see if there was a current of air. Further up the mine Dickson told Knox to remain and drive the fan while he went to the face. He was gone not more than five minutes when the explosion occurred, which, as was afterwards found proved so disastrous.

The shock was felt almost throughout the entire workings, but as there were few men in this particular portion of the pit at the time, the force of the explosion was spent ere it reached the others.

Before the explosion took place, Francis Wight, a miner, was engaged only 15 yards away from the bottom of the causey, but round the corner, making up a rake of hutches to take away when Danks, Dickson, and Knox passed him. A little later Hill appeared and asked him where the others were, and he told him. Wight had just got his hutches made up and was preparing to take his dinner, when he felt a great shock, and his bread box was blown out of his hand. He knew that an explosion had taken place, and on making a hurried inspection he found that Danks had been killed, and Hill seriously injured. He then hurried for assistance.

David and Hugh Dickson, miners, brothers of the fireman James Dickson, on hearing the explosion and realising their brother was in peril, immediately procured safety lamps, and ran off to render, if possible, any assistance they could, and on their way they met Wight coming towards them. They proceeded some distance up .the causey but were forced back by the after damp. They afterwards heard someone shouting, and going up a bit they were able by the light of their lamps to guide Knox, who crawled towards them a distance of about 100 yards. Several other men had now joined them, and on returning with Knox they got Danks and Hill also, and had them conveyed to the surface with all possible speed. Drs Seal and Boag were soon at the pithead, and attended to the injured men.

The body of Henry Danks was found lying at a part about 200 fathoms from the pit bottom in the main coal seam, and at the bottom of the mine leading from the main coal to the ell coal seam. Part of his head had been crushed to pulp, death apparently having been instantaneous. The body was removed home in a cart.

George Hill, the oversman, was found lying near the body of the manager, and although dangerously injured, he was still in life. His left leg was shattered below the knee, and he had sustained a large scalp wound, while he was suffering severely from shock. He was taken in the ambulance waggon to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but only lived 15 minutes after being admitted, death being due to gas poisoning. He never was properly conscious from the time he was found till the time he expired. A son of Hill's, who was working not far off at the time of the explosion, thought that a shot had been fired at the top of the blind pit, and he proceeded there to see if any coal or stones had come down with the shot. On ascertaining the true state of matters, he went to the assistance of his father.

William Knox owed his life to the fact that when the explosion occurred he was in a kind of recess working the fan. Nevertheless, he was violently knocked down, and his powers of endurance must have been great which enabled him to crawl in the dark a distance of about 100 yards, suffering as he was from a fracture of the pelvis bone, a cut on the left arm, and a bruised head. He was conveyed, along with George Hill, to the Royal Infirmary, where he is making satisfactory progress towards recovery.

In a comparatively short time after the accident took place, Mr Murdoch Devoy, under manager at Clydesdale Colliery, was on the spot with a staff of men, and, along with a number of other men belonging to the colliery, including the brothers Dickson, the search was begun for the missing fireman, James Dickson. After getting the air stoppings, which had been blown down by the force of the explosion, reopened from the pit bottom towards the seat of the explosion, Mr Devoy ordered that all naked lights be put out. The search party then went so far as the head of the main seam, but at that point they were beaten back by after damp. They found a horse, uninjured, in the main coal seam, and had it removed out of possible danger. The party was afterwards joined by Mr Wm. Stevenson, manager of the Belhaven and Clydesdale Collieries, and a staff of his under-managers, including Messrs Samuel M'Intyre, Wm. Colquhoun, Andrew Maxwell, and several firemen. The search was continued up to 1.45 o'clock on Tuesday morning, but without success. During this time Dickson's waistcoat and watch were founds and the rescuers also came across Knox's waistcoat, which had been blown off him, and, remarkable to relate, his watch was found:in one of the pockets, the hands pointing to the correct time, and, still going. It was agreed to suspend the search until rhones for the conveyance of air had been got and a hand fan put into working.

With these arrangements complete, the search for the missing man was resumed about half past nine on Tuesday forenoon, nearly 30 experienced men taking part. An hour later, they were joined by Mr Atkinson, H.M. Inspector of Mines, along with Mr Riddell, managing director, and Mr Stevenson. Fears were entertained that the coal face in the ell seam was on fire, but after a consultation had been held, the search party was allowed to proceed with their work, under the charge of Messrs Devoy and M'Intyre. Although every care was taken, most of the men, in penetrating forward, were repeatedly overcome by the afterdamp, and had to be carried in an insensible condition into the fresh air, where restoratives were applied, and they soon came round, only to go through the same experience again. About three o'clock in the afternoon, the rescuers had worked their way to the ell coal seam, where the body was found by Mr M'Intyre. When he saw the body he went out beyond the range of the rhones and his lamp went out. No sooner had he shouted the fact of his discovery to the others than he fell prostrate by the body, having succumbed to the noxious fumes. David and Harry Dickson and Thomas Taylor went to his assistance, and he was carried to a place of safety where he was brought round. Later in the evening, when he was assisting at the pit head, he was again overcome by effects of the foul gas, and had to be conveyed home in a cab. A party, headed by Devoy, brought out the dead body and had it removed to the surface, where it was coffined in the smith's shop before being taken home.

Dickson's body was found about 35 yards from the top of the mine leading from the main to the ell coal. He had been thrown on his face by the force of the explosion, and death had evidently been instantaneous. A large part of his shoulder had been burnt and blown away, and he was otherwise bruised.

Henry Danks had been in the employment of Messrs Hudspith & Co as manager for the last 22 years, and had all along held the confidence and esteem of all his employers and of those who were under him. He had been in charge of the Carbarns Colliery since it was reopened by its present owners about two years ago, having formerly been manager of the Green Colliery. A native of Dunfermline, he came to Newmains when he was 17 years of age, and worked in several collieries in the district. Before entering the employment of Messrs Hudspith & Co., he was for nearly 10 years manager of Woodmuir Colliery, West Calder, belonging to Wishaw Estate. He is survived by a widow and family of four sons and two daughters.

George Hill and James Dickson had also been a long time in the service of the company, and were trusted as experienced and cautious workmen. Both men leave a widow and family to mourn their loss.

The Funeral
An impressive sight was witnessed on Thursday, when a joint funeral took place of the three victims of the explosion. Although the weather was intensely cold and there was a fall of snow during the afternoon, there was a large attendance of friends of the deceased and the general public at the funeral. As a mark of respect, places of business were closed and blinds drawn in Main Street and Kirk Road as the cortège wound its way to Cambusnethan Cemetery. [Wishaw Press February 17 1900]