Brownlee Colliery, Law, 5 May 1925

4 men killed in cage accident at Brownlee Colliery, Law, Carluke:-

  • Charles Horn, 42, coal miner, married, 1 Greenknowe Street, Overtown
  • John Thomson, 49, coal miner, married, 6 Woodlands Square, Law
  • John Thomson, 26, pit bottomer, married, 30 Wilsons Row, Law
  • Robert McIntyre, 54, married, coal miner, Burkes Place, Law

Pit Cage Crash – Four Miners Killed – Lanarkshire Tragedy - While a cage containing four miners, who were descending to start work at No. 2 Pit, Brownlee, near Law Junction, Lanarkshire, was being lowered yesterday morning, the supporting rope parted, and the cage crashed to the bottom of the shaft, 160 fathoms deep. The four occupants lost their lives. The names of the four men, who were all married, are:-

Robert McIntyre, Burke's Cottages, Law;
John Thomson, sen., and John Thomson, jun., Woodlands Square, Law; and
Charles Horne, Overtown.

The disaster, the most serious of its kind that has taken place in the district, occurred about seven o'clock yesterday morning, Belonging to Wilson's & Clyde Coal Company (Limited), the colliery for many years was in use only as a pumping station, but recently was fitted to draw coal and was equipped with two cages.

Safety Catch Fails - At the time stated the four men, entered the cage with the intention of starting work for the day. When all was ready for the descent the pithead man signalled by bell to the engine-house, and opened the shuts, in which the cage rests at the top. When the cage moved it began to travel upwards towards the beams supporting the winding gear. Below this gear, and about 10 feet above the pithead, safety catches are fitted with the object of preventing overwinding, or, in the event of a mishap of this kind, of catching the cage as it falls back, and keeping it from falling down the shaft. The apparatus at this pit had been renewed last week, and an examination is carried out every morning. While no explanation can be given as to the cause, when the rope was released and the cage fell back, the safety catches failed to operate. With no obstacle in its way, the cage crashed down the shaft at great speed, and all that could be heard was the shouting of the men as the cage started its downward career.

Rescue operations were started immediately, but it was some time before the victims were reached. The cage was completely telescoped, and the remains of the men were found on the top of the compartment, each in the respective corner he had occupied when the descent began. One surmise as to the reason for this is that the powerful draughts of air occasioned by the rapid descent of the heavy cage had blown the men off, and that the bodies had fallen later on the top. The bodies were carefully taken up and conveyed home.

Engineman's Collapse - The manager of the pit, Mr Kerr, was in the office when he heard the crash, and under his directions steps were at once taken to recover the bodies. The engineman on duty at the time, a man of about 60 years of ago, fainted on learning of the occurrence, and had to be conveyed home.

All the victims, as stated, were married, and the Thomsons are father and son. Horne leaves a widow and a family of five, Two of his sons worked in the pit, and after hearing of the accident ascended to the surface by No. 1 shaft, along with other men, and made their way home without learning of the death of their father. John Thomson, jun., leaves a young family. [The Scotsman 6 May 1925]

Fatal Accident Inquiry – Before Sheriff Harvey and a jury, on Friday last week, inquiry was held into the circumstances connected with the death by accident of the following: - John Carswell (24), miner, Braehead View, Forth, who died as the result of an accident in Wilsontown Colliery on June 16th; Robert M'Meechan (17), pony driver, Tarbrax Rows, who died from the kick of a pony in Viewfield Pit, Tarbrax, on 2nd June; John Gray (49), repairer, who died from injuries received falling down the shaft of Lord Dunglass Colliery on 2nd July; and into the circumstances connected with the deaths of Robert M'Intyre (55), Birks Place, Law; John Thomson (49), Woodlands Square, Law; John Thomson (27) Wilsons Rows, Law; and Charles Horne (42) Burnknowe Street, Overtown, all of whom were killed as the result of the winding accident at Brownlie Colliery, Law, on 5th May. With the exception of the Law accident none of the above fatal accidents presented any unusual features and the jury returned a formal verdict in accordance with the evidence in each case. The sad accident at Law was shown to be the result of a combination of unfortunate circumstances. The Procurator Fiscal, before taking up this inquiry, intimated that as an inquiry into the causes of the accident was to be held under the Mines Act at Lanark in October, he did not propose to go into all details. From the evidence submitted it would appear that the four deceased took their place on the cage to be lowered to the mine level, but were lowered to the pumping station further down. From here they were raised to the surface. Leaving the cage at the pithead John Thomson junr went to the door of the winding engine-house and spoke angrily to the engineman for thus lowering and raising them. He returned to the pithead and once more took his place on the cage, and the signal to descend was given. The cage instead of going down went up. The winding rope was detached from the safety hook, which failed to hold, and the cage crashed down the shaft. The inquiries of the Court were principally directed to the cause of this failure. It would appear that while the hook itself was in good condition, the steel ring through which it worked had become worn by the friction of the winding rope. When the safety hook passed into this ring it was close enough to cause the detaching process but too wide to hold the jaws of the hook as it came down through. From the evidence it further appeared that the person responsible for the examination of the hook was not responsible for the examination of the ring. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death without apportioning blame. [Hamilton Advertiser 8 August 1925]