Quarrelton 2 May 1818
Melancholy Accident – On the morning of Saturday last, the workmen in one of the coal pits belonging to Mr Houston of Johnston, at Quarleton, had unfortunately taken out the coal too near an old pit filled with water, when the water broke in and inundated the work, by which seven men, it is feared, have lost their lives; some having families. We understand, however, there is a possibility of the men being still alive. It is known they were above the level of the water, and, if there is a sufficiency of air for respiration, there was a horse in the same place on which they may have subsisted. From the exertions to empty the pit of water, it is supposed access may be had to them in less than two days. [Edinburgh Advertiser 8 May 1818]
Two of the men supposed to have been drowned in the coal-pit at Johnston, as mentioned in last Friday's Advertiser, were got out alive on Tuesday morning. Their only sustenance for ten days and ten nights, in total darkness, amidst bad air, was the impure water of the pit and three pieces of oat cake, which, by groping round the work, they found in the pockets of the clothes left by some of the men who escaped. Their light lasted only two hours after the breaking in of the water. The men saved were in a different part of the workings from the remaining five, whose fate, it is feared, is now certain, as it is found impracticable to enter the mine by which the other two got out, owing to the bad air, and it will be a number of weeks before the water is drawn from the pit. [Edinburgh Advertiser 15 May 1818]
We are happy to mention, that two of the men shut up, as formerly mentioned, in the Quarrelton colliery, near Glasgow, were on Tuesday morning found alive and well, after haying, been eleven days confined. They subsisted on the bread which was left in the pockets of the colliers who escaped. A horse was along with them, but they fortunately had no occasion to kill him. Their light lasted only two hours after the breaking in of the water. The men saved were in a different part of the workings from the remaining five, whose fate is not yet ascertained, though every possible exertion is making to reach the quarter, where they are, but, from the quantity of choke damp in that direction, apprehensions are entertained for their safety. [Caledonian Mercury 14 May 1818]
Remarkable Delivery from Death - The following are some interesting particulars of the fate of the men who were enclosed in the Quarrelton coal-pit, near Glasgow. Two of them, by a remarkable Providence, have been got out alive; with regard to the rest there is no hope.
The water from an adjoining waste broke into the pit on the morning of the 2d inst. and, though a powerful steam-engine was instantly set to work to pump it out, and continued to do so night and day, it was observed by the following Monday, that such was the vast accumulation of water, that little progress had been made, and there was no prospect of speedily getting at the men, who might be above the level of the water by this means; it was therefore resolved to drive a mine from the pit to the place where it was probable the men might be. Accordingly, on Tuesday morning the 5th inst. the mine was begun, and completed on the morning of the 12th inst. This mine is about four feet by three, and only two persons could work at a time. From the plans kept of the workings of this coal-work, it was known, for some days, that by Monday or Tuesday the mine would be driven through, and the public anxiety was excited in no common degree to learn the result. The opening of the mine into the work was considered to be attended with danger from the foul air, and it was arranged that Robert Hodgert, and his brother, William should encounter this danger. When they broke through, the foul air instantly extinguished their lights, and the feelings of the parties may be more easily conceived than described, when the words, "Is that you, uncle ?' saluted the ears of Robt. Hodgert. These words were uttered by his nephew, Wm. Hodgert, who, along with his brother James, had heard the sound of the mining, for, as they conjecture, two days, and were waiting for deliverance from one of the most awful possible situations. They immediately entered the mine, and got out, and fortunate it was that they were able to do so, for their father and uncle declare, that such was the effects of the bad air on them, that they would not have entered to render them assistance. Their only sustenance for ten days and ten nights, in total darkness, amidst bad air, was the pure water of the pit and three pieces of oat-cake, which, by groping round the work, they found in the pockets of the clothes left by some of the men who escaped. The only person in the same awful situation, with themselves that the Hodgerts had any communication with, was Alexander Barr, but whose voice they had ceased to hear, as they suppose, for at least two days before their deliverance. From the time they heard the miners at work, they occasionally threw stones at the place from which the sound proceeded, in order that the miners might know they were alive, but they did not hear them. To enter the mine is now impracticable, owing to the bad air, and it will be a number of weeks before the water is drawn from the pit, consequently the fate of the remaining five men is certain. [Caledonian Mercury 16 May 1818]
The two brothers; William and James Hodgert, who were so providentially taken out of the Quarrelton coal works, are in a fair way of recovery. The names of those who have not been got out are - James Brodie, James Inglis, Alexander Barr, Alexander Shaw, and John Hunter. The last mentioned was a man of 85 years of age. Shaw is a young lad, and Alexander Barr is said to have left a large family. At the time the accident happened there were in the coal work 25 persons and four horses. Eighteen of the men made their escape when they heard the rushing of the water; the two Hodgerts were got out as formerly stated, and the above-mentioned five persons and the four horses remain in the work. [Caledonian Mercury 25 May 1818]
Remarkable Rescue From A Mine - On the 2d of May 1818, a number of colliers were working in the Quarrelton coal-mine, near Paisley when a stroke from one of their pickaxes suddenly opened a passage for a vast quantity of water which had been collected in a neighbouring pit, long since disused. A large stream immediately poured into the place where they were working, sweeping everything before it with the violence of a rapid and swollen river. The men fled with precipitation, and, crying aloud sent the alarm through the pit. Struggling with the growing force of the stream, which threatened to hurry them along with it, and, in the confusion, having most of their lights dashed from their hands all rushed instinctively towards the bottom of the pit. Out of twenty, thirteen reached the bucket, and were drawn up; one of whom, so narrow was their escape, had been twice thrown down by the violence of the current. Seven of the men were yet in the pit, but the water soon rose above the mouth of the mine, and their communication with it was cut off. For these the most lively concern was immediately felt by their companions; and the progress of the water was anxiously observed. The engine connected with the pump was set in motion ; but although the quantity it drew up was immense, yet the water for some time rather increased than diminished. The only way in which they could assist their unfortunate fellow-workmen seemed to fail them ; but they consoled themselves with the hope that they might have escaped in a higher part of the pit, an upper tier of rooms, which they knew to be still above the reach of the water.
The knowledge of this fatal accident was by this time rapidly spreading over the country; and as it passed from village to village, and cottage to cottage, excited in every breast a feeling of mingled sympathy and horror. Crowds were soon seen gathering from every quarter towards the spot, and relating to each other, as they went, the numerous reports which now began to circulate; and, on reaching the pit, they seemed to look with awe on a spot which covered human beings, thus shut out from the world, and apparently cut off from all human aid. The colliers of the village, also, as evening advanced, were seen collected in groups, listening to the expression of each other's feelings, and devising plans for rescuing their fellow-workmen from their miserable situation. With the accuracy not uncommon to the labouring class of our countrymen, they considered the size of the rooms in which the men might be supposed to have taken refuge, the quantity of air which these could contain, and the time it might support them; and the probability of their having any food in the pit. It was soon suggested that a little above the surface of the water which had now ceased to rise, a mine might be driven so as to reach these higher rooms in a certain time viz. six or seven days. The execution of this plan so promising and well conceived, was unfortunately delayed, from not unreasonable apprehensions of danger, by the closing in of the mine, and the explosion of the damp air; and there was but too much reason to fear that the unhappy objects of their pursuit would have perished before they could reach the spot. The men, too, were dejected and spiritless at the frightful fate of their companions. The work was not therefore begun till two days had been suffered to elapse, which in calculating the probability of success, were to be added to the unfavourable side. At this time the workmen at the neighbouring pit of Auchlodmont offered their assistance to the Quarrelton colliers, as the mine was begun. Two men only could work at a time; they were taken from the two sets of colliers alternately, and, without intermission or abateness of exertion, they plied the work night and day. All eagerly looked to the period in which the mine was to be completed. Despair had begun to predominate when, on the morning of the 12th, the glad tidings were heard that the mine was finished, and that two of the men were alive. These were brothers, of the name of Hodgart, who had fondly clung to each other during the whole of their confinement. To add to the interesting scene of their deliverance, their father went down into the mine just before it was through, heard their voice, and was so overpowered that he had to be carried up ; happily removed from witnessing the difficulties which were yet to be encountered.
By this time, according to a narrative of the circumstances, prepared by the colliers themselves damp or bad air had put out their lights; and as Bowie was advancing forward, the damp seized him before he could get hold of any of them, and he re-turned back to get breath. Allan immediately stript off his coat and vest, and went forward, in desperation, but was also obliged to return, and with difficulty escaped with his life, and had to be helped out to the fresh air, when he said he was sorry he had heard them, for he doubted their lives would go yet. Patrick and Bowie then called out to them to come forward, for they could not come to them. By this time Peter Barr came to their assistance, and the two Hodgarts, creeping towards Patrick and Bowie, and Patrick and Bowie rushing forward towards them, succeeded in laying hold of the hand of William Hodgart, and brought him into the mine, while his brother, who was left behind, cried with a lamentable voice for help. Barr, Patrick, and Bowie, rushed again forward, and James Hodgart creeping to meet them, they succeeded in getting hold of him also, and brought him into the mine beside his brother. By this time it was about four o'clock in the morning, and after resting a little, and getting the good air to breathe, Patrick, Bowie, and Barr, asked them how they had supported themselves for meat; when they told that they had got a little oatmeal bread in one of the men's pockets who had escaped, and a little oil they had for light; and being asked if they knew anything about the rest who were enclosed along with them, they said there were none in their company, except Alexander Barr, and they supposed he was dead two days ago. They also said that they heard the engine going all the time, and heard the men mining for them two or three days before they came to them.
Although, every exertion was made to get out the other five, it was impossible to reach them till the water was drawn off. One of the bodies was found on the 28th May, and the others on the 3d and 4th June.
As soon as the brothers were restored to health, all were impatient to know how they had saved themselves from the water. How they had spent their time in the pit. What were their endeavours to escape. What their feelings. And what the conduct of those, who, unlike them, had, alas ! found in it a tomb. We have an account of some of these particulars, which we subjoin ; it is the more valuable, as it is written by James Hodgart, one of the brothers.
'On the 2d of May 1818, when I was at my work, I was, about eight in the morning, alarmed by the cries of the men, that the waste was broken ; I immediately ran to the mouth of the mine ; but the water was running with such rapidity, that I found it impossible to reach the bottom of the pit. I then saw the boy Shaw coming down the water. I pulled him out, and I saw my brother, and I helped him out. Then I saw Brydon, and I gript him, but I lost the grip. Then the other six were all together. Then I saw there was no help for us but to flee to the highest part in the pit. I was in great fear of being suffocated for want of air, I immediately ran to a biggin [A biggin - a partition between one working or pit and another] that was connected with another pit, but found it had no effect; I built it up again. There we lay for some time, but we don't know how long. Then we thought to try the water again; and the water seemed for some time neither to rise nor fall, so that the run from the crush was still keeping the engine going ; but on examining the place, we found the water that stood so near us had been dammed in with sludge, for we heard the water running from us. Then we returned back to the men again, and we wished them to come long with us, to try if we could reach the bottom of the pit. So we all came together to the place where the water was running; but the two old men did not cross the water; so the other four crossed it, but were obliged to turn back to the place we had left; and we lay there for a considerable time before we attempted it again, and all that we could get was a drink of cold water, which we carried in an oily can. Then we thought of trying the water again ; and so we wished them all to come, but the old men said they were not fit to come, and wished the little boy to stay, and he did so. We came away, Barr, my brother, and myseIf; and we got through with great difficulty, for the roads that we had to come were almost filled with dirt and water. Then we got to the place where we heard the engine going, which continued night and day, and the sound of the picks in the mine. Soon after we came to the place where we heard the sound of the engine and picks, our clothes being very wet, we became very cold. Then we thought of searching for the men's clothes that had made their escape, which we found; and searching them, we found some pieces of bread, but they were almost spoiled with the water and the dampness of the pit. There we lay for some time, and heard the men working for us ; so we went to man's room and brought a pick, and chapped with it, and marked the water with ; but they did not hear us. We then turned weak, and could not go (walk), so we lay there till the mine came through."
This narrative is deficient in what no unlettered man could have been expected to give - a description of the feelings of the survivors during the advance of the mining operations, and at their ultimate deliverance. The first sounds, which told that they were still objects of solicitude to their fellow-creatures, though apparently cut off for ever from all intercourse with them, must have affected them with a variety of strange sensations. How earnestly during the progress of the work must they have calculated the depth of the mass which still divided them from the realms of light and of life! And, finally, even when almost exhausted by the long continuance of their sufferings and privations, with what a burst of joyful feeling must they have beheld the first gleam of light, and heard the first accents of their deliverers! [Chambers Edinburgh Journal 9 August 1834]