Kames 19 November 1957

17 killed by explosion:

  • Thomas Burnside
  • Thomas Casey
  • Alexander Crawford
  • John Dalziel
  • Timothy Dillon
  • Andrew Findlay
  • Ronald Grant
  • William Henry
  • Robert Lowe
  • James Marshall
  • Donald McGarry
  • William McKay
  • John McKean
  • James Samson
  • Robert Smith
  • William Smith
  • John Walker

Newspaper Reports

17 Die In Pit Explosion – Ayrshire Disaster
Seventeen miners were killed last night in an underground explosion at Kames colliery, Muirkirk, Ayrshire. Three men working in an adjoining section were taken to hospital with severe burns.

The explosion occurred at about 8.30 p.m. Two of the bodies were brought to the surface at the beginning of the rescue operations and efforts were made to reach the other 15 men who were trapped but were believed to be alive. Soon after 2 a.m. today the National Coal Board in London announced that they were all dead. The explosion is believed to have been caused by coal dust. [Times 20 November 1957]

2-Mile Stretcher Journeys
From Our Own Correspondent, Glasgow Nov. 20
Scottish mine rescue teams, wearing breathing apparatus, today brought to the surface at Kames Colliery, Muirkirk, the bodies of 17 Ayrshire miners, all Muirkirk men, killed last night in the underground explosion at the pit.

Preliminary investigations now begun into the cause of the disaster have not yet established whether gas or the spontaneous ignition of coal dust was responsible. Rescue teams reported tonight the continuing presence of a considerable volume of gas, and fans were being operated at the shaft and underground to dispel deposits while further parties went below to continue the work of restoring ventilation systems and clearing rubble blocking many passages.

Only three injured of the 11 originally admitted to hospital are still detained and none is believed to be dangerously ill.

Few of the 169 backshift miners on duty when the explosion sent blast sweeping through the workings seemed to have, as one of them put it, "much of a clue" as to what could have gone wrong in "one of the safest pits in Scotland." The indications, however, are that most of the victims were killed outright in Section 6 of the West Mine, the relatively modern section in which 28 men in all were working when the disaster occurred.

100 Rescue Workers - More than 100 rescue workers, operating in relays from the fresh air base established about a mile from the pit bottom, completed their search of the colliery this morning and brought the last bodies up at about 1.15 this afternoon. They had to walk and crawl with stretchers for some two miles through damaged galleries and roads, and tunnel on occasion through rock and coal falls giving less than 3ft. of headroom in which to move. They were also hampered by oxygen equipment essential under the difficult and gaseous conditions.

The colliery is undergoing major reconstruction by the Coal Board. Rescue work was centred on the Old Pit shaft, sunk to 900ft about a century ago, and not on the newer shaft, which is being modernized.

Survivors not working in the affected section said today that they heard, or felt, as a blast of air, the explosion, which was speedily followed by clouds of dust and fumes. One miner, David Goodlet, aged 20, who was later discharged from hospital, ran 300 yards towards Section 6 until he came to choking fumes, beyond which men could be heard moaning. Goodlet dragged one miner clear before collapsing.

The Coal Board have announced that immediate compensation, supplemented where applicable from the miners own pension scheme, will be paid to dependents at a scale of £150 to wives and £25 for each child under 18 years. Tonight Muirkirk villagers are launching a public relief fund sponsored by the local Church of Scotland minister and their county councillor.

Lord Mills, Minister of Power, said in the House of Lords yesterday that he had directed the Chief Inspector of Mines to hold a public inquiry.

At the request of the Queen, the Minister of Power has written the following letter to Sir James Bowman, chairman of the National Coal Board:- "Her Majesty the Queen has heard with the deepest regret of the explosion which occurred last night at Kames Colliery in Ayrshire. Her Majesty has asked that her sincere sympathy should be conveyed to the families of the men who lost their lives and also to those men who have suffered i injury in the explosion." [Times 21 November 1957]