Stanrigg 9th July 1918



Above: Views of the Stanrigg memorial site

List of Dead

  • Thomas Brady, 18, coal miner, single, Station Row, Whiterigg (body not recovered).
  • William Brady, 49, coal miner, married, Station Row, Whiterigg (body not recovered) - father & son (For more information on the Brady's and the other men visit Sylvia Droughan's Stanrigg site - Sept 2011 - unfortunately link is broken)
  • Robert Campbell, 30 coal miner, married, Low Meadow Head (body not recovered).
  • William Campbell, 48, coal miner, married, Ford Bridge Cottage, Barblues (body not recovered).
  • Alexander Gilchrist, 30, coal miner, single, Wattstown (body not recovered).
  • Leslie McCracken Gilchrist, 15, drawer, single, Wattstown
  • William Gilchrist, 32, coal miner, single, Wattstown (body not recovered). - 3 brothers
  • Neil Livingston Thomson Lindsay, 16, drawer, single, Bridge St, Longriggend
  • Bernard Augustus McAdam, 14, coal miner, single, Back Row, Greengairs
  • David McNiven, 17, coal miner, single, Browns Building, Greengairs
  • William Marshall, 31, coal miner, married, McCracken's Place, Greengairs
  • Alexander Park, 55, coal miner, single, Park Place, Greengairs (body not recovered).
  • Robert Pollock, 49, coal miner (Army Pensioner), married, Drumbreck, Eastfield (body not recovered).
  • Robert Pollock, 15, coal miner, single, Drumbreck, Eastfield (body not recovered) - father & son
  • John Queen, 59, coal miner, widower, Brick Row, Darngavil
  • James Munro Sneddon, 14, coal miner, single, Back Row, Greengairs
  • John Sneddon, 31, coal miner, married, McCrackens Place, Greengairs (body not recovered).
  • George Templeton, 37, coal miner, married, Low Meadow Head
  • William Douglas Williamson, 27, coal miner, married, Arthur's Land, Plains (body not recovered).

Official Report of Inspector of Mines

Click here to view extracts from the Inspector of Mines report.

Newspaper Reports

Mine Accident at Airdrie - 19 workmen entombed
An alarming pit accident by which 19 miners were entombed occurred yesterday at Stanrigg Colliery, near Airdrie

Over 70 men were in the pit when the moss above the workings subsided into the hump section. With the exception of 19 they managed to escape to the surface. A rescue party from Coatbridge was summoned, and operations were at once begun to try and reach the imprisoned miners. The moss-slip affected an area of about one acre. The moving mass filled up the roads in the pit, cutting off the escape of the men. The rescue party set to work immediately on arrival to bore through, so that they might get into communication with the entombed men and pass food to them. Subsequently an attempt was begun to reach them by sinking a shaft through the moss, but up till midnight it had not succeeded. The pit is situated in a desolate region in the in the hills amongst the moors.

The Entombed Men - The men entombed reside in villages in the vicinity of the pit. Their names and addresses are:-

David M'Niven (17), Baird Square, Rawyards; Wm. Marshall (33), Greengairs; Alex. Park (50), Greengairs; John Sneddon (34), Greengairs; James Sneddon (14), Greengairs; Bernard M'Adams (18), Greengairs; Lesley Gilchrist (15), Wattstown; Alex. Gilchrist (30) Wattstown; Wm. Gilchrist (35), Wattstown; Wm. Campbell (38), Plains; Geo. Templeton (36), Meadowhead; Robt. Campbell (32), Meadowhead; Wm. Williamson (44), Plains; Robt. Pollock, sen. (43), Caldercruix; Robt. Pollock, jun. (17), Caldercruix; John Queen (60), Darngavil; Neil Lindsay (16), Longriggend; Wm. Bradie (47), Whiterigg; Robt. Bradie (18), Whiterigg.  [Glasgow Herald, July 10 1918]

The Pit Accident at Airdrie- Feared Loss of 19 Lives

The 19 miners who failed to escape from the pit at Stanrigg Colliery, in which there was a heavy subsidence on Tuesday, still remain entombed in the mine. The borings which were made yesterday with a view to establishing communication with the men revealed that there is water and black damp in the vicinity of the coal face at which the squad were engaged. The hopes which were at first entertained that the men might be extricated alive have therefore diminished. Great difficulty is experienced in the cutting and boring operations which are carried on with the object of reaching the isolated section of the pit, and the rescue workers are not very sanguine of an early completion of their task. From the slow progress made up till last night the possibility has to be recognised that it may take several days to clear a way to the damaged portion of the mine.

Stanrigg Colliery, which is owned by Messrs M'Cracken Bros., is situated on moorland about three miles from Airdrie. The mossy surface, saturated by the recent heavy rainfall, is soft and bog-like at the part where the subsidence occurred. The ground has sunk perceptibly over an area about an acre in extent, and is broken by numerous fissures. The section of the pit affected is at the eastern extremity of the colliery. The workings at this point are on a higher level than any of the other seams, the distance below the surface being about 11 fathoms. The men who were at work on an adjacent but lower seam succeeded in making their escape, but every one of the miners in the hump section, as it is called, was evidently trapped by the fall of moss. The squad at full strength would have numbered 22, but three of the men were absent. One of the miners who escaped stated that he had passed near the hump section about 10 minutes before the accident happened. As he was going back again towards it he met a draw-man running toward the shaft, shouting "The moss, the moss." He saw the moss streaming down into the roadway, and ran for the pit shaft commonly used by the men. Seven of the miners got up by that shaft. The others had to make their escape by the outlet or emergency shaft farther west. Over 70 men were in the pit at the time of the accident, which took place about half past ten in the forenoon. If the men in the hump section were not overwhelmed by the subsidence they were completely cut off by it from exit by either of the shafts, the mass of soil blocking up the only roadway they could use.

Three separate methods of trying to reach the entombed men have been adopted. Borings have been made with the view of getting into speaking communication with them and passing down food, and an attempt has been made to sink a shaft immediately above the seam. In both these undertakings the results yesterday were disappointing, the soil being too marshy and unstable for the sinking of a shaft, while the boring, as stated, indicated the presence of gas and water in the workings. The other course followed, and the one which offers most encouragement, is that of driving a roadway from the main shaft by way of a disused working. The rescue party are working in relays, and the operations are going on continuously. [Glasgow Herald July 11 1918]

Last night all hope of recovering the men entombed in Stanrigg pit, near Airdrie, was officially given up when the bore, which was being driven through the face, was finished about 6 o'clock. It was found, as was anticipated, that there was the depth of 8 foot 9 inches of water, which proved there could be no chance of any of the men being still alive. Those in authority discussed the question of attempting to recover the bodies, and Mr Walker, his Majesty's Inspector of Mines, decided that a regular shaft should be sunk as soon suitable arrangements could be made. [Scotsman July 12 1918]

Nineteen Miners In A Death Trap – Terrible Accident at Stanrigg
On Tuesday forenoon about 10.30 the bleak moor to the east of Whiterigg and above Plains and Caldercruix was the scene of the most dreadful accident in mining history in this district, both in the number of men who lost their lives and in the awfulness of their death. Stanrigg or Arbuckle Colliery, belonging to Messrs McCracken Bros, is worked underneath the moss, and it was in the higher level, the humph section, where the disaster took place. The moss subsided into the roads between the pit bottom and the face of this section about 11 fathoms down, where nineteen men and boys were at work, cutting off the retreat of any who might have escaped the fall. The moss and water made its way through the break into the workings and was seen by one of the men working in one of the other sections. He ran back shouting “The moss, the moss,” and the warning soon spread, so that all the men except those cut off in the humph section managed to escape. There were over 50 of these, seven of them managing to reach the eastern shaft in time. The others made for the emergency shaft, and were taken to the surface by it. One of those who escaped, a young drawer, John McCabe, belonging to Longriggend, ran back and gave warning to some of the men, thus probably saving their lives. A rescue party was at once organised and volunteers, of whom there were hundreds, though only a few were required, went down and work was soon started to drive a road through an old working towards where it was conjectured the imprisoned men would be. It was thought they would have gone up towards the highest part f the face, about 10 fathoms below the surface, and a shaft was started with the primitive apparatus at hand to try and reach them by this means. This however had to be abandoned on Tuesday night, and a new one commenced further to the south. Iron cylinders had by this time been secured and by this means better progress was made, though it was a most dangerous and difficult task, and the water gathered almost as quickly as it was bailed out. Another difficulty was the moss moving toward the centre of the “sit” and gradually the tanks went more and more off the plumb till they were leaning at a decided angle. Meantime several bores had been started in the hope of reaching the entombed men, but gradually these had to be abandoned, and interest centred on the fifth which gave more hope. Good progress was made with this and by dinner time on Wednesday anxiety was at fever heat from the knowledge that it was almost through. Alas for all hopes of communication, the bore pierced the road in the afternoon, and it was found that the water had risen to a considerable height at this part, and it was estimated that there must be about 6 feet at the face. Not only so, but there was evidence of the presence of deadly black damp and the experienced could only shake their head and prophesy the worst. Meantime the shaft had been sunk to a considerable depth, but the settling moss made it more and more difficult, and about 4 o'clock on Wednesday it had reluctantly to be abandoned. By this time a sense of gloom spread itself over the large body of workers and lookers-on, for it was felt that all hope was gone. Another bore was started at the abandoned shaft, but work on this had to be stopped owing to the gathering moss. The bore which was through showed that the moss and water were still rising in the workings, and by midday Thursday it was estimated there must be over 9 feet of water at the highest part of the pit. The driving of the mine had been proceeding with difficulty, and the rising water gave cause for anxiety for the safety of the men engaged there. The progress of the spreading moss became so great on Thursday forenoon that t was deemed necessary to stop the work underneath, and the men were withdrawn from here also. Really as a forlorn hope a new bore was started on Thursday forenoon.

The men at this bore, as at the others, worked at high pressure, and by 6 o'clock on Thursday night the workings had been pierced, and, as was expected by those in authority, the water was nearly nine feet high at this part. The worst fears were therefore confirmed that it was impossible that any of the men could be alive. All operations were then suspended, and Mr Walker H.M.I.M had a consultation with those who had been overseeing the work, as to the advisibility of taking means to recover the bodies, a matter on which there was considerable diversity of opinion. Ultimately, Mr Walker decided that this work was to be carried out, and Mr Paul McKenna, miner agent, after intimating the sad news regarding the fate of the entombed men to the anxious crowds thronging the pithead, said that, as soon as possible, a shaft would be sunk on scientific lines, and every effort made to recover the bodies. He then advised them all to proceed home, as there was no good to be done by their waiting any longer.

The moor above the subsidence presents an extraordinary appearance, fully six acres being affected, and the subsidence is still continuing. Large branches of trees have been placed where the “sit” has taken place, in the hope that they will help to solidify the mass, and stop the flow of moss into the pit. All around the hollow caused by the sinking are great fissures which have filled with water, and the whole moss is most unstable, moving with the least pressure. The extent affected is considerably larger than that at the great Donibristle disaster in Fife, which was of a somewhat similar nature.

The operations were superintended by Mr Walker, Chief Inspector of Mines for Scotland, and his assistants, and among others assisting were Mr Wm Black, Ballochney Colliery; Mr Johnstone, manager of Arbuckle Pit; Mr Russell, Stepends; and Mr M'Anah, Barblues. Mr George Welsh, superintendent of the Coatbridge Departmet of the Rescue Brigade, and his men were at practice when the word came, and were speedily on the scene, along with several of the officials and Mr Archibald McCracken. They made valiant attempts to reach the men, but their progress was stopped at all points by the inflow of the moss.

The Lost Men - All the nineteen who lost their lives come from the villages surrounding the pit. The most pathetic figure amongst the crowd of anxious watchers was the old man Gilchrist who haunted the spot morning, noon, and night, hoping against hope that his three sons would be reached. One of the lads lost had only started work from school two days before, and he was the only support of the family at home, his father being in France. Two fathers and their sons were amongst the entrapped workers, and there were three of the men. Geo. Templeton, Robert Campbell and William Williamson married to three sisters, relations of the proprietors of the pit. In fact, the whole district around has been bereaved, and this Fair time will long be remembered as the saddest in the history of the district. Crowds of sympathetic men and women gathered daily round the pit head, and the sympathy felt for the anxious relatives broke out time and time again. The following is a list of the nineteen unfortunate men and boys:

David McNiven, 17, Murray's Buildings Greengairs, son of David McNiven, miner, was one of a family of eight. Two of his brothers are in the Army
William Marshall, 33, McCracken's Buildings, Greengairs, leaves a widow and four of a family.
John Sneddon, 31, McCracken's Place, Greengairs, leaves a widow and three of a family
James Sneddon, 14, Russell's Row, Greengairs, was the son of Robert Sneddon who is in France. He was the eldest son of the family and the only one working. He had been at work for two days.
Bernard McAdam, 14, Greengairs, was the son of Thomas McAdam, miner. He was one of five sons.
Leslie Gilchrist, 15, Wattstown; Alexr. Gilchrist, 30, Wattstown; William Gilchrist, 32, Wattstown – three unmarried brothers who lived with their father at Wattstown, who is between 60 and 70.
William Campbell, 38, Brown's Buildings, Plains, who leaves a widow but no family.
George Templeton, 36, Meadowhead, leaves a widow and four of a family.
Robert Campbell, 32, Meadowhead, who leaves a widow and two of a family.
William Williamson, 27, Plains, leaves a widow and one child.
Robert Pollock, sen., 43, Caldercruix.
Robert Pollock, jun., 17, Caldercruix, son of the above.
John Queen, 60, Darngavil, was a widower.
Neil Lindsay, 15, Longriggend.
Wm. Bradie, 47, Whiterigg, leaves a widow and seven of a family, one of his sons being also lost.
Thomas Bradie, 18, Whiterigg, son of the above.

Sympathy of the Federation
- At the annual conference of the Miners Federation of Great Britain at Southport on Thursday, the President, Mr Robert Smillie, moved a resolution expressing profound regret at the Airdrie Colliery accident, and deep sympathy with the relatives of the entombed workers. In Submitting the motion he said that almost invariably while their conference was in session they received news of some mining disaster, and there had been a most serious disaster in Staffordshire since their last annual gathering. All the delegates stood while passing the resolution, which was at once despatched to Lanarkshire.

Memorial Service
- The Protestant churches in the district have arranged to hold a memorial service at the colliery on Sunday afternoon at 3.30, when the Rev. W. B. Jack will preach. A collection will be taken on behalf of the widows and children. Rev. W. O. Duncan is to preach on the disaster at the forenoon service in Clarkston Church. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser July 13 1918]

Airdrie pit disaster - Religious service at Stanrigg
A religious service last evening at the scene of the disaster at Stanrigg pit, Airdrie, was taken part in by the Reverend Messrs Russell, Greengairs; Duncan, Clarkston; Jack, Caldercruix; and Edmondston, Coatdyke. About 6000 men and women attended. Several of the relatives of the entombed men were present in deep mourning. A collection was taken on behalf of the dependants of the men.

Mr Robert MacLaren, late senior inspector of mines in the district, visited the pit yesterday morning, and arranged for a new bore to the south-west of the first bore. A shaft has been staked off, and will be piled and sunk with all possible dispatch. By this means it is hoped to recover the bodies. Operations are hindered owing to the difficulty of getting the requisite plant and materials during the holidays. [Scotsman 15 July 1918]

Airdrie pit disaster - Pumping operations Arbuckle pit, Stanrigg Colliery, where 19 men are entombed , proceeded during the week, with the result that the water is now drained of the winding shaft to more than 8 ft below the humph bottom, in which section the bodies are. And effort is also being made to get an entrance by the down cast air shaft, which however, is clogged with dried a moss. This has been removed to within a few feet of the humph section, and it is intended to put on the fans to cause a current of air to circulate in the workings as soon as the bottom is reached. Black damp is known to exist in the workings, and that must be cleared before a search is made for the bodies of the entombed men. [Scotsman 22 July 1918]

Progress in the work of clearing the Arbuckle pit at Stanrigg Colliery in order to recover the 19 bodies of the men entombed has been retarded by a further accumulation of water in the workings. New slides are being put into the winding shaft, and a new kettle is to be employed in pumping. The air shaft is now said to have been cleared. [Scotsman 25 July 1918]

The Arbuckle Pit Disaster – Unfortunately the work of clearing the workings of the Arbuckle Pit, Stanrigg Colliery, has been retarded this week by a fresh inundation of water from the moss. This is believed to be due to the heavy rains soaking the moss, some ten acres of which have now more or less subsided. The spongy moss naturally percolates into the humph section only a few fathoms below, so that it is still impossible to enter the workings and search for the bodies of the 19 men entombed. Additional means of clearing the workings, however, are being adopted. News slides are being placed in the winding shaft, and a new kettle is being employed which more effectively draws out the moss and water. The workers at the pit are working strenuously in the desired direction of getting the workings cleared and the bodies found, but it will probably be a few days before anything definite in that direction is attained.  Another theory of the cause of the continued water in the shaft is that possibly some of it had been held up by obstructions of moss in the workings that slope towards the bottom, and that these obstructions had only now given way, and caused the accumulated water to run to the bottom. It also appears that the fans are now working from the airshaft, with a view to clearing the roads of gas or black damp. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser July 27 1918]

Stanrigg Colliery Disaster – Search For the Bodies – Access to the workings of the humph seam of the Arbuckle Pit, Stanrigg Colliery, having been obtained by the new shaft sunk in the moss between the subsidence and the main winding shaft, the management began the search for the bodies of the nineteen entombed men on Sunday last. As the new shaft revealed, the roads in the seam were very badly filled with watery moss from the subsidence, and it was obvious that every precaution to ensure safety had to be adopted before the search operations could go on. Accordingly, the source of the inundation, namely the hole where the moss had subsided, was first dammed up with a barricade sufficiently strong to prevent it breaking away and causing a further inundation, which might have proved dangerous to the searchers. This accomplished, those brave fellows have been working hard to clear the upper reaches of the humph seam of the accumulated moss and water.

Marshall's Body Found – On Tuesday night their labours were rewarded with the discovery of the body of William Marshall, 31, a miner, who resided at McCracken's Place, Greengairs. The bottom of the new shaft happened to be in the neighbourhood of Marshall's working place, and the searchers had cleared it of the moss, and, while finding some of the man's belongings, saw no trace of the man himself. They were proceeding to clear the road further on towards the next working place when – about 10pm on Tuesday night – Marshall's brother, Thomas, who had slept in and didn't get to work on the day of the disaster, while looking about the place that had been cleared, suddenly noticed that a sort of manhole or crevice in the wall had also been filled with the inundating moss, and that the heels of a pair of boots were showing in the wall. At once the hole in the wall was tackled, and when the moss was cleared away William Marshall's body was found about 20 feet from the bottom of the new shaft. He had crawled into the hole on hands and knees, which explains the position in which the soles of his boots were exposed, and had been overwhelmed and drowned by the flood of mossy water.

The body was taken to the surface and laid in a temporary mortuary, prepared over a month ago at the pithead. It was in a wonderfully fresh condition, easily recognisable, and was speedily placed in a coffin by Mr Alex. Dempster, undertaker, Chapel Street, Airdrie. On Wednesday, the body was conveyed to the residence of the deceased at Greengairs, where, without being taken into the house, the funeral cortege was formed. A service was held in the house by the Rev Kennedy Adams, United Free Church. The funeral was attended by about 140 miners and others in the district, among whom the deceased was held in high esteem, and it wended its way, after 5 o'clock, to New Monkland Cemetery, where the committal service was conducted by Rev. James Russell, Greengairs Parish Church.

Finding of Queen's Body – The searchers on Thursday found traces of another of the entombed men, John Queen, 60 years of age, who resided at Darngavil, his coat and other belongings having been got in the liquid moss. His body, however, was not discovered till an early hour yesterday morning, when it was got close up at the face of his working place. Queen was a widower, and during the rescue operations was anxiously looked for at the pit by his daughter with whom he lived at Darngavil. He is survived by a grown-up family. The body was interred at Rochsoles Cemetery in the afternoon, the funeral cortege being formed from the residence of the deceased. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser August 31 1918]

A new communication road is being excavated in Stanrigg Colliery, Airdrie, towards the place where the bodies of several of the entombed boys as supposed to be lying. This operation will take some time yet, and explains why none of the remaining 17 bodies has been recovered. [Scotsman 9 September 1918]

Stanrigg Pit Disaster – Boys Body Found – On Thursday the searchers in the workings of the inundated parts of Arbuckle Pit, Stanrigg Colliery, came upon the body of Bernard McAdam, who had just joined the workers in the pit on the date of the disaster. His body was found jammed among some hutches and was badly mutilated. The boy, who was only 14 years of age, resided at Back Row, Greengairs. No trace of other bodies was found in this part. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser 21 September 1918]

The Stanrigg Colliery Disaster - Four other bodies were found in the workings of the inundated Arbuckle pit, on Sunday, namely, those of the four boys engaged as drawers on the wheelbrae. Their names were:- David M'Niven (17), Browns Buildings, Greengairs; Neil Lindsay (16) Bridge Street, Longriggend; Leslie Gilchrist, (15) Wattstown; and James Munro Sneddon (14) Back Row, Greengairs. They were found clinging to each other in a manhole which was choked up with the wet moss. [Glasgow Herald, 24 September 1918]

Click here to visit Sylvia Droughan's Stanrigg site - Sept 2011 - unfortunately link is broken

John McCabe

John McCabe was awarded the George Medal for his actions in saving others from this accident. The London Gazette of 13th June 1919 carried details of his bravery:

To John McCabe, a drawer at the Stanrigg Colliery, Airdrie age 17. On the 9th July, 1918, there was an in-rush of moss into the workings. McCabe, with 2 other drawers and 3 miners was at the bottom of No3 shaft when they were told that the moss had broken in. The other 2 boys and the 3 men at once ascended the shaft and escaped. McCabe, however, knowing that there were men at the face who might be cut off, returned for a quarter of a mile and warned the men. He and the men he had warned were ultimately collected and raised by another shaft. When he returned to the face, McCabe did not know where the break had occurred, or whether the moss might not at any moment fill the workings through which he returned, as in fact it soon afterwards did. He faced a grave and unknown danger, which might have been fatal, in order to enable others to escape.

More information on John McCabe can be found here - Nov 2011 - Unfortunately this link appears broken

The Hero Fund Trust - Awards for the Month - The monthly meeting of the Trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund was held at Dunfermline on Thursday - Dr Ross the Chairman presiding. The following is a list of awards for August:-
John M'Cabe (16) miner's drawer, Main Street, Longriggend, Airdrie, on 9th July 1918, incurred great personal risk in warning his fellow workmen of the danger on the occasion of an inrush of water and moss in Arbuckle No 3 Pit, Airdrie, when 18 men lost their lives. M'Cabe declined to accompany some others who were making their escape from the pit, and gave the warning in a section where 50 men were at work. He had received the Edward Medal from H.M. The King. The Trustees awarded him a silver watch with suitable inscription, and inquiries are being made as to the possibility of assisting him educationally. [Dunfermline Journal 30 August 1919]

See entry on Heroism Awards page