Scottish Mining Website

1858 Fatal Accidents

Notes - The information in this page is mainly compiled from appendices to the reports of the Inspector of Mines and Collieries - William Alexander for the Western District of Scotland and Robert Williams for the Eastern District of Scotland. Additional details from the main body of the report are given where available. Many accidents are not listed in these reports and additional names have been added from newspaper reports and other sources - information not sourced from the mine inspectors reports is indicated by a shaded gray background

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Information from Appendix to Inspectors Report
Extra Details
YearMonthDayName of CollieryWhere situatedOwners namePerson(s) killedOccupationAge if givenCause of death
1858January1CuttymyreKilsythMatthew Wallace &CoPeter LockhartEngineman24Fell down the shaft 
1858January2GartsherrieCoatbridgeWm Baird & CoFrancis HeronCollier22Fall of coal 
1858January4No 5 Rosehall CollieryLanarkshire
Archibald Frew    Death not listed in Inspectors report  With thanks to Kim Biddell for providing this information
Henry Frew
1858January9ClelandHamiltonRobert StewartFrancis BoyleNot employed By coming in contact with pumping crank of engine 
1858January9FergushillKilwinningArchibald FinniePeter MontgomeryDrawer11Crushed by the cage at the bottom of the shaft 
1858January20ParkheadHamiltonKing & HendersonMatthew WhitelawCollier By explosion of fire damp in a new pit in the course of being opened up

From Main body of report: There has been only one explosion of fire damp causing loss of life in this district during the past year, which occurred in a new pit only partially opened at Parkhead Colliery near Hamilton, belonging to Messrs King and Henderson, by which 2 men and a boy were suffocated from the after (or choke) damp which usually follows an explosion. The quantity of inflammable air which exploded must have been very small, as none of the deceased were in slightest degree injured by the fire; the two men, which afterwards lost their lives, came to the bottom of the pit along with the other workmen, one of them, David Brown, not finding his youngest son there, went back into the workings in search of him, and the result was, that both father and son were found dead the next day, after the damage done by the explosion had been partially repaired and the ventilation restored. Matthew Whitelaw, the second person alluded to, went into the bucket along with a fellow workmen, for the purpose of being taken up the pit, but was so affected (overcome) by the quantity of noxious gas he had inhaled that he died before he reached the surface. The explosion was so very limited that the workmen in the other part of the mine would not have known that any explosion had taken place had not the concussion of the air extinguished some of the lamps.
Newspaper Report
David BrownCollier
David Brown, junCollier
1858January25DalkeithDalkeithDuke of BuccleuchThomas ThomsonCollier By fall of roof at face of workings 
1858February4StoneriggAirdrieWilliam BlackElizabeth MorganPit-head woman By falling down pit along with an empty hutch when the cage was at bottom of pit 
1858February6Ayr CollieryAyrJ T GordonWilliam SmartCollier37Fall of roof 
1858February8WoodhallAirdrieMerry & CunninghamWilliam WinningCollier By being crushed at bottom of pit whilst attempting to go on the cage while in motion 
1858February12CarnbroeAirdrieMerry & CunninghamJames KennaCollier By fall of roof caused by incautiously removing a wooden prop 
1858February17BartonholmKilwinningWm Baird & CoMichael McGeeCollier50Fall of coal and roof 
1858February23ArnistonDalkeithJohn ChristieWilliam LiddleCollier By fall of coal at face of working 
1858February23GovanGlasgowWilliam Dixon & CoGeorge JackSinker38The handle of a crane broke and fell down the shaft upon him while he was changing a bucket 
1858March8GartgillCoatbridgeWm Baird & CoMatthew ThomsonCollier20By a fall of stone (“potbottom”)

From Main body of report: In this case the seam of coal worked is about five feet thick, it is "holed" in the upper division, and at a convenient distance the bottom coal is lifted. The roof in immediate connection-with the Coal is shale, and a fault peculiar to some roofs, locally known as "bonnets ", or ''pot bottoms " is frequently found, a skin or coating adheres to the roof when the coal is taken down, which in some cases prevents the workmen from detecting the irregularity or unsoundness of the roof. In this particular case the fall happened near to the coal face, and while the deceased was engaged undermining the coal there. These faults range from two to six feet diameter, are nearly circular and when they fall a concave opening is formed in the roof.
1858March10OvertonDunfermlineWilliam FerrieWilliam BurtSinker By falling down pit whilst ascending by the bucket not being properly attached to the rope 
1858March13CowdenbeathDunfermlineForth Iron CoGeorge McKenlayDrawer By being crushed by a hutch on a self-acting incline 
1858March22TorbanehillBathgateJames Russell & SonThomas SmithSinker By bucket and rope falling on him by the winding engine being taken out of gear 
1858March25Highland ParkKilsythBrown & RennieJames WatsonHillman37By the cage being raised while he was engaged with the pipes in the shaft 
1858March27RawCoatbridgeWm Baird & CoJames McLeanBrusher33Crushed between the cage and a beam at the pit mouth 
1858April2CondieFalkirkJames Russell & SonGeorge HunterCollier By fall of roof at face of workings 
1858April12GovanRutherglenWm Dixon & CoJames MorrisonDrawer17Fall of roof at the face

From Main body of report: The seam of coal where this accident took place, is generally worked in two divisions.

The "under" division of the seam is worked slightly in advance of the "upper". Deceased was a drawer, and had gone into the face of one of the walls on the morning of the accident. The collier engaged there had just taken down a portion of the ''upper" coal, deceased sat down upon it, and had only been there a few moments when a part of the roof, immediately overlying the coal which had been taken down, fell upon him.
1858April17EastfieldRutherglenJ G BuchananWilliam RamsayEngineman67Fell from a mid lodgement while examining the state of the water in it 
1858April22Highland ParkKilsythBrown & RennieThomas AitchisonCollier17Fall of coal 
1858April27LochgellyDunfermlineLochgelly Iron CoWilliam MelvillePitheadman By being crushed betwixt a railway waggon and a stone wall 
1858 April 30 Snab     Edward Gourly     Death not listed in Inspectors report Newspaper report - Stirlingshire pages
1858May4GarscubeDumbartonJames Barclay & CoDaniel KellySinker45By the winding machinery getting out of gear with the driving shaft

From Main body of report: This case is identical with case No. 27, detailed in my Report for 1857. The circumstances attending it are also the same. The engineman on the day of the accident had been pumping water till a shift of sinkers were ready to commence work. The engine was then ungeared with the pumping, and geared with the winding shaft. The "kettle" with the two unfortunate sufferers was only lowered ten fathoms, when the wheel upon the winding shaft got out of gear, and they were dashed to the bottom, a distance of fifty fathoms.

Since the accident, the suggestions made in my last Report, for such a description of machinery, have been adopted.
The cost of providing the appliances for safely disengaging the gearing is so trifling, that I hope no new pumping and winding engine will in future be considered complete, which is not fitted up with them.
The Procurator Fiscal charged the engineman with culpable homicide. He was tried by Lord Deas and a jury, but it would appear the evidence was not sufficiently strong to obtain a conviction.
Robert DonaldsonSinker39
1858May15BroadfieldDuntocherAlex. Dunn & CoMatthew MainCollier60Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: The " Hurlet and Campsie" coal, is known throughout this district as a fiery seam. Several severe explosions have taken place in it. According to the special rules of the colliery, it was the duty of the fireman to examine the works every morning before the men were allowed to go into them. This important precaution had sometimes been omitted, and on the morning of the accident the four unfortunate sufferers had gone to their work before the fireman made his examination. A dislocation divided the workings into two districts ; one of these districts had been free of firedamp for a considerable time, but the other was known as fiery. The deceased worked in the fiery division. It did not appear very clear where the firedamp had been ignited, but I felt satisfied it was in the south level of that division. The explosion must have been very violent; the person who I believe caused it was very little burned, but the other three were severely scorched, indeed one of them was partially charred. Sleepers, rails, hutches, wood, and rubbish were swept out to the bottom of the shaft, and a hutch was driven right up it about 100 fathoms, carrying with it the cage to the pithead pulley, where they stuck both jammed; the hutch projecting partly up through the bottom of the cage. The Procurator Fiscal charged the oversman with culpable homicide, and he was tried by Lord Cowan and a jury. From the evidence it did not appear that he had known of more than one case when the men had gone to their work before the fireman made his examination, and he was found not guilty. From cases of partial explosions which come under my observation, I have reason to believe that the important precaution of examining the works before the men are allowed to enter them, is sometimes omitted by firemen, and often set at nought by the rashness of the workmen. However, this rule is one of the most important, and for two very good reasons it ought to be strictly enforced at all times; first, if the colliery has a tendency to give off firedamp, the workmen in the morning trust implicitly to the examination and report of the fireman, their lives are entirely in his hand, they have no means of checking him; and, second, the stability of large and important works are in such cases alike dependent upon the careful and judicious performance of the duties entrusted to this important official. To guard against the rashness of the colliers, who I know are apt to follow closely on the examination of the fireman, and in some cases go in to their work before he has completed his examination, I think it would be a proper precaution if colliery owners would make it a direct rule, that no workmen should be allowed to descend the shaft in the morning till after the fireman had made his round of examination, and had signalled from the bottom to that effect; and if this was strictly adhered to by the workmen, the delinquencies of the fireman, such as failing to examine the pit at a proper time would soon come to be known. But apart altogether from safety, if masters would carefully consider the amount of property they have at stake, surely the precaution of providing against such wrecks as the one just described, would be sufficient inducement to cause the duties of fireman to be more rigidly and carefully performed than they are at present.
Newspaper Report - Dunbartonshire accidents
Matthew Main jnCollier17
David RamsayCollier18
Thos. McKerricherCollier24
1858May15StonelawRutherglenJohn R ReidJohn AngusSub-oversman45Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: This accident, and [accident at Broadfield], happened on the same day. The colliery in questfore the been known (sic) for many years to be very free from firedamp, and two days before the accident a slight accumulation had been discovered in the mine. It was then stopped to enable the oversman to overhaul the brattice, and lead the air more directly to the face. He and three assistants were engaged at this particular work on the morning of the accident, the firedamp lay from A to B., they were in the act of dislodging it, when it is supposed to have come in contact with a naked light in an explosive state. The four men, at the time of the explosion, were engaged in the aircourse they were all more or less burned, and three of them died from the effects of it. The oversman, the only survivor, says they worked with a safety lamp in the aircourse, but by a mistake of one of them, who had gone away to bring in wood, an uncovered light had been left in the return aircourse. The quantity of firedamp in this case must have been very small, as the colliers were at work immediately beyond the mine, and knew nothing of it. However, it was an error in the oversman, that he did not take the precaution to see that all naked lights were removed ; particularly in the immediate course of the return air, and where, mixed up with the general ventilation, the firedamp was sure to pass in an explosive state.
James HughesRoadsman26
Thomas MalloyRoadsman26
1858May15Inkerman    Unknown McMurray    Death not listed in Inspectors reportNewspaper Report
1858May17Between Linwood & Johnstone    Matthew Boyle    Death not listed in Inspectors report Newspaper Report
[NB No death certificate located for this name]
1858June1BennieshillFalkirkJohn BrownPeter ThomasCollier By fall of roof at face of workings 
1858June3Old CarnbroeAirdrieJames MerrySamuel HarrisonDrawer By falling down pit from an upper working whilst putting a hutch on cage 
1858June25WestmuirGlasgowRobert Gray & CoPatrick CampbellBrusher21Fall of roof 
1858June28EspiesideCoatbridgeWm Baird & CoAndrew SinclairCollier32Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: This accident took place in a stone mine, where deceased and a fellow workman were engaged. It was customary for them to go to their work in the morning with the rest of the workmen. They had a safety lamp to enable them to examine the place, and look after the state of the ventilation ; but it had been left the previous day in the mine at the end of the brattice, consequently they went in to their work with naked lights, and ignited a quantity of firedamp which had collected there during the night. The fire and blast rushed out with considerable velocity, sweeping with it the brattice, and tearing up the roadway, and one of the rails was driven right through the unfortunate sufferer, who had been a short distance behind his fellow workmen. The person that fired the gas was burned but not seriously.

Previous to the introduction of the special rules, mines being frequently contracted for, it was one of the clauses in the agreement that the workmen should look after the ventilation and examine the firedamp for themselves.
More than one case has occurred here this year showing the impropriety of such an arrangement, unless where the place is kept going continuously. The mine in question was in the centre of a coal working; there were a number of working places on each side of it; the whole ventilation had to pass through it, and the firemen examined all the working places of the colliery in the morning with the exception of it.
If these men had taken the precaution to examine their place, no doubt the accident would have been prevented, but the fact of the safety lamp having been left at the face of the mine on the day previous, and for anything I know they may have been in the habit of keeping it there, is sufficient to show that they did not know, or at least were not sufficiently aware of their own danger and responsibility.
Such a system is no doubt calculated to produce accidents. In practice, a fireman goes round the works with a safety lamp, and he knows it to be his duty to do so ; but men working in stone mines, and it may be, not much accustomed to firedamp, should not be trusted with such an important charge.
That the impropriety of such an arrangement may be seen, it is only necessary to suppose every man his own fireman, which in point of fact would be but carrying out the idea more fully. Under such conditions, if two-thirds of the men were absent, two-thirds of the places would not be examined ; and the same with stone mines, if not at work they are not examined, but so mixed up with the general ventilation, that an accident fatal to the whole pit may result from an improper surveillance of but one working place.
In this case I directed the attention of the manager to the special rules, and he gave orders that in future the fireman should in the morning examine all the working parts of the colliery before any of the workmen were allowed to enter to their work.
1858June30TitwoodPollokshawsSir John Maxwell, Bart.Archd. AndersonCollier14Fall of roof 
1858July14PortlandKilmarnockAllan Gilmour & CoWm ShielsDrawer18Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: The circumstances connected with this accident are very similar to [accident at Espieside]

It was the duty of the fireman to examine the working places of the colliery in the morning with a safety lamp, before the workmen were allowed to enter them. Two men had engaged to drive an exploring mine in a part of the pit where the seam was foul. They had agreed to examine it in the morning for themselves, but had to wait till the fireman first made his round of examination, and the one safety lamp did for all.
Previous to the accident firedamp had frequently been found in the mine in the mornings; the men had no other means of clearing it away than by " waffing" it out with their jackets, as the brattice was a number of yards back from the face. The accident took place when this operation was going on, by some lads entering the mine with their naked lights, which ignited the firedamp and resulted in the death of two of them.
The ventilation at the time I visited the works was very weak, but the direct cause of accident was the want of "brattice " to carry forward the ventilation to the face of the work, and the neglect of the special rule which provided that the pit "should be examined by the oversman or his deputy and put in a safe state before the men were allowed to enter to their work."
The advantage of the special rules, in so far as they provide for the safety of the workmen in relation to firedamp, is, that one person is specially appointed for a special work, and he is not allowed to depute his work to another; otherwise, if each workman might be deputed to act as his own fireman, the safety provided for by the special rule would directly be ignored. An exception might be made where a stone mine was situated in an isolated part of a colliery, and where the general ventilation was independent of it; or if a mine was kept constantly at work, though situated alongside the general working places, the entire management relating to firedamp might be entrusted to the workmen therein engaged. But in mines situated among the general working , places, and where the men all go to work at the same time, it seems absurd to arrange that the least dangerous places should be examined by a proper person, while the places where firedamp is most likely to be found should be left entirely to chance, or the capricious examination of an unskilled workman.
James HartDrawer12
1858July16TitwoodPollokshawsSir John Maxwell, BartRobert ParkDrawer13Jammed by the cage being lifted which canted the hutch and he got drawn in between it and the crossbar of the cage 
1858July24RawCoatbridgeWm Baird & CoJames BurnsCollier25Fall of roof 
1858August2SkerringtonKilmarnockAllan Gilmour & CoJames AitonCollier27Fall of roof coal, while engaged taking it down 
1858August7ElginDunfermlineEarl of ElginDaniel WhiteheadCollier By fall of coal at face of working 
1858August19BoutriehillIrvineBoutrehill Coal CoAlex. WilsonBottomer68Fall of stone in the shaft 
1858August25SunmesideWishawArchibald RussellWilliam SimpsonOversman By fall of roof whilst removing wood props 
1858August30NewbattleDalkeithMarquis of LothianDavid HarknesCollier By fall of coal at face of working 
1858September8ElderslieJohnstoneAndrew WalkerJohn McMillanCollier16Fall of coal and stone at the face 
1858September10CarronFalkirkCarron CoJames HuskieCollier  By fall of coal at face of working 
1858September17CoxhillFalkirkAlexander WhyteSamuel NielCollier  By fall of coal at face of working 
1858September20Little ReathDunfermlineLochgelly Iron CoGeorge WhiteDrawer  Crushed by a loaded hutch on self-acting incline Newspaper report - Beath pages
1858September22FordellDunfermlineG W M HendersonJames MartinRoadsman  By fall of roof whilst repairing and enlarging drawing road 
1858September27Heathery KnoweBailliestonBlochairn Iron CoDun. McKendrickSinker36Fell from the kettle in the shaft 
1858October9BarronhallFalkirkCarron CoJames GowDrawer  By falling on main horse road and crushed by loaded hutches 
1858October11MiniveyDalmellingtonDalmellington Iron CoThos. ConollyCollier55Fall of roof 
1858October16Sadler's BraeKirkintillochMessrs HardieJohn MarshallCollier28Fall of roof 
1858October24ComrieDunfermlineForth Iron CoAndrew WilsonEngineer  By falling amongst and crushed by the wheels of pumping engine 
1858October29Coltness Iron WorksWishawColtness Iron CoWilliam GibbCollier  By fall of coal when engaged reducing pillars 
Thomas GibbCollier
1858November4Ayr CollieryAyrJohn Taylor GordonWm O'Malleypitheadman47By pushing an empty hutch into the wrong side of the shaft 
1858November4Stevenston CollieryStevenstonMerry & CunninghamJohn SmithCollier26Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: In this case four men were engaged in opening up or driving forward a winning out wall by contract. It was kept going continuously with three shifts of men in twenty-four hours. There were other working places disconnected from this, but which were more immediately under the surveillance of the oversman. The firemen examined them in the usual way in the morning before the men were allowed to enter to their work. For some reason, on the morning of the accident, the deceased, one of the four men who worked in the winning out wall, had gone into one of these places with a naked light, before the fireman made his round of inspection, and ignited a quantity of firedamp which had collected there. He was severely burned, and died from the effects of it.
1858November8WellwoodDunfermlineThomas SpowartJames SinclairCollier  By fall of roof at face of workingsNewspaper report
1858November8West ThorntonKilmarnockArchibald FinnieJohn CalderCollier17Fall of roof 
1858November11BridesholmAirdrieProvanhall Coal CoMartin HannahRoadsman  By fall of roof in drawing road 
1858November11DarngavilAirdriePatrick RankineHenry DevelinCollier  By fall of roof at face of workings 
1858November20Little ReathDunfermlineLochgelly Iron CoRobina JohnstonPit-head woman  By being crushed betwixt cage and beams of pithead scaffold 
1858November30ColtnessWishawAlexander G SimpsonJames PatersonCollier  By fall of roof whilst engaged enlarging main horse roadNewspaper report - Cambusnethan pages
1858December2ArnistonDalkeithJohn ChristieJohn ClarkCollier  By fall of roof at face of workings 
Alexander HoodCollier
1858December4RiskendKilsythM Hay & SonJohn AndersonCollier53Fall of roof Newspaper report - Stirlingshire pages
1858 December 4 Boyd's Burn coal and limestone mine Campsie     Hugh Gallacher     Death not listed in Inspectors report Newspaper report - Stirlingshire pages
1858December5GarscubeMaryhillJames Barclay & CoWm BonnarCollier24Explosion of fire damp

From Main body of report: The pit had only been sunk a few weeks previous to the accident. The seam around the pit bottom was considerably deranged with dislocations, and exploring roads had been extended a few fathoms from it.

Deceased and a fellow workman were engaged in sinking a blind pit. It would appear they had prepared to blast in it, and after igniting the match had retired into one of the exploring roads. It was known that a small quantity of firedamp did collect in one of these roads, and as the place was abandoned at the time, they were provided with a safety lamp for the purpose of making an examination; or in case of retiring from a shot, as in the present case, so that they might do so with safety.
The Davy lamp was found entire after the explosion, and near to where it took place, showing that the poor fellows had not neglected to take it with them for the purpose of examining the place, but that they had proceeded beyond the line of safety before doing so. They were both slightly burned, and one of them died from the effects of it.
1858December10Quarter Iron WorksHamiltonColin Dunlop & CoMathew LawRoadsman  By crushed by cage whilst attempting to go from one side of pit bottom to the otherNewspaper report - Hamilton pages [died 21 December 1858]
1858December13Quarter    Francis McLanachan    Death not listed in Inspectors reportNewspaper report - Hamilton pages
1858December20WheatyfauldDalryMerry & CunninghamFairley CampbellDrawer13Fall of roof 
1858December27ArdeerKilwinningMerry & CunninghamRobt. ArnottSinke45Fell off a sinking kettle while ascending the shaft 
Last Updated 5th February 2012