Blantyre's Blackest Day

22nd of October 1877

At that time High Blantyre was 'a maze of dirty and intricate ways and byways' with a mine slightly to the south of the village. It had five pits and was producing an extraordinary 900,000 tons of coal.
The mine like others in the area was known to be very gassy but complaints by miners a few days before the disaster were fobbed off by the foreman, Joseph Gilmour. He told the miners "There'll no be a man fall in this pit, I'll guarantee that".

On the fateful day the shifts went down the mine as normal at 5:30am. There was nothing unusual as the men carried out their backbreaking work in the low tunnels or 'stoopings'. At 8:45am the history of Blantyre changed as there was a loud explosion and flames shot from no.3 and no.5 pit shafts.

Women and off-duty miners hurried to the scene and soon 7 bodies were hoisted from no.2 pit but it was no.3 pit that concerned them. At midday the mines inspector went into the pit and found roof falls and a clear smell of firedamp. The main shaft had to be cleared and men worked in teams until they broke through at 10pm. Four miners were found but they were so seriously injured that they died later.

Work continued throughout the night and into the next day and despite very poor weather, sightseers arrived from Glasgow and Hamilton. The crowd around the pithead was so large that a hundred police were on duty to control it.

It was to take a week before the bodies were removed entirely from the mine which caused great distress for the families and incensed the villagers. In time the awful reality hit home when it was revealed that there was a death toll of at least 215 killed, resulting in High Blantyre having some 92 widows and 250 fatherless children.
Blantyre entered the history books as having the worst ever Scottish mining disaster.

Get your copy of "A Blast from the Past" to read the full account of the disaster.

1877 Plaque

1877 Disaster

"There'll no be a man fall in this pit, I'll guarantee that.. "