Little Bits of History

October 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2017

1877: Blantyre, Scotland is the site of Scotland’s worst mining disaster. Blantyre is found in South Lanarkshire and today, has a population of around 17,000. First settled during the bronze age, the region was found to be a repository for coal earlier in the decade. The coalfield had three seams of different size located at three separate depths. The ell seam was the thickest and most shallow at 704 feet. The main coal seam was both middle in size and depth and located 774 feet below ground, and the splint coal seam was the deepest at 930 feet. There were five shafts at the colliery. Shafts 1, 3, and 4 were 24 feet by 8 feet with the first leading to the ell and main seams while 3 and 4 served the splint seam. No. 2 shaft was 16 by 8 feet and worked the splint coal while No. 5 was 10 feet in diameter and used as ventilation for numbers 1, 2, and 3.

At 4.40 AM on this day, the mine was inspected and all seemed to be going normally in pit number 2. At 5.50 AM, the day’s work crew started to descend and as they went down, the firemen (inspectors) were coming up and assured everyone all was well. At 9 AM, a blast was heard on the surface and flame and steam rushed through number 3 pit for a few minutes. Smoke rose from the ventilation shaft. The Inspector of the Mines and the Assistant Inspector were called to the scene by telegraph and arrived around noon.

Number 3 pit was blocked by debris which had fallen during the explosion. The cages and ropes had been damaged in the blast making normal descent impossible. A makeshift large bucket was put together and descent was attempted. The sounds of air moving was noted. Pit number 2 was basically undamaged. A temporary shaft was built to help ventilate the damaged pit and with that, it became possible to find the place of the blast. Four survivors were found, but one died shortly thereafter. The others died within weeks. Everyone else was killed during the blast itself, a total of 207.

The following day, recovery of the bodies began. An investigation into the cause of the blast found that a naked flame ignited firedamp, flammable gases found in coal mines. Usually, methane, it is found in bituminous coal sites and can accumulate in pockets. The miners were using “gauze lamps” a type of safety lamp designed for this sort of mining. They were not Davy lamps, as the report noted. They were not supposed to ignite the dust or gases, but since they were larger, when something went wrong, the ensuing blast was even bigger. The youngest person killed in the blast was a child of 11 and the disaster left 92 widows and 250 fatherless children in its wake. This was neither the first nor last mining disaster at this particular mine.

The coal mining industry is very destructive and it doesn’t have to be. – Kevin Richardson

Coal mining is tough. Acting is just tedious. – Johnny Knoxville

The extraction of oil, coal and minerals brought, and still brings, a cost to the environment. – Bono

Football is a game designed to keep coal miners off the streets. – Jimmy Breslin



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