The Blantyre mining disaster, on 22 October 1877, in Blantyre, Scotland, was and remains Scotland’s worst mining accident. Pits No. 2 and No. 3 of William Dixon's Blantyre Colliery were the site of an explosion which killed 207 miners, the youngest being a boy of 11. The accident left 92 widows and 250 fatherless children.
Repeated complaints about the working conditions at High Blantyre had been ignored. In fact, a year before, Blantyre miners had been so fearful for their safety in the mines that, when Dixon's refused them a wage rise to compensate, they went on strike and were immediately sacked. They and their families were evicted from their homes, with police officers using clubs on hand if necessary. Just two months before in Dixon's number 2 pit, Joe McInulty had died of severe burns after an explosion of "firedamp" which had also injured his two younger brothers Robert and Andrew, leaving them also badly burnt. Despite this tragic occurrence and the concerns of the miners themselves, Dixon's pits were not considered by the management to be particularly dangerous, all the pits in this area were subject to "firedamp" and it was accepted as being part of everyday mining life. The mine 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 not be a man fall in this pit, I'll guarantee that'.
Six months after the accident, Dixon's raised summonses against 34 widows whose husbands had been killed and who had not left the tied cottages which they and their husbands had rented from the mining company. The Sheriff stated that it was out of kindness that the company had allowed them to remain in their houses for so long. One widow claimed that they had a cruel way of showing their kindness. They were evicted two weeks later, on 28 May 1878. No-one knows what became of these unfortunate widows and their children. In all probability they had to seek accommodation in the Poor House. The ejection of the Blantyre widows was a disgraceful end to the tragic story of the Blantyre explosion.
On 5th March 1878 at Dixon's No. 3 pit six men were killed in a cage accident.
On 2 July 1879, there was a second explosion at Dixon's Pit No. 1, with the loss of 28 lives.
THE BLANTYRE EXPLOSION
By Clyde's bonny banks where I sadly did wander
Among the pit heaps as evening drew nigh,
I spied a young woman all dressed in deep mourning,
A-weeping and wailing with many a sigh.
I stepped up beside her and thus I addressed her:
"Pray tell me the cause of your trouble and pain." Weeping and sighing, at last she made answer;
"Johnny Murphy, kind sir, was my true lover's name.
"Twenty-one years of age, full of youth and good looking, To work down the mines of High Blantyre he came,
The wedding was fixed, all the guests were invited
That calm summer evening young Johnny was slain.
The explosion was heard, all the women and children With pale anxious faces they haste to the mine.
When the truth was made known, the hills rang with their mourning,
Two-hundred-and-ten young miners were slain.
Now husbands and wives and sweethearts and brothers, That Blantyre explosion they'll never forget;
And all you young miners that hear my sad story,
Shed a tear for the victims who're laid to their rest.
The list of victims