Auchengeich Disaster 1959
Auchengeich Disaster – 1959
Do you remember Mr Duffy across the road from you, died there, his wife’s name was Nettie.
It was midnight and a cool autumn wind rustled through the silent crowd of 1200 people gathered at the pit-head, many of them women with their children wrapped in shawls cuddled close to them.
It was the night of 18th September, 1959, and the coal mine was at Auchengeich, Lanarkshire, where an inferno raged deep below.
Ronald Parker, Scottish Chairman of the National Coal Board, stepped forward and addressed the crowd, telling them that it had been decided to flood the mine to put out the fire even although 48 men were still missing.
Cries of despair and anger rent the air and under the glare of floodlights the Scottish Miners union leader Abe Moffat appealed to the crowd to go home.
Three men shouted, “Why do you tell us this now? They should never have been down there. It was the fan, the fan . . . . “
They were moved on by police.
But they were right. It was the fan, more precisely a faulty booster fan-belt operating electrical equipment 1400 feet underground which had burst into flames and had spread fire along a gallery. Around 7am. on that fateful day – on which occurred Scotlands worst mining disaster of the 20th century – the early morning shift had just clocked on and were being carried in a small train of bogies towards the coalface.
The sole survivor of that brief train trip was 50-year-old Big Tam Green, a 6 ft. 4” giant from Marnoch Drive, Glenboig, who later told how he and his mates ran into thick, black, choking smoke.
“Im the luckiest man in the world. I am alive. I have come out of that nightmare down there. I cannot believe that all this has happened in such a short time… that I have lost all my working mates, my friends.”
“It seems to me no time at all since it was seven o’clock this morning and we were all chuckling over a joke as we waited for the cage.”
“As I got aboard the bogie, I smelled fumes – but only slightly. I don’t think I gave them much attention at the time.”
“The bogies started to rumble downwards. Suddenly the smoke and fumes were intense. It was almost impossible to breathe. We signalled frantically for the haulage man to take us back up the track. The bogie started moving upwards… the smoke was following. I tried not to breathe.”
“I realised that the situation was desperate. Men were choking all around me but the haulage still kept moving upwards.”
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From: Tom & Betty Brown
Sent: 24 October 2005
Subject: Coal Mining in Blantyre
I lived in Blantyre, a coal mining village, lived in Dixon’s Rows, for many years as my dad before me.
There were seven of us including my mum and dad in one room, cooking, cleaning and sleeping, and coal under the bed!! Even after my dad did night shift!!!
I have many memories.
My dad worked in Auchengeich at the time of the disaster, I remember sitting in school and getting the news; my dad never came home that morning.
Never seen him for 3 days, he was in the Recovery crew. I was 12 yrs of age? Now 60yrs.
My dad had bad accidents down the Mines.
My mother worked the pithead, Hallside, where she met my dad?
Women worked at the Pithead picking out the slag as it came from the pithead.
Betty Mc Gaulley
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