Larkhall Miners



A young Ashgill miner, Stewart Speirs (19) 12 Douglas Drive, had a unique and alarming experience in Swinhill Colliery last Friday night, going by mistake in some old working places adjoining a machine run in the Lower Drumgray section. The “damp” extinguished his carbide lamp, and he was unable to find his way out, as it was impossible to relight his lamp in the damp. Owing to the great danger attached to moving about in the darkness of old workings, Speirs made his way to a roadhead and decided to stay there until assistance came. Actually he had a ten-hour wait in the eerie darkness and damp-polluted atmosphere without light or food, and although several searchers latterly passed quite near to him he did not hear them owing to the effects of the drowsiness caused by the “damp.” After an all night search, in which a rescue brigade from Coatbridge took part, the missing lad was found in the morning. Mr Peter Harley, the manager, on learning what had happened, hurried to the colliery and organised the search party. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 26/11/1938. Page 7.

Wilma Bolton. 2005.


At Hamilton Sheriff Court on Tuesday 15/6/1896 before Sheriff Davidson and a jury—inquiries were made into the death of Andrew Bennie who was fatally injured in the course of his employment at Dalserf.

The first witness into the death of Andrew Bennie, who was injured at Marlage Colliery Dalserf on the 6th May and died on the 22nd May 1896 was William Gold, who worked with Bennie in the Drumgray seam, about 50 fathoms from the pit bottom. About two o’clock on the 6th of May, he was drawing a hutch to the bottom, when he heard Bennie shout that his shirt was on fire. Witness ran and helped him to put it out, and then saw him home. Bennie was able to go home, and did not complain greatly at the time; but Dr Morrison, doctor to the works ordered his removal to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he died on the 22nd May. The fire had been caused by an explosion of gas which had accumulated in a cutter in the roof. They all knew that there was gas in the cutter, and held down their heads when they passed underneath.
John McLean, another drawer, gave similar evidence.
Robert Alexander, fireman in Bennie’s section of the pit, stated that there was very little gas in the mine, though he had found some small feeders in some of the old workings. He had examined Bennie’s place about ten in the morning, and found no gas.
Other witnesses having given evidence of a somewhat similar nature, the jury returned a verdict to the effect that the death of deceased was due to injured received from an explosion of gas. Ref. Hamilton Herald. 19/6/1890. Page 6.

Wilma Bolton. 2005.


On Monday a man named John Thomson, (48) residing at Ashgillhead, met with an accident at No. 3 Pit Cornsilloch Colliery. He had been engaged in his work, when a piece pf coal, weighing about a cwt, fell from the face and striking him on the right leg, broke it a little below the knee. He was at once conveyed home and attended to by Dr Rogerson.
On Tuesday, a young man names James Millar, (22) residing at Raploch Street, got his left leg fractured in No. 2 Cornsilloch Colliery. He was engaged as a drawer, and it was while keeping some hutches on a tow rope in position at the head of a “cousie” that he met with the accident, the rail springing out and striking his leg with such force as to break it. He was conveyed to his home and attended to by Dr, Rogerson.
On Wednesday, at No. 1 Pit also Cornsilloch Colliery—another accident occurred whereby a miner names James Ninnes, 52 years of age, residing at Church Street Larkhall, lost his life. Ninnes who worked at the Splint coal seam had been preparing a shot, while another man working near him had one ready at the same time. After setting fire to the shots, both retired some distance away. One was heard to go off, and Ninnes, concluding that it was his one, went to see how successful it had been. The explosion, however had been in the other man’s and Ninnes’ own going off while he was going into the place, he got the full force of the shot about the head and chest. He was found lying half buried among the coal brought down and when extricated was quite dead. Dr Rogerson, who examined the body afterwards, found that the skull had been fractured, while there were also severe bruises about the chest, and was of the opinion that death must have been instantaneous. The deceased, who was a native of Cornwall was a most respectable man. He leaves a widow and two grown up daughters to mourn his untimely end. Ref Lanarkshire, 18/12/1896. Page 5

Wilma Bolton. 2005. 

Two miners were fatally injured as a result of a distressing shot-firing accident which occurred at No. 2 Pit of Swinnhill Colliery on Thursday afternoon. They were Archibald Brown (35), brushing contractor 22 Queen Street, Stonehouse and John Kane Clark, (16) Brusher, second son of Mr and Mrs Alexander Clark, 42 Swinhill Terrace, by Larkhall. The cause of the accident is unknown.
The two miners, it was learned at the colliery, were at work in a stone mine which is being driven from the Upper Drumgray seam to the Lower Drumgray when the accident occurred. Miners working nearby heard a number of shots go off, but did not believe that anything unusual had happened. The discovery that an accident had occurred was first made by a drawer who heard a shout of “Help” when approaching the entrance to the stone mine. He summoned the aid of some other workmen, and despite dense, choking gelatine smoke caused by the shots, an entrance was made to the mine, when both brushers were found lying dead. Among those who were early at the scene of the accident were Mr Robert Allan, the manager, and Mr Robert Laird, the section fireman. The bodies were later removed to Larkhall Police Mortuary.
An inspection by representatives of the Mines Department was made yesterday. Reports that an explosion had occurred were strongly denied by the officials, who stated that the colliery is a naked light mine.
Both the deceased workmen were well known in the district, where Brown had been engaged in this type of work for a long number of years. His father Mr Archibald Brown is a well-known Ashgill man. Brown who leaves a wife and a son of nine years was an enthusiastic football supporter and was president of Stonehouse Violets F.C. Supporters Club. He was also a keen Burns enthusiast.
The youth’s death has cast a gloom over the Swinnhill area, where he was a popular figure. His father is also employed at the colliery and was preparing to go to work when news of the accident was made known in the home. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 28/10/1930. Page 10.

Wilma Bolton. 2005.
On Thursday, the 22nd curt., a number of the miners in the employment of Messrs Hamilton & McCulloch, Bog Colliery, spent a very pleasant holiday. They had previously concluded that a day’s drive into Ayrshire would be more beneficial to their health, and more profitable in its results, that a flying visit by rail to the city of Perth Stirling, or the densely-crowded thoroughfares of “Auld Reekie.” In accordance with this resolve, the party were furnished with a fine waggonette and two gallant animals, from Mr Gavin Baxter, of the London Hotel, and started at 6.30 a.m., accompanied by the stirring strains of music from a few of the members og the Brass Band, who formed part of their number. Leaving Larkhall behind, they passed through the towns of Stonehouse and Strathaven and on good time reached the heathery slopes of Louden Hill where the whole party alighted and passed an hour in the most harmless and enjoyable amusement. The services of one of the Neil Gow fraternity, who was in attendance was next in demand, and a Scotch
Country dance was dashed off is great style. Taking their seats, they again turned their faces to the west, all joining in that delightful song,
        “Loudon’s bonnie woods and braes,
         I maun lea’ them a’ lassie.”
From thence they drove to Newmilns, fwd and rested the horses, for two hours, during which they had the pleasure of being admitted into the beautiful gardens there---a visit to which cannot fail to astonish and delight all floral admirers. They proceeded from thence to the Workingman’s Institute, where they found every class of useful amusement, including a gymnasium and reading-room. Time was now called, and homeward bound was the order. On the way home, being in close proximity to the Irvine Water, the party could not resist the desire to spend a few minutes on its banks. With common consent the whole party again got down, reached the water’s edge, joined hands and sung “Scots wha hae,” after which they repeated several snatches of the traditionary records of “Blind Harry” in connection with the immortal Wallace. They then, in earnest set their faces towards “Larkie,” which was reached at 9.30, where an excellent pie was discussed in the Railway Tavern. The evening was afterwards agreeable spent in song and sentiment, all parting “resolved to meet some inther day. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 31/8/1873. Page 3.
Wilma Bolton. 2005
The lease of these collieries which for a long time have been wrought by Messrs Archibald Russell Ltd., terminated this month, and the Darngavel Coal Company have secured a lease of the coalfield from the Duke of Hamilton’s trustees. At present the intention is that Millburn and Nos. 1 and 2 Cornsilloch will be stopped for an indefinite period, while it is intended by the new fue to keep No 3 Cornsilloch working. It is further reported that the coal in the Millburn seams will be wrought from Skellyton Colliery, where a mine is presently being driven. With the stoppage, fully 600 men will be thrown out of work, and it is a serious thing for the district, as already the other pits are congested and the men will have difficulties finding a position. Men who are in a position to know, state that the existing coalfield is capable of running another thirty years yet. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 6/5/1911. Page 5.

Wilma Bolton. 2005.

Larkhall’s mining industry, which has been steadily declining for the past fifteen years, has been further deteriorated in a decision to close three more collieries—Skellyton, Cornsilloch and Telfer Mine. The pits, it is expected will cease production at the end of March. About 400 men are employed, but the bulk of them will be transferred to other districts.
Skellyton Colliery, as the miners say, “has been one of the steadiest pits on the line,” which means that in times of slumps and depressions it continued in production. Its coal was of the first grade quality. Seams now being worked are the Kiltongue and upper Drumgray and daily output is about 280 tons. A virgin seam of Drumgray coal, it is, claimed by the miners’ remains to be worked, but it is stated that the plans show that it is only from ten to eighteen inches. Meetings have already taken place between representatives of the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the owners and miners, with regard to the decision to close the colliery.
Cornsilloch Colliery has been out of coal production for some considerable time. The Telfer Mine, near Garrion Bridge, was opened a number of years ago to cover a particular field of coal. The bulk of this, however, has been extracted.
With the closing of these three collieries, only Candlerigg |Colliery and a few small mines will be in production in the Larkhall area, where there were once over twenty collieries employing over 5000 miners. Ref. Hamilton Advertiser. 10/2/1945.  

Wilma Bolton. 2005.