Scottish Mining Villages


This section contains newspaper reports on accidents. Please check the indexes in theAccidents Section for details of Inspector of Mines reports and other accidents covered on the site.

1 March 1817

A melancholy accident occurred in the lead mines belonging to Messrs Horner Hurst & Co., Leadhills on the forenoon of the 1st inst. Occasioned by the air being rendered impure from the smoke of a fire engine, placed about 100 feet underground. As soon as the danger was ascertained, 2 miners and the company’s blacksmith descended to the relief of their neighbours below, when unfortunately the two miners perished in the humane attempt. The smith escaped but is still dangerously ill. Many of the miners who were at work at the time were violently affected, almost to suffocation, but are now out of danger. We have since learned that in all seven lives have been lost in this accident. Five at least of those who perished have left widows and large families, some of them 8 to 10 children. The following are the names of the sufferers: – William Austin,Peter BlackwoodJohn BainJames AlstonRobert HamiltonThomas Thomson and a man from the north. [Glasgow Herald March 7 1817]

30 October 1844

Fatal Accident in a Coal Pit – On Wednesday a melancholy accident occurred in one of the mines at Wanlockhead, belonging to his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch. A party of miners had prepared to blast a piece of rock , and having lighted the match, retired to what they considered a safe distance. When the explosion took place , however, a large fragment of stone rebounding from the side of the mine, struck one of the party, named William Hislop, on the back, inflicting a severe wound. He was immediately carried home by his companions, and medical attendance procured ; but such was the nature of the injury he had received, that, after lingering in great pain for about thirty-six hours, he expired. The death of this young man, who was only in his 20th year, has spread a gloom over the whole village. He was an only son, and most exemplary for dutiful and affectionate conduct towards his parents. [Scotsman 6 November 1844]

5 February 1868

Accident in A Mine – A singular accident happened on Wednesday last to a lad named William Little, aged 17, employed in one of the mines at Wanlochhead. His duty was to watch the working of the pumping engine in the mine, for which purpose he had to go down the pit; while there early on the morning of Wednesday, feeling very cold, he left his post in order to take a walk to warm himself. At a distance of 50 yards from the engine, there is a “sump” or shaft 68 feet deep, which is descended by ladders. Little proceeded to go down this shaft, and stepping on to the top ladder laid hold of a crank suspended in the shaft for the purpose of drawing up materials from the bottom, when the crank suddenly turned in his hand, causing him to lose his balance, and he fell to the bottom of the shaft. Here he lay for three hours in 18 inches of water unable to raise himself; at length hearing some of the miners passing he cried out and was soon rescued from his unpleasant position. He was in a very exhausted condition, but must have been more frightened than hurt, because strange to say, on being examined by Dr Menzies, no bruises were found on his person, and the only serious injury he seems to have received was a fracture of the right ancle. He is progressing favourably. [Herald 12 February 1868]

25 May 1892

Leadhills – Miner Buried Alive At Leadhills – On Wednesday James Tennant, Flaxholm, Leadhills, was buried alive in Potato Lead Mine, Leadhills. The “happer” through which rubbish is put became choked, and while Tennant was on top of the heap the happer suddenly opened, carrying him through among the rubbish, and another fall of rubbish taking place he was buried alive. Every effort was made to rescue the unfortunate man, but when he was taken out Dr Barrons found life extinct. [Hamilton Advertiser 28 May 1892]

13 August 1925

Leadhills – Fatal Accident – On Thursday morning, 13th inst., while George Dalling leadminer, son of Mr Wm Dalling, Mossbank, was engaged at his usual work in the Wanlockhead lead mines, a violent explosion rendered him unconscious, when he was removed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Shortly after admission he expired, never regaining consciousness. His remains, which were interred in Leadhills Churchyard on Sabbath afternoon, were followed by the largest crowd of mourners ever witnessed in the village. Much sympathy is felt for his widow and children, as well as for his father and mother. [Hamilton Advertiser 22 August 1925]

27 August 1926

Wanlockhead Lead Miner Killed – A distressing fatality occurred late on Friday night in the Wanlockhead lead mine, when Hugh Nicol (50), was crushed by a descending cage. He was engaged at repair work at the pit bottom when he was struck by the cage and killed instantaneously. [Scotsman 30 August 1926]

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Collieries In The East Of Fife

The following extracts are from the report by R F Franks to the Children’s Employment Commission on the East of Scotland District which was published in 1842

Drumcarra Colliery

– parish of Cameron, county of Fife. – (Messrs. Williamson and Co., Lessees.)

No.427. Mr. Alexander Felfer, overseer:
We employ about 50 persons in the mine; 15 are under 18 years of age, and nine boys 10, 12, and 14 years of age; very young people are of no use here, as much caution is required from the nature of our coal, which frequently is on fire and we find it trouble-some and expensive to keep it at bay. The works were stopped for some years from the wasting fire. We have no carburetted hydrogen gas in the mine, but much choke-damp in warm weather which we drive out by ventilation. Our pit is descended by one shaft 65 fathoms deep and it is divided by a partition. The air is coursed along the workings in the usual way. No accidents have taken place from the stifle which the burning produces. One man was crushed by the fall of a stone in the mine within the last two years.

The usual number of hours which our colliers are wrought do not exceed eight or nine, and when they work by double shifts they rarely work more than six and seven hours.

As children are little use in the mines before 12 or 13 years of age, I would recommend 13 years as the most suitable time for their being first employed.

No females have ever wrought in this part of Fife, and many of our present colliers were labourers in the fields; they are generally good workmen, although they are called grass-colliers.

No.428. Alexander Smith, 14 years old, hewer:
Works with two brothers below on father’s account, as he cannot work, often being touched in the breath. Brother and I can put out two men’s work in a day, which is l5 tubs of mixed coal, equal to three tons; we get 2s. 3 1/2d. per ton for splint coal, 2s. 1d. for soft coal and 15d. per ton for panwood or lime coal. We could do very well if the work were regular, but the warm weather causes the black-damp to rise; it did so on Saturday, when we left.

The pit is much troubled with fire-stifle, which sends the men to sleep; it also causes them to spew much; when the men are overcome with the stifle we take them into the fresh air, which brings back their senses.

I have been below three years; was at Donbrae school before; was taught to read and write. [Writes very badly, and deficient in religious knowledge.] Have two sisters; one is married to a gardener, and the other at service at Mr. Mitchell’s at Donbrae. Mother was a weaver’s daughter.

No.429. Andrew Ferres, 17 years old, hewer:
Began first to work on coal three years ago; left farm service, as the coal work was likely to pay better; can earn 2s. 6d. to 3s. a-day when work is regular; the average through the year I think is eight days in the fortnight. Service is preferable to coal-work but my wages were only 4s. 1d. a-year, and I had to clothe myself; would not have left, only father wished me and little brother is now below opening the traps; he is 12 years old and been down nine months.
[The father is afflicted with bad breath and the mother has been dead four years; the daughters, – two out at service, one (18 years old) keeps house.]



District Parish Name of Mines Proprietor or Lessee
St. Andrews Kilconquhar Grange Colliery Peter Keddie, Esq.
St. Andrews Kilconquhar Rires Colliery Mr. Dalgleish
St. Andrews Carnbee Kellie Castle Colliery Mr. Hastler
St. Andrews Kennoway Kilnnox Colliery Mr. Fernie
St. Andrews Cameron Greigston Colliery Messrs. Williamson and Co.
St. Andrews Cameron Winthank Colliery Whyte Melville, Esq.
Cupar Cults Burn Turc Colliery Mr. D. Thompson
Cupar Leslie Coule Colliery Mr. Mitchell
Kirkaldy Scoonie Ducie Colliery Messrs. Langdale and Co.
Kirkaldy Wemyss Pilmuir Colliery Captain Wemyss
Kirkaldy Wemyss Methel Colliery Captain Wemyss

The collieries in the district of St. Andrews and Cupar are worked to very limited extent, and no females or very young children are wrought below. The only novelty that attracts attention is the peculiar character of the coal at Drumcarra, Largo Ward and Teases, which spontaneously fires. At Drumcarra a portion of the coal-wall is on fire, and the smoke causes not unfrequently a complete cessation of labour from the “stifle” arising therefrom.

It is presumed that so much mineral is disseminated through this particular section of the coal-field that the coal may be generally termed pyritiferous. If therefore, a quantity of pyritous matter be suffered to accumulate, spontaneous combustion naturally takes place, – an accident of not unfrequent occurrence in similar formations in English mines as also those of the Brora Coal-field in the north of Scotland, the working of which for some years has been abandoned.

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