Blantyre Mining Disaster
When juvenile members of political think tanks ask what unions are for, they should be reminded of some of the blacker days of our industrial history, and high on the list would be the Blantyre mining disaster of October 22 1877.
William Dixons Ltd operated various pits in Blantyre in Lanarkshire, the annual output of nearly a million tons of coal making the company a fortune. Two years previously men who struck because of the dangerous conditions were sacked. It was common knowledge that firedamp (largely methane) was at dangerous levels in the workings, but not only did the company fail to address the problem, it was also lax about rescue procedures in the event of a disaster.
A little before 9 a.m. on October 22 massive explosions sent flames and then dust soaring out of two pit shafts. It took a week to ascertain the final death toll of 207 men, though the youngest ‘man’ was just 11. Two years later a similar accident occurred there, with 28 dying. And many of the women widowed by the disaster were subsequently evicted from their tied cottages, with nowhere to go and no meaningful compensation for the deaths of their loved ones.
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