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The funeral of Daniel Coyle leaving St Patrick's Church
lead by Fr James Harold
and Fr Daniel Murphy
on Monday 30th July 1923
"Eight Killed in Scottish Pit - Explosion Mystery
Glasgow July 29 - The sound of a violent explosion on Saturday
night threw the mining town of Kilsyth into a state of consternation.
The explosion had occurred in No. 3 Gartshore Pit, about two
miles away, where twelve men were working on the construction
of a lodgment for water at the bottom of a new shaft. Of the
twelve men eight were killed and three were injured.
The explosion occurred near the bottom of the old pit shaft.
Andrew Airlie, an elderly pit bottomer, was thrown against the
wall. He raised the alarm, and was hauled up to the surface.
There he enlisted the help of willing workers and insisted upon
returning to the pit. The rescue party found seven of the men
lying dead. One lay moaning with a heavy beam across his neck.
Two were unconscious, and only one was able to move or do anything
for himself. Their first task was to extricate the injured men
and rush them off to the infirmary, but one of them, George
Young, apprentice bricklayer, died on the way to the infirmary.
The other victims were Robert Gray (single), Alexander Paterson
(married, with two children), John Patle, John Patrick (three
children), Daniel Coyle (single), Samuel Garrie (single), John
Campbell (widower), and James Campbell (single). Patrick and
Paterson had descended the pit only about ten minutes before
the explosion, the cause of which is still unknown.
The task of the rescuers was rendered more difficult by
the smoke and fumes, and two hours elapsed before the last of
the bodies was brought to the surface. The features of most
of the dead had been so severely mutilated as to be almost unrecognisable."
The Times 30 July 1923
"Explosion in Kilsyth Pit - Eight Men Killed
and Three Injured - Appalling Scenes
One of the most serious accidents experienced for many years
in the extensive coalfields owned by Messrs Wm. Baird &
Co. (Ltd.), in the Kelvin Valley district, took place on Saturday
night, when eight men were killed and' three injured by an explosion.
The. scene of the disaster was what is locally known as the
old No. 3 Gartshore Pit, Croy, about two miles from Kilsyth,
where for some considerable time preparations have been going
on for the extension of the underground workings, new pithead
gear being in process of erection, while roads were being driven
About six o'clock on Saturday night, while twelve men were
at work in the old pit, a few yards from the bottom, a terrific
explosion occurred from some unknown cause, and seven of the
men were killed, an eighth died later in the Kilsyth Hospital,
while three were injured, two of them having to be removed to
the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow.
The victims were :-
Robert Gray (22, single), bricklayer, Charles Street, Kilsyth.
Alexander Paterson (49, married), colliery fire-man, Parkfoot
John Patrick (31, married), oversman, Crow Row, Croy.
Daniel Coyle (18, single), bricklayers' labourer, Westport Street;
Samuel Garrie (19, single), bricklayer, Moniebrough Crescent,
John Campbell (49, widower), bricklayer, Findlay Street, Kilsyth
James Campbell (32, married), bricklayers' labourer, Newton
George Young (18, single), apprentice bricklayer, William Street,
The following were injured:-
Melvin Kelly (married), and his son, Melvin, miners, Twechar,
both seriously injured and removed to hospital; and
Samuel Sloan, miner, Twechar, who escaped with slight injuries.
Force of the explosion - From the death-roll
it will be seen that six of the victims were bricklayers and
labourers. At the time of the explosion they were engaged at
the old pit bottom, which is now about half-way down the shaft,
in constructing a brick wall to act as a lodgment for water.
This wall measured about 36 feet long, by 7 1/2 feet high, and
5 feet thick. The men had started their shift at two o'clock,
and were not due to cease work until eleven o'clock. In addition
to the bricklayers, three miners, a fireman, an oversman, and
a pit bottomer were below at the time. The noise of the explosion
was heard at Kilsyth and throughout a large area, and within
a few minutes workmen from the miners' rows in Croy, Twechar,
and Auchenstarry were hurrying to the scene. On arrival at the
pithead steps were immediately taken to ascertain the extant
of the disaster. Fortunately the shaft was undamaged, although
the lid at the pithead had been displaced by the force of the
First news of what bad happened was obtained from Andrew
Airlie, the bottomer, who had escaped injury and was able to
ascend in the cage. He had been working about 15 yards away
from the main body of the shift, and was thrown against the
side of the wall by the explosion. He did not lose consciousness,
however, and making his way through the stifling smoke and fumes,
he managed to, reach the cage and signal to be raised to the
surface. Airlie was suffering naturally from his alarming experience,
but after reporting to the fireman he pluckily insisted on joining
the rescue party, and once more descended the mine. The party,
in addition to Airlie, consisted of Mr Leishman, fireman, and
Mr Comily another pithead worker.
By this time large crowds had gathered at the colliery,
and there was no lack of volunteers for any work that might
be needed. Among the gathering were a considering number of
relatives and friends of the men still in the pit, who had rushed
to the scene in the hope that the alarming reports of the extent
of the disaster might have been exaggerated.
The Work of Rescue - When the rescue party
descended they found the workings in total darkness. Not far
from the foot of the shaft they were met by Samuel Sloan, one
of the miners, who was limping from a wound in his leg. Proceeding
as best they could amongst the wreckage of timber and bricks,
they heard shouts coming from the neighbourhood of where the
men had been at work, and making their way with difficulty,
they came upon another miner, Melvin Kelly. He was partly covered
with debris, and was pinned below a barrel. After rescuing this
man from his perilous position the party continued their work,
and shortly afterwards discovered George Young, one of the bricklayers,
lying below a heavy beam. He was suffering from terrible injuries,
and though still alive when taken to the surface by the rescue
party he did not survive.
A second descent was now made by the rescuers, who were
reinforced by eight volunteers, amongst whom was Samuel Sloan,
the first man to be taken out of the pit This time they were
able to reach the place where the wall was being constructed,
and an appalling scene of destruction confronted them. The bodies
of the bricklayers were found huddled together in a ghastly
heap, some of the men so terribly mutilated that they were almost
unrecognisable. It was evident that the victims had had no chance
of escape, and that all had lost their lives as the instantaneous
result of the explosion.
Nearly a couple of hours were occupied in releasing and
raising the bodies to the pithead and several of the rescue
party were so affected by this gruesome work that they had to
receive medical attention on coming to the surface. The bodies
were removed to the old engine house for identification purposes.
Meantime several doctors had arrived on the scene, and
the injured, after receiving first aid, were conveyed to hospital
in ambulances. George Young was taken to the Kilsyth Hospital,
where he died soon after admission. The Kellys, father and son,
who were suffering, from broken bones and other injuries, were
removed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
The Victims - Among the victims were no
fewer than three married men, while one was a widower.
Alexander Paterson, the fireman, who had descended the
pit only ten minutes before the explosion, was 49 years of age,
and leaves a widow and a family of two. Although connected with
colliery work for many years, his only actual experience of
a serious accident underground was as a member of one of the
rescue parties at the Cadder Pit fire about a dozen years ago.
He was an active member of the Congregational Church.
John Patrick, oversman, who had also just gone down the
pit, leaves a widow and three children. He was well known in
football circles in the district, and had played in the two
local teams; and latterly with Croy Celtic. He is said to have
acted as a substitute in the pit for another workman who was
unable to take up his regular duty.
James Campbell had been engaged is special work at Gartshore
for about a month. It is stated that before proceeding on duty
he had made a remark to his wife about the work on hand being
of a somewhat dangerous nature, and she had tried to persuade
him to remain at home for the day, as he complained of feeling
wearied. He replied, however, that the job was so urgent that
he must return.
John Campbell, who had been unemployed for some months,
leaves a son and daughter. The son works in the pit, and had
been engaged with his father in working, at the wall, but was
off duty when the accident happened.
Robert Gray was only occasionally employed at the pit.
He was 22 years, of age, and the eldest of a family of seven.
He took a keen interest in the work of the Kilsyth Gospel Mission.
Daniel Coyle had been in the pit in the early part of the
day, and had resumed with the afternoon shift. He was 18 years
of age, and the only bread-winner in a family of five. Only
on Monday he had restarted work after a holiday in Ireland.
Samuel Garrie was also a young man, and resided with his
George Young, the lad who died in hospital, was 18 years
of age, and was the eldest of a family of three. He had been
in the pit since he was 14.
Interview With Pit Bottomer - In the course
of an interview, Andrew Airlie, pit bottomer, gave a graphic
story of his escape.
"About a quarter to six," he said, "I heard
a tremendous explosion, followed by the crashing of timber and
stone. Somehow or other I managed to keep my feet, and I shouted,
'Hullo, boys!' but got no response. I fought my way along towards
the shaft, and gave the signal to those above that something
had gone amiss. By the time I reached the cage, which took me
to the top I was nearly overcome by the stifling smoke and fumes.
After reporting to the fireman, I was one of the party which
descended the pit and assisted in the rescue work. It was a
slow and laborious job clearing away the fallen stonework from
off our comrades, and more than one of us shuddered at the sight.
Although I have been employed in the pits since I was a boy,
I never in all my experience witnessed such an awful scene.
Mr Daniel Craney, who also formed one of the rescue party,
stated that he first heard of the explosion half an hour after
it occurred,. and he hastened to the scene which, he said, was
too awful to describe. He himself had been working on the job
the previous night, and was due to resume at eleven o'clock.
It was the irony of fate that the accident should take place
just when the work was about completed, as it was expected to
be finished in the course of the next shift. The men were working
in a confined space, and this accounted for the terrible effects
of the explosion.
Condition of the Injured - On inquiry at the Royal Infirmary,
Glasgow, late last night, it was learned that Melvin Kelly and
his son were both fairly comfortable, and making satisfactory
progress." Scotsman 30 July 1923
"Impressive Scenes At Funeral
Large crowds visited Gartshore Pit, near Kilsyth, yesterday,
where squads were engaged clearing away the debris. The two
injured miners Kelly, father and son, were reported to be progressing
favourably in Glasgow Infirmary, and they are fully expected
to recover. Sloan, whose heroism was spoken of was stated to
be much better, and Airlie returned to the pit.
Impressive scenes were witnessed at the funeral of Daniel
Coyle (18 years of age), which took place yesterday. A service
was held in St Patrick's R.C. Church. The church wag crowded,
and hundreds waited outside. Provost Freebairrn and several
Town Councillors attended. The service was conducted by Father
Harold, Kilsyth, and Rev.
Professor D. Murphy, Fermoy College, Ireland. Former school
companions carried the coffin from the church to the cemetery.
The members of the Boys Guild, of which the deceased lad was
a member, walked immediately behind the relatives. All places
of business along the route were closed.
Today's Funerals - In connection with the funerals of the
other victims of the disaster, it had been arranged that the
funerals would take place today at different hours, but last
night these arrangements were altered, and it was decided that
the bodies of the men should be borne from their respective
homes to Anderson United Free Church, where a service will be
held at 3 o'clock, after which the fellow-workers of the deceased
men will carry the coffins to the cemetery.
Sir Harry Hope's Sympathy - Provost Freebairn, Kilsyth,
yesterday received a telegram from Sir Harry Hope expressing
his deepest regret at news of the sad calamity, and sending
his warmest sympathy with the relatives of those who had lost
their lives. Scotsman 31 July 1923
"Sorrowful Scenes At Funerals
The funerals of seven of the victims of the Gartshore Pit
disaster took place at Kilsyth yesterday afternoon amid many
manifestations of sorrow. Pits, quarries, mills, and places
of business in the district closed down, and thousands of people
flocked into the town from other districts. Long before the
hour for the funerals, the streets near the residences of some
of the deceased men were blocked by crowds of people. Mr Thomas
Johnston, M.P. for West Stirlingshire, travelled from London
to attend the funerals.
The bodies of John Campbell, James Campbell, Alexander
Paterson, Robert J. Gray, Samuel Garrie, and Robert Young were
carried from their respective residences on the shoulders of
relatives and placed in the Anderson United Free Church. Women
as well as men walked behind each coffin. The church could not
accommodate all who wished to gain entrance. The people crowded
the grounds of the church and the streets nearby. The Rev. Joseph
D. Caskey, Anderson Church and the Rev David Beale, Congregational
Church, conducted the service, during which many of the onlookers
wept bitterly. Several motor cars were required to convey to
the cemetery the many wreaths and flowers sent by friends and
associations with which the dead men were connected. Kilsyth
Town Band led the procession, followed by companies of fellow-workers
bearing the coffins on their shoulders. The victims were carried
is the order of seniority. The Salvation Army Band and the Kilsyth
Public Band also accompanied the long procession, which was
estimated to number several thousand persons.
The body of John Patrick was conveyed from Croy, and joined
the funeral cortège at the entrance to the cemetery.
The Rev. Father Charleson had
conducted a service in the Holy Cross Church, Croy, before the
cortège left for Kilsyth. The Croy Parish Brass Band
accompanied the funeral party. Father
Docherty and Father Healy marched in the procession, which
numbered well on for 1000 persons.
Heavy rain fell while the procession was on the way, and
continued all through the burial services, many of the mourners
and onlookers being drenched to the skin.
A telegram was read at the service in the Anderson United
Free Church from the Wesleyan Methodist Conference sitting in
Bristol, stating that the Conference sent its deepest sympathy
to all sufferers through the colliery disaster." Scotsman
1 August 1923