Commemoration to mark 60th anniversary of Auchengeich Colliery disaster

Auchengeich Mining Memorial - Annual Service - Father Michael Briody saying a pray'14th September 2014
Auchengeich Mining Memorial - Annual Service - Father Michael Briody saying a pray'14th September 2014

A poignant tribute is being organised to commemorate the 60th anniversary of one of Scotland’s worst mining tragedies.

The Auchengeich Colliery disaster on the 18th of September 1959 claimed the lives of 47 men – leaving 41 wives without husbands and 76 children without fathers.

Auchengeich Colliery Chryston - Lanarkshire disaster in September 1959 - rescue workers at pit head after being underground

Auchengeich Colliery Chryston - Lanarkshire disaster in September 1959 - rescue workers at pit head after being underground

Now, as we approach the 60th anniversary, a temporary display is being organised by a Council employee with close connections to the tragedy.

Harry Lycett-Nutt, who lost his great uncle in the disaster, has gathered together materials related to Auchengeich and the terrible accident for a display at the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch until September 19.

Harry said: “On 18 September 1959, 47 men went to work; descending into the pit around 6.30am for the day shift. They would never see daylight again or return to their families.

“The tragedy touched and blighted many mining communities in the surrounding area, including Kirkintilloch, Kilsyth, Condorrat, Chryston and Muirhead, among others.”

Harry, an estimator at East Dunbartonshire Council, is being supported by the Auld Kirk Museum, East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture (EDLC) Trust and colleague Chris Price, who lost two of his father’s cousins in the tragedy, while another family member survived by pure chance.

“A fire that originated with one of the driving belts of a booster fan spread to wood props and laggings used as roof supports,” explained Harry.

“As the fire took hold, 48 men were travelling in the direction of the fire, to the coal-face on the personnel train.

“Forty-seven of the men died within minutes from asphyxia due to poisoning by carbon monoxide. There was only one survivor.

“When news of the disaster started to spread around the local communities, 1,200 people descended on the pit to see if their loved ones were involved. As the hours passed it became clear it was a very serious incident indeed.

“The crowd’s worst fears were realised when the National Coal Board’s Scottish chairman Ronald Parker announced the mine had to be flooded in order to put out the fire.”

All the men were later recovered and funerals were held. The youngest to die was 20 years old (George McEwan) and the oldest was 62 (Henry Clayton). Auchengeich Colliery – which first opened in 1908 – went back into full production, finally closing in 1965.

Councillor Billy Hendry, Convener of Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets, said: “This will be a fascinating and poignant tribute to the men who lost their lives in one of the UK’s worst ever mining disasters. It might have been 60 years, but the tragedy still reverberates down the years in East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and well beyond.”

Sandy Marshall, Chair of EDLC Trust, added: “I want to express my appreciation to Harry, Chris, Irene McCafferty and Peter McCormack for their hard work and dedication in organising this display.

“I hope as many people as possible will go along to the Auld Kirk Museum to learn more and at the same time pay tribute to the many victims of this tragedy.”

A community event is held every year in memory of the miners who lost their lives in the Auchengeich Colliery disaster. This year marks the 60th anniversary and a service will be held on Sunday, September 15.

People are being invited to take part in a memorial march at 12.30pm from the Pivot Centre (Glenmanor Avenue, Moodiesburn,) to the memorial service – located near the Miners’ Club.

For more information on the service, or to learn more about the history of this tragic event visit the Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/Auchengeich-Miners-Memorial-916368968418660.