Community pays tribute to Auchengeich mining disaster victims

A SPECIAL service will take place this Sunday in memory of the 47 men who perished in one of the worst mining disasters to ever take place in the UK.

The Auchengeich mining disaster happened at approximately 7am on September 18, 1959, when a fire trapped 47 miners underground.

Smoke from the blaze – caused by an electrical fault 1,000ft below the surface – quickly overcame the miners who were travelling down in bogies to start work at the coal face.

Rescue attempts failed due to the severity of the fire and later that day Ronald Parker, Scottish chairman of the National Coal Board, told the waiting crowd of 1,200 people that a decision had been made to flood the pit to extinguish the fire, even though the men were still missing.

The water put out the flames, but the only survivor of that fateful shift was 50-year-old Tam Green, from Glenboig.

Families from Chryston, Lennoxtown, Stepps, Kirkintilloch, Condorrat, Mount Ellen, Muirhead, Gartcosh, Auchinloch, Waterside and Bishopbriggs were all touched in some way by the disaster and relatives went to the pit when they heard the news.

Many of the families lived in the mining village of Bridgend close to the colliery, but after the disaster, production was halted at the pit and many of the houses were soon abandoned. They were demolished in 1967.

All that survives of a once-thriving mining village is Auchengeich Miners Welfare and a memorial to the 47 disaster victims nearby.

A special ceremony is held every year, with members of the community paying their respects and remembering lost family members.

This year's tribute takes place on Sunday (September 16) at the memorial.

Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP Tom Clarke remembers the disaster well.

He said: "In my community we heard that an explosion had happened and many men had been killed. I can remember it clearly.

"My father was a miner, like so many men back then, and lots of communities were affected by it.

"People all across Britain knew that it had happened as it was a major event at that time.

"Each year people come to pay their respects and the miners are remembered. Many relatives of the men come along and it is always a very important occasion for the community."