Memorial to mark centenary of devastating pit disaster

Cadder Colliery. Disaster 1913. Funeral of victims
Cadder Colliery. Disaster 1913. Funeral of victims

THIS year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst mining tragedies to ever hit Scotland.

The Cadder Pit Disaster took place on August 3, 1913, and claimed the lives of 22 men, leaving 13 widows and 40 fatherless children.

The victims were all part of a maintenance squad of 26 men who went to work at the pit as normal at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, expecting to resurface eight hours later after completing their backshift.

Shortly afterwards a fire broke out in a cabin near one of the pit entrances and quickly spread to where the men were working.

The alarm was raised when pit fireman William Brown journeyed to the bottom of the shaft to check everything was in order at around 8pm.

On finding a mass of flames he quickly informed his colleagues, who summoned the fire service from Cambuslang.

But when the firemen arrived they were unable to even reach the bottom of the shaft with their hoses and couldn’t extinguish the blaze.

Several rescue attempts were launched, but each proved impossible with the severity of the heat – despite more than 50 miners risking their lives to try and save their colleagues.

Tragically, 22 men perished from fire and smoke inhalation.

The first five bodies were found by the third rescue party at around 2am, while by noon on the Monday all the corpses had been found - including 15 lying closely together.

Three men successfully escaped by another passage while, miraculously, brusher Michael McDonald was found alive at around 11am – after 21 hours in the burning pit.

Amongst the dead were three brothers from the same family - Alexander, John and William Brown - and father-of-ten James Flynn.

Around 50,000 mourners were said to have congregated around the funeral procession for the Catholic victims, which snaked its way around the streets of Glasgow before arriving at St Agnes Roman Catholic Church, where a service was held before the coffins were carried more than a mile to the cemetery.

Meanwhile, there were similar scenes of upset for the Protestant miners who were buried in Cadder Cemtery, in Bishopbriggs, following a service at Mavis Valley Hall.

Before attending the funerals the executive of the Scottish Miners Federation met in Glasgow and passed a resolution expressing “deep regret that the Lanarkshire mine owners had not yet seen their way to make provision for rescue stations and brigades which might be used in circumstances such as those which led to the death of the 22 men at Cadder”.

An official report into the fire concluded that “the origin of the fire must have been either some failure of the electrical apparatus, or else a misadventure due to the accidental ignition of clothes, or a lamp wick or some timber”.

East Dunbartonshire Council is planning to mark the 100th anniversary of the Cadder Pit disaster later this year and would like to hear from anybody who has information about family members who were involved in the tragedy.

Meanhile, plans have been unveiled to erect a memorial stone in Bishopbriggs outside the Library, designed by artist Willie Rodger.

And a notice board will be placed on the canal bank near the pit site.

In August, a memorial service will be held to mark the anniversary. Plans have also been revealed for a booklet and leaflet telling the story of the disaster and life in the mining community associated with the Mavis Valley area.

Provost Una Walker is heading up the anniversary commemoration committee.

She told the Herald: “I am very pleased with the interest in the Cadder Pit disaster anniversary. It is important that we remember the men who died in the disaster. I have heard from some descendants of the miners and was heartened to hear their stories.

“We are now moving ahead with the memorial stone and also the memorial service, which will be held in August. At that time there will also be literature available.

“I would be happy to be contacted by anyone who has more information about the miners and their families who lived in Mavis Valley.”

If you have any information that could help with the 100th anniversary event e-mail Wendy Mackie at:

UNITED IN GRIEF: Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funerals of the miners who lost their lives in the tragedy.

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