The Auchenharvie Pit Disaster occurred on the 2nd of August, 1895 when the Auchenharvie Pit flooded, entombing 14 workers for 3 days. Of these 14 men and boys only 5 made it out alive, the remaining 9 lost forever.
The colliery was owned by Glengarnock Iron & Steel Co. Limited and was managed by Mr John Marshall. The pit was situated between Saltcoats and Stevenston and at the time of the incident there were about 79 miners working in it.
At about 3.00 pm that day William Jackson pointed out to fellow worker, Robert Park, that “there was a stream of water coming off a seam in the coal.” Water had broken through the Capon Craig Gaw from the “Deep Shank” – an old unused pit. Jackson recalled that within 2 to 3 minutes the water “burst on top of me” before he escaped with some other miners up the air-course of No.1 pit. Park was swept off his feet into a level road and if he’d been carried to the cousie brae he would have been lost. He was now entombed with the other workers and they had a long wait ahead of them.
The rescue was led by the Colliery manager John Marshall but attempts were hampered by the rush of water and obstructive debris. It wasn’t until midnight that the rescue workers commenced looking for survivors. The debris was acting as a dam to the water so redding was too dangerous and they used dynamite with long fuses instead. By noon the next day the rescue party had stopped the flow of water and they started to redd through the obstruction. N.B. Redd/Redding – to clear away waste or debris/clearing an opening.
By 11.00 am on the Sunday the barrier had been penetrated and knocking could be heard by the imprisoned men. Contact was made and the men were eventually rescued. The search continued for the missing men until mid-day on the Tuesday but it was a fruitless endeavour.
John Glauchan aged 30, married with 4 children and resided in Townhead Street.
William Glauchan aged 28, married with 3 children and resided in Townhead Street.
James Glauchan aged 22, married and resided in Townhead Street.
Henry Glauchan aged 19, unmarried and resided with his mother in Townhead Street.
James Mullen aged 19, unmarried and resided with his mother in Schoolwell Street.
Peter Mullen aged 12, resided in Schoolwell Street. Peter had only been working in the pits for a few weeks after recently leaving school.
Duncan Gallacher aged 30, married with 5 children and resided in Schoolwell Street.
John McGee aged 13, resided in Townhead Street.
Robert Conn aged 16, resided in Grange Street.
- The Glauchans were brothers who were most probably swept away by the inrush of water. Duncan Gallacher was their brother-in-law.
- The Mullens were also brothers – the 12 year old Peter was taken to his older brother James by Charles Bryan. They did not follow Bryan to the Air Course at Pit No.1 as James wouldn’t leave Peter who was injured and was last seen with his younger brother on his knee. They died together.
- John McGee was carried a short distance by Charles Bryan when they were struck by debris from the roof. Bryan stated that “The poor boy was swept away by the water and I never saw him again.”
- Robert Conn’s father and brother were also caught in the disaster. His father had a hold of both his boys’ hands but a sudden inrush of water swept young Robert away.
The first out was Robert Park aged 38 of New Street, Stevenston. He was one of the first to discover the inrush of water and instead of making it safely to the surface he stayed to warn others of the danger and in doing so became trapped. He was quoted as saying “We never lost hope of being rescued.” After the disaster Robert moved with his family to East Cadder in Lanark to work in the Auchengeich mine. He was unfortunately killed when a stone fell off the roof of the pit he was working on and fractured his skull. He was 50 years old.
Next was William Hamilton aged 22 who lived with his mother in Main Street. William married Ellen Gracie 3 years after the disaster. His wife died aged 27 in 1905 and William succumbed to T.B the year after.
Michael McCarroll aged 40 was married with 3 children and lived in Ardeer Square. He was the 3rd man out and was quoted as saying “We had to keep each other from sleeping because in the bad air sleep would have been fatal.” Michael died in 1921 aged 62 years.
Alexander McAdam aged 38 was next. He resided at Old Square and was the brother-in-law of Michael McCarroll. He is quoted as saying “The water was up to my neck.” Alexander died in 1922 aged 65 years.
Last to emerge was Charles Clark aged 21 who was married and lived in Station Square. Charles died in 1950 aged 77 years.
There is a memorial cairn dedicated to the lost and the rescued situated at Auchenharvie Golf Course. It is placed on the putting green in front of the Clubhouse, which is on the line of the original mine workings.
Scottish Mining Terms
Air-course – An underground road or passage used for ventilation
Cousie – A self-acting incline, a causeway/paved way
Gaw – A layer or stratum of a different kind of soil from the rest
Red/Redding – To clear away waste or debris/clearing an opening
For further reading on mining in Stevenston NA Libraries has a few copies of local author Alex McLatchie’s book “Mining and Quarrying in Stevenston” for loan.
There is a more in-depth account of the disaster in the following link including The Inspector of Mines Report and Newspaper Reports – HERE