Auchenharvie Mine Disaster
2nd August, 1895, Stevenston, Scotland
The colliery was the property of the Glengarnock Iron and Steel Company. Limited with Mr. R. Main as agent and Mr. John Marshall as the manager. There were two shafts at the colliery Nos. I and 4 which were sunk to the Main Coal, No. 1 at 75 fathoms and No.4 at 73 fathoms. The rise workings extended for 600 yards to the north of the No.4 Pit. They were reached by two self-acting inclines or 'cousies'. The first of these extended form the to pit bottom for about 230 yards at an inclination of one in six and the second, 330 yards at an inclination of one in nine. The second was made in the strata above the coal with twelve feet of solid strata between it and the waste workings underneath. The dook which led to the dip workings extended to the south of the shaft for about 750 yards and dipped at one in six in the upper part and one in eight in the lower part. The colliery was bounded on the east side by a well known whin dyke or 'gaw' called the Capon Graig Gaw which formed the boundary between the Auchenharvie Colliery and the abandoned workings of the Stevenson Colliery. This 'gaw' was supposed never to have been cut from either side and the mineral tenants on both sides were prohibited by their leases from penetrating it, even so there was serious outburst of water from the old workings which claimed the lives of nine men.
At about 3 p.m. on the 2nd. August an outburst of water suddenly took place in the working place of a miner, William Jackson, who, with his two sons, worked in the extreme rise of the pit. It rushed in with great velocity and force down the drawing roads and the inclines to the shaft and from there down the dook. All the people employed in the rise workings succeeded in escaping down the cousies to the No.4 Pit or by another rout to the No. I Pit with the exception of five, One boy, John McGhee, worked at the top of the cousie appeared to have run past the No.4 Pit bottom and down the dook. At the time it was believed that was where his body was located. The men workings in the dook workings all escaped with the exception of eight.
Efforts were, made to locate the missing men but for a long time, the rush of water prevented access either down the dook or up the cousies from the No. I Pit or by the communication roads from the No. I Pit. By midnight the rush of water had abated and several explorers were able to get to a point in the cousie where they met an impenetrable blockage which evidently dammed back a large volume of water. As it was dangerous to attempt to clear this, dynamite charges with long fuses were set. Two shots were fired without any visible effect.
By noon of the 3rd. August the water behind the dam was pined off' and relays of men started to redd their way through the obstruction. They found that it had been caused by a race of hutches round which stones and silt had collected. By 11 a.m. on the 4th. the barrier was penetrated for 30 yards without any signs of the top being reached when the knocking of imprisoned men was heard, About I p.m. a passage was made and five men crawled through. Renewed efforts were made to find any of the men missing in the dook but after every accessible place had been searched, all hope of them being alive was abandoned.
Those who died were;-
John Clauchan aged 35 years, miner
William Glauchan aged years, miner.
James Clauchan aged 21-years, miner.
Henry Clauchan aged 18 years, miner.
Duncan Gallacher-aged 31 years, miner.
James Mullen aged 19 years, miner.
Peter Mullen aged 14 years, miner.
Robert McConn aged 18 years, miner.
John McGhee aged 14 years, cousie attendant.
On the 5th. August, Mr. Mottram, the Inspector, arrived at the colliery and with the manager and Mr. Ronaldson managed to reach the point where the water broke in. they did this with great difficulty and found an opening ten feet wide and four feet high into an old stoop and room workings but owing to a fall of roof, they were unable to go any further.
On the cast side of the Capon Graig Gaw, abut 800 yards from this point there was an old pit called Deep Shank, sunk 30 fathoms to the Main Coal. Before the accident, water frequently ran from the mouth of this shaft but after the disaster the level began to sink until it was down eleven and half fathoms from the surface. Several fresh 'sits' of the surface close to the shaft took pace shortly after the outburst occurred.
This was taken as conclusive proof that the Capon Graig Gaw must have been breached some time in the past. The gaw had never been laid bare on the west side and it was improbable that a large volume of water could cross it through natural fissures. There was an old pit near by but there was nothing on the surface to indicate its presence. An old surface plan showed the existence of shaft but did not indicate its depth. Another old pit was opened by the manager three years before. This was found to be fifteen fathoms deep to the Ladyha' scam and was free from water. No one seemed to have had the slightest suspicion that there were any old workings near the point where the water broke out.
References Mines Inspectors Report 1894, Mr. Ronaldson. Published with the kind permission of: Ian Winstanley's Coal Mining History Resources Centre