Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery Disaster Memorial.

MM7WAB/P working other licensed amateur radio stations from the commemorative cairn enclosure at the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster site on Sunday 13 June 2021. Many thanks to the stations that worked me on 2m FM simplex and via the FreeSTAR network during this activation.

(Location NS6097 1250). KNOCKSHINNOCH CASTLE Colliery

Location: New Cumnock
Types of Coal: House and Steam
Production Commenced: 1944
Year Closed: 1968
Year Abandoned: 1969
Workforce: Average 578 : Peak 755
Peak Year: 1956

Shaft/Mine Details: 2 shafts, 187m and 128m deep

Details in 1948: Output 900 tons per day, 264,600 tons per annum, stoop and room working. 580 employees. 3 screens for dry coal. Baum (Simon Carves) type washer. No baths, but canteen available. Steam powered cranes and machinery. Electricity from public supply. 
Pithead baths were added in 1949, and also served neighbouring pits.

The photographs below were taken on 1st day of activation, Sunday 13th June 2021.

Clear signage at road end of pathway.

Pathway suitable for wheelchair or mobility scooter access.

The enclosure has a wide gate for ease of access and is well cared for.

The commemorative cairn at the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery disaster site.

Sighting pillar showing headings and distances.

View towards crater site over the sighting pillar.

Detail of the stone at front of memorial enclosure.

View across location of the crater.

The disaster occurred on 7 September 1950 when workings driven too close to the surface allowed a peat basin at the surface to burst into the mine, the ensuing inrush trapping 129 miners underground, of whom 13 subsequently died. Most of the trapped men were heroically rescued through workings connected to the neighbouring Bank No. 6 Colliery. 

The accident occurred about 7.30 p.m., whilst the afternoon shift was at work, on Thursday, 7th September, 1950, when a large volume of liquid peat suddenly broke through from the surface into the No. 5 Heading Section of the Main Coal Seam. The inrush started at the point where the No. 5 Heading, which was rising at a gradient of 1 in 2, had effected a holing at the outcrop of the seam beneath superficial deposits and had made contact with the base of a large natural basin containing glacial material and peat. The liquid matter, rushed down the steeply inclined heading and quickly filled up a large number of existing and abandoned mine tunnel drifts and roadways as well as several working places. This inundation of liquified peat /moss cut off the two means of egress to the surface from the underground workings of the Knockshinnoch Castle colliery.

There were 135 miners working underground at the time. Six men working near the main shaft bottom quickly escaped to the surface by way of the downcast shaft before it become blocked, while 116, with all means of escape cut off, found their way to a part of the mine then unaffected by the inrush, leaving 13 persons missing. The 116 men trapped below ground were rescued after an incredible rescue effort by miners and rescue teams from as far afield as Edinburgh and Liverpool lasting more than two days. 

The 13 men who sadly lost their lives in the disaster were;

1. John Dalziel, 50 Loader Attendant
2. James D. Houston, 46 Coal miner
3. Thomas Houston, 40 Coal miner
4. William Howat, 61 Switch Attendant
5. William Lee, 48 Coal miner
6. James Love, 48 Coal Miner
7. William McFarlane, 36 Coal Miner
8. John McLatchie, 48 Shotfirer
9. John Murray or Taylor, 33 Coal Miner
10. Samuel Rowan, 25 Coal Miner
11. John Smith, 55 Coal Miner
12. Daniel Strachan, 38 Fireman
13. John White, 26 Coal Miner

Further information:

Scottish Mining site page: (enquiry, reports and extensive information including links to newspaper reports of the accident, rescue and recovery operations.)

The Rescue: Timeline and information on the rescue of 116 trapped miners:

Video footage of a news report on the disaster from British Pathe news:

Pathe News clips:

Canmore site information link:

The disaster was dramatised in 1952 with the release of the British film, 'The Brave Don't Cry', starring John Gregson, Alex Keir and Fulton Mackay.

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