Drumley Pit, Tarbolton 9 Sept 1898

Seven men killed by explosion of firedamp:

  • James McCreadie, coal miner, married, age 36, killed in explosion September 9 1898 (brother of Hugh)
  • Thomas Burns, coal miner, age 13, killed in explosion September 9 1898
  • John White, coal miner, widower, age 55, killed in explosion September 9 1898
  • John Brannigan, coal miner, age 12, died County Hospital Ayr evening of September 9 1898
  • Walter Dunlop, coal miner, married, age 32, died County Hospital Ayr September 10 1898
  • Thomas Martin, coal miner, married, age 33, died County Hospital Ayr September 11 1898
  • Hugh McCreadie, coal miner, married, age 33, died County Hospital Ayr September 13 1898 (brother of James)

To view Inspector of Mines report click here

Newspaper Reports

Pit Explosion Near Ayr - Four Men Killed and several others injured
A lamentable pit explosion, resulting in the death of four men and the injury of a number of others, took place in Drumley pit, near Annbank, five miles from Ayr, yesterday afternoon. The pit, which is situated close to Annbank Station, and belongs to Messrs George Taylor & Co., Annbank, has only been working for about five months - It is 154 fathoms deep, and there are 3 separate seams of coal - one the hard coal at the above depth, the diamond coal at about 140 fathoms, and the soft coal at 120 fathoms. It was in the middle seam where the explosion occurred. The whole of the coal is taken out on the longwall system, and as no danger was expected from gas, the pit was worked with naked lights. About 150 men in all are employed in two shifts. In the diamond seam there were 14 men engaged getting coal at the face, and it was just half-past two, half an hour before the men were going to knock off work, when the explosion occurred. No warning of the accident was conveyed to the top, and although the men of the afternoon shift were congregated about the pit head, they heard nothing of the explosion. It happened, however, that Mr Murdoch, the manager of the pit, was in the diamond seam at the time, though in a part of the mine that was not being worked at the time, and which was disconnected from the working roads. On hearing the explosion he ran to the coal pit, and a search party was at once organised. It was at once seen that the accident was a most alarming one, and that there had been a serious loss of life. News of the event soon reached the top, but as only comparatively few of the men live in the neighbourhood of the pit the crowd that congregated was not a large one. The search party below soon saw that several of their comrades had been killed, and, that a number more had been more or less seriously injured. The injured were at once taken to the pit head, and sent to Ayr Hospital by special train.

The men who were killed outright were:-
James M'Creadie (38), leaves a widow and seven children.
John White, Drumley {about 55), widower, recently came from Ballochmyle, where he was a member of the band.
Thomas Burns (13), resided with his grandmother at Whitletts.
John Brannigan (12), Annbank, was so severely injured that he died shortly after being admitted to the hospital.
Walter Dunlop, Annbank, is so seriously injured that there is not much likelihood of his recovery.

The other injured are Thomas Martin, Annbank; Thomas Dunlop, fireman, Annbank; William Curdie, Tarbolton.; James Higgins, Tarbolton; and James M'Vie, Ayr. A man and boy, who ware working at a separate face, were uninjured. At the time the explosion occurred, the fireman was in the air passage connecting two separate workings, and he states that he is of opinion that the gas was ignited from his lamp. He has just concluded his usual examination of the left-hand workings preparatory to the afternoon shift starting work, and was proceeding along the air passage, which is above 60 yards long, connecting the two, when the explosion happened. He was knocked down, and his lamp extinguished. There can be no doubt that the explosion was caused by the presence of gas, but how it accumulated in sufficient quantity to explode with such disastrous results is a a mystery. There was about 500 cubic feet of air per minute passing along the coal face, and it was considered absolutely safe to work with naked lights. The same seams of coal occur all through the district, and during the last 35 years only one slight explosion has occurred, only one man being injured. It is stated that the whole of the air bratticing was in perfect order, and the rescue party had no difficulty whatever from after damp in their search for the killed and injured. Comparatively little injury was done to he workings, and no impediment was met from this case. The seam of coal is about 2ft 9 inches thick, and the requisite height of road is got by brushing the roof which is hard work. There was practically no fall from the roof. The under manager, Mr Robert Cunningham, was in the lowest seam at the time, and he heard nothing of the explosion with the exception of a report which he took to be a shot in that seam. He was very soon apprised of the accident and formed one of the search party. The confined character of the explosion may be gathered from the fact that the pitheadman, John McGaffney, was not aware of what had happened till the cage came to the top with one of the miners. The managing partner of the firm, Mr Clark, was not at the pit at the time of the accident, but he arrived shortly after, and along with the manager went below, examined the workings, and found the places quite clear of all traces of gas or after damp.

As soon as it was learned that a serious accident had occurred below, messages were sent to Dr McGill, Annbank, Dr McCallum, Tarbolton and Dr Adam, Tarbolton, who were quickly on the scene, and rendered all possible aid in getting the men sent to the hospital. [The Scotsman 10 September 1898]

The Ayrshire Colliery Explosion
Two more deaths have to be recorded as a result of the colliery explosion at Drumley Pit, at Annbank Station, Ayrshire. The first to succumb was Walter Dunlop (33, married), whose case since his admission to the Ayr County Hospital immediately after the explosion on Friday was considered hopeless. From the first he gradually sank, and he died in presence of his two brothers on Saturday morning. He never regained consciousness. Thomas Martin (34, married), was seriously burned, and sustained a fracture of the collar bone, but his condition was regarded as far from hopeless. Grave symptoms supervened in the course of Saturday, however, and his relatives were sent for. He gradually sank, and died shortly before seven in presence of his relatives. This makes six deaths resulting from the accident.  The other three men - James Higgins, James McVie, and Wm. Cardie - who were also admitted to the Hospital immediately after the accident, are progressing, favourably. In the case of Hugh McCreadie, whose brother John was one of those killed, and who was taken home, he has since been taken to the Hospital, as it was considered that his case was somewhat critical. The medical superintendent, Dr Paton, states, however, that M'Creadie's case is more favourable since his admission. His burns are very unlike those of the other injured men, being in patches on various parts of his body. Thomas Dunlop, fireman of the shift, has also sustained severe injuries, and he is not yet out of danger. He is, however, being treated at his own home in Drumley.

It seems certain that the explosion. was caused by a sudden outburst of gas. Indeed, John M'Creadie who lost his life, seems to have noticed some unusual movement in the strata, and had actually started to warn the men when the explosion took place. Dunlop, the fireman, is positive in his assertion that the gas was ignited by his lamp as he was proceeding along the air passage from one working place to another. The fire appears to have passed the end of more than one of the roads, and not to have got up these roads. In this way a man and boy working at the face at the end of one of the roads were not affected by the explosion. The loss of life is altogether out of proportion to the apparent force of the explosion as it affected the pit. There was practically no fall from the roof, and the bratticing bore very little sign of burning, and a good deal of it remained standing. The pit was not working on Saturday, and in the forenoon of that day Mr J. M. Ronaldson, Inspector of Mines, and his assistant, Mr Pearson, accompanied by Mr James Clark, managing partner of the owners of the pit, and the manager, went down and made a minute inspection of the workings where the explosion occurred. Mr Clark drove down from Annbank on Saturday night and last night, and inquired after the condition of the men at the hospital. He arrived last night a few minutes after the death of Thomas Martin. It is intended in the meantime to continue the working of the seam with safety lamps. [The Scotsman 12 September 1898]

The Ayrshire Pit Disaster - Hugh McCreadie, whose case was considered hopeless on Monday night, died in Ayr Hospital at one o'clock yesterday morning, as the result of injuries sustained in the Ayrshire pit explosion. This is the seventh death from the accident.  Thomas Dunlop, who is being treated in his own home, is not improving satisfactorily, and is by no means out of danger. William Cardie, Tarbolton, has returned to the hospital. [The Scotsman 14 September 1898]

Annbank Pit Explosion
Yesterday an inquiry into the recent pit explosion at Annbank was held at Ayr, before Sheriff Orr Paterson and a jury. Mr Ronaldson, Inspector of Mines, was present, and Mr Dougald appeared for the Colliery Company. Thos. Dunlop, fireman, said he examined the mines twice on the day of the explosion - at 7 and 10 o'clock. In the morning one of the brushers told him that the roof was creeping down a little. He saw no break, and felt no noxious gas. A few props were cracked, which he repaired. Roofs generally set down a little in the buildings. Ventilation was steady all day, and everything was in order. There was nothing to indicate danger - no trace whatever of gas. The explosion occurred about two o'clock - all of a sudden. He was thrown down. Many of the men were severely burned, and seven died. He saw two, McVey and White, and asked them to follow him. M'Vey and he got to the bottom, but White collapsed. The rush of gas evidently came from the roof, and must have been ignited by a lamp. Naked lamps were used. A shot could not have originated the explosion. There was no coal dust to any extent. Jas. Vance, miner, said when he began work there was no sign of the roof setting, and there was no gas. The ventilation was good. He noticed a few cracked props - a thing not unusual. When the explosion occurred he and some others made for the pit bottom. He was burned, but was the only one in his heading that was now alive. Before the explosion he heard a hissing sound like gas or water. It was a clean working pit, and free from dust. Wm. Cardy, miner, said the explosion struck him and threw him down. He was injured and taken to hospital. The air current was strong up to the .explosion. He felt no flames; only felt that he was surrounded by red-hot stones and dust. Jas. M'Vey, miner, said immediately after the explosion he was lifted off his feet, and held against the wall by the force of the blast. He saw no flames. He was nearly choked by the afterdamp. The air all day was pure. There was some dust, but not much. It was a clean pit - much cleaner than others he wrought in. He heard no shot fired at the time. Mr Clark, managing partner of the Company, said he visited the pit a little after the explosion. He found a mixture of fire-damp and after-damp. The roof was not damaged - only a few props down. There was nothing to indicate the cause of the explosion. There was no frush of the roof, or break of any consequence, that he saw. He had no doubt that the gas came from the roof through some fissure. He could not account for its suddenness, as up to the explosion no one saw any indication of danger. The gas must have been bottled up, and by some sudden pressure forced out, and exploded by a lamp. The ventilation was by steam jets, but fans were being erected. At the time of the explosion there were 5000 cubic feet of air supplied to the mine per minute. That was sufficient. Naked lamps were used, because the mine was considered free from gas. It was known to be one of the safest mines the Company had; but safety lamps had been used since. He could not think the explosion was a coal dust explosion - though the coal dust might have increased its severity. There was no place in the workings for an accumulation of gas. After further evidence, the jury decided than the explosion was caused through a sudden and unexpected outburst of inflammable gas in the roof coming into contact with a lighted lamp carried by Thomas Dunlop, the fireman, while in air current between the headings one and two of pit. [Scotsman 15 October 1898]