On 25 September 1923 40 men were killed when Redding Colliery, near Falkirk, was innundated by water from old workings.
Memorial to Redding Disaster. Click here to view inscription
To view names from inspector of mines report click here
Extracts from Mine Inspectors Report
Narrative of the DisasterAlthough small feeders of water had been encountered as the workings developed in the Dublin Section of Main Coal, which flowed out of the side roads into a shallow "gauton" or ditch to run by gravity to the pumps, nothing to cause alarm in the Dublin Section appears to have occurred until 4.30 on the morning of the 25th September.
According to the account of the sole survivor from the Dublin Section, a youth named Henry Thomson, a coal cutter machine-man (Wm. Donaldson) came out on to the main road early that morning to look for the fireman, Thomas Aitken, whom he found and took back into the Dublin Section. Thomson followed them and observed three machinemen trying to get rid of some water by letting it through the pack walls on the low side of the drawing road. He heard these men tell Aitken that they intended to continue cutting with the machine so as to get to a higher place, so apparently even then there was no great alarm felt. The fireman took Thomson out with him down the main road and wrote two notes, one to the under-manager and one to the fireman in the Bar Run Section of workings. As he was handing the notes to Thomson a slight '' thump '' was heard and the air commenced to reverse. This was probably the moment when the water broke in in volume. The fireman merely told the youth to deliver the notes and he himself went back towards the workings. Thomson took one note to the Main Coal onsetter, asking him to take it to the Bar Run fireman, and then went up the pit to the under-manager's house. The message to the under-manager was:-
The water has broken into Dublin No. 1 Branch and it is knee-deep on the slope and there is more going to Bar Run haulage road than the pumps are able to manage. You might come ben and see it and I will be at No. 3 Bench. If not there I will be in Dublin.
P.S. - There is very great danger of flooding out Bar Run haulage.
Yours, T. Aitken.
I have sent word to J. Jarvie."
The reversal of the air was felt by bricklayers working in the Main haulage road in the Ball Coal leading to the Dublin Section, Main Coal, and about 15 minutes later, approximately 5.10 a.m., a rush of water came down the road. The bricklayers ran before it and got to the shaft just as the water reached the same point. This inrushing water had swept down the road in the Main Coal from the Dublin Section and up the Stone Drift connecting that seam to the Ball Coal and had then continued down the main road in the latter seam. When the water reached the shaft it poured down it in tremendous volume to the lower landing.
At this time several of the men in the lower or "dook" workings of the Main Coal had finished their shifts, and were on the way out when they met the water. James Jarvie, the fireman, who had received the note sent by Aitken, encouraged some to push forward through the water and ordered two men to go round by the return airway to warn other men in the Bar Run, Main Coal. These men lost their lights in the water and were unable to carry out the order. Jarvie himself, knowing that Dobbie's Mine Section was the lowest and would be flooded soonest, went back into that part to warn the men and was never again seen alive.
Altogether 11 men managed to fight their way against the inrush until they reached the pit bottom in the Main Coal. They found that the quantity of water coming down the shaft was too great to permit of escape by means of the cage; but there was, fortunately, a small shaft or blind pit, fitted with stairs, from the Main to the Ball Coal. Water was coming down this stair pit, though not in great volume, and the men succeeded in ascending it to the Ball Coal, whence they reached the surface in the ordinary winding cage.
At 5.45 a.m. the water had filled practically all the lower or "dook" workings, and by 6.30 a.m. the upper seam was sealed at both shafts and no access could be obtained to the workings. At this time there were 66 men missing, divided as follows:-
Ball Coal, No. 3 Section - 16 men
Ball Coal, Dobbie's Mine Section - 10 men
Main Coal, Dublin Section - 11 men
Main Coal, Bar Run Section - 12 men
None of the men from the last three Sections were recovered alive. The men in Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Sections of the Ball Coal had found their respective exits cut off but had travelled the airways and were collected together. One man managed to get a message by telephone to the surface, from the telephone station of Nos. 1 and 2 Districts, about 6 a.m., and was told that the party should endeavour to escape by the old Gutterhole shaft. Accordingly., a windlass was erected on the top of that shaft. The shaft was found to contain blackdamp. Men in rescue apparatus descended into the foul atmosphere and reported that nothing but water could be seen. The attempt to get access was given up as hopeless about 8.30 a.m. Meanwhile 26 men out of the total of 33 men from the Ball Coal Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Sections had in fact succeeded in reaching the Gutterhole Shaft. The remaining seven failed to do so.
The party which had reached the Gutterhole Shaft, expecting from past experience that the shaft would be dry, had been making a road into the shaft by pulling out the stowing material, but soon found water coming out on to them. They persisted until they had a hole through, but a body of water from 2 to 3 feet was rushing down the road in which they were all congregated. In addition, they were subjected to blackdamp forced out of the old wastes by the rising water. As a result several of them became unconscious and were rescued by their comrades, but seven unfortunately were swept away as they fell. Five of these were drowned and two were afterwards recovered in an unconscious condition.
To judge by the height of the water in the main shafts, there should have been no water in the Gutterhole shaft, but it was afterwards discovered that a block had occurred in the Main Coal airway which passed the foot of this old pit. The water, thus dammed back, rose to a greater height than in the remainder of the mine and came up through the old filling of the bottom portion of the shaft. At 10.15 a.m. the water level in the main shafts was 113 feet above Ordnance Datum, and the men underground were gathered in a place 129 feet above datum. A measurement of the depth to the water in Gutterhole Shaft taken at that time showed that its level was approximately 137 feet above Ordnance Datum. Eventually the block in the main coal airway must have given way, for the water subsided 9 feet below the level of the hole which the men had made into the shaft. When the block did give way all the dirt filling at the bottom of Gutterhole shaft ran out, leaving 30 feet of clear shaft which was afterwards utilised in the pumping operations.
When the water subsided the men underground shouted up the shaft and were heard at the surface. All efforts were then made to get the imprisoned men out and by 12.40 p.m. 21 living men had been rescued. Shortly afterwards three bodies were recovered.
The heavy rush of water ceased about 12 noon, but a considerable stream continued to pour into the pit for many weeks.
Rescue Work and Unwatering of the Colliery
As there were large areas of workings above water level, there were possibilities that some of the men who had failed to get to the Gutterhole Shaft had reached points above the water level and were still alive. The main shafts were useless for rescue purposes since there was over 60 feet of water above the highest working landing. Only the old Gutterhole shaft was of service. Offers of assistance came from all quarters and the most valuable help with men and material was afforded - in particular by Messrs, G. and W. Brunton, Biggers, Grangemouth, The Fife Coal Company, Limited, The Kinneil Cannel and Coking Company, Limited, The Shotts Iron Company, Limited, The United Collieries and Mr. Waddell, Fire Master, Glasgow Corporation.
Timely assistance was given to the officials of the mine by numerous Agents and Managers and Engineers and by H.M. Inspectors of Mines, who, with workmen from the mine and elsewhere, gave unremitting service so long as there was any hope of rescuing alive any of the entombed workers.
Pumps were pulled from their positions in other Collieries and rushed to the rescue; electrical equipment that would have taken months to manufacture appeared as if by magic. No pains were spared and no trouble was counted too great. In 36 hours from the time of the disaster the Gutterhole Shaft had been fitted with a headgear, steam winding engine and electric fan. The black damp was cleared out and relays of men were started to make a road into the workings whilst other men erected a turbine pump in the shaft.
In the main winding shaft at No. 23 pit, chests were at work dealing with 350 gallons of water per minute, whilst in the upcast a turbine pump was sending out 550 gallons per minute. In spite of this the water was rising and it was not until noon on 28th September that mastery over it was obtained. Progress was slow at first, owing to the large quantity of water still draining into the pit. The water was only lowered 18 inches in four days, but after that the progress was 2 feet in a day, owing to the increased pumping capacity available. As small freshwater fish had been brought up in the tanks, showing that surface stream water was finding its way directly into the pit, the surface streams were searched and likely places puddled. This reduced the feeders.
The first efforts of the rescue parties were directed to clearing a road from Gutterhole Shaft to give access to the Spion Kop Section, where they expected to find some - at any rate - of the men who had failed to reach the Gutterhole Shaft. The rescue party worked like Trojans and cleared out the stowing from 165 feet of old road in 36 hours (that is, at a rate of 4 1/2 feet per hour), but when the Spion Kop Section was reached and explored no one was found. As a matter of fact a party of five of the seven missing men, having lost their way to the Gutterhole Shaft, had gone into No. 3 Section and had been there cut off by the rising water. The rescuers, suspecting that something of this kind had happened, now concentrated their efforts on getting access to No. 3 Section. It had been anticipated that the road already cleared would give access to a large portion of the mine, but a trough occurred in the workings and the road was found to be below water level. Had there been a plan available marked with contour lines, this would have been known before. To overcome the difficulty the roof was blasted down into the water and a road made above water level. An air compressor was erected to supply the drills used in making the road. A 4-inch diamond drill bore hole was started from the surface to reach- a rise part of No. 3 Ball Coal Section, with the hope that light and food might be lowered to imprisoned men. The hole was not completed before the necessity for it had disappeared, for on 4th October the road which was being made above water level had passed beyond the water and access was gained to the five men, who had been imprisoned in No. 3 Section for nine days without food. They were in remarkably good health considering their experience and all walked out of the pit. They stated that they did not feel hungry after the first few hours of their confinement and had no sense of time. They had been living continuously in a damp place in which an oil lamp would not burn and they had experienced difficulty in maintaining circulation of blood in their legs. As a result they developed rheumatic and bronchial troubles.There were four or five men still unaccounted for in the Ball Coal workings and in the hope of finding some of them still alive an attempt was made to drive 400 feet of coal heading in order to gain access to Nos. 1 and 2 Sections. This effort was, however, outstripped by the rapid lowering of the water.
In the meantime an attempt was made by divers to communicate with the imprisoned men. The divers had a distance of 800 feet to travel and a maximum head of 20 feet of water to contend with. They were unsuccessful, not through any lack of zeal or courage but probably owing to inexperience of mining conditions. The task set them was not .considered an impossible one and the results achieved demonstrated that there are possibilities in recovery work for men with both mining and diving experience.
As the unwatering operations proceeded, a series of heartrending breakdowns of the pumps occurred and it was not until the 18th of October, 23 days after the disaster, that the rescue party penetrated into No. 1 Section of the Ball Coal and found the bodies of two men. Thereafter, as if by the irony of fate, there was no further trouble with the pumping and the water was lowered steadily until 21st November, when it was possible to examine almost all the working parts of the mine.
Twelve bodies remained to be recovered and it was expected that eleven of them would be obtained in Dobbie's Mine Section, the lowest district in the colliery. The bodies, however, were not found there, and it became necessary to examine old workings. After an arduous search, the eleven men were discovered in a part of the old Main Coal workings which had been abandoned for fourteen years. These eleven men, led by the fireman, had managed to make a way through over 1,500 yards of old roads, some of which were very badly fallen. At once place they had excavated a passage 10 yards in length through waste from one road to another, entirely without tools. Having reached this remote place they remained there, near a small supply of water, and ultimately perished of cardiac failure due to exhaustion. Up to the day the bodies were found, it was the general belief that these men had been caught in Dobbie's Mine Section "like rats in a trap" and could not possibly have escaped drowning. It has never been explained how they all contrived to get out of the dip side of the pit to the rise workings.
At the end of an exhaustive Inquiry, in the course of which a full and graphic account of the rescue operations was given, it was pleasing to hear from Mr. Aitchison that the relatives and dependents of those who lost their lives in the disaster were satisfied that nothing was left undone that skill or ingenuity or energy could suggest or devise in order to effect the rescue of the entombed men. These remarks must have been gratifying to the owners, officials and workmen of the colliery and indeed to all who-rendered all the assistance they could after the calamity had occurred.
Newspaper ReportsScottish Pit Disaster - 41 Men Missing - Thrilling Rescue Scenes
A coalpit near Falkirk was flooded early yesterday morning by an inrush of water from disused workings. Of seventy-five men working in the pit ten escaped, twenty-one were rescued, and three were brought up dead. Rescue work, after a day of thrilling effort, was suspended last night at half-past 10. Hopes of reaching any of the forty-one missing men had then been abandoned.
Falkirk Sept 25. At 8 o'clock to-night forty-one miners are still trapped in No. 23 Redding Pit by an inrush of water from disused workings at a higher level than the present mine. Although work is still proceeding it is now fifteen hours since the disaster occurred, and there remains practically no hope that any one of the missing men can now be alive. They will either have been drowned at the outset or have been been gassed by being trapped in some socket above and behind the water.
It seems vain to hold out to the hundreds of waiting women and children the slender possibility that the men may have reached safety at some higher level in the older worked-out roads which abound in the neighbourhood of the Redding Pit, yet in the history of such disasters such an escape would not be unprecedented. The Redding Pit is situated on the banks of the Union Canal, at a point about two and a half miles east of this town.
During the night some seventy-five men were at work in the pit. Of these, ten made their escape at the first inrush of the water, which occurred between 5 and 6 o'clock.
Between half-past 10 and 3 o'clock twenty-one others were rescued from the shaft of a disused working to which they had succeeded in making their way. Three dead bodies were also rescued - namely, those of
John Forrester, married, two children, and
David Porteous, Laurieston, who was married only a fortnight ago.
The twenty-one men who were rescued are:-
This accounts for 34 out of the 75, so that 41 lives appear to have been lost. News of the disaster spread rapidly, but the isolated situation of the pit delayed for some time the arrival of rescue parties from the mines rescue' stations at Coatbridge and Larbert. Mr. Purdie, manager of the pit for its owners, Messrs. James Nimmo and Co., was immediately on the scene, and got together a rescue party with the intention of leading it down the shaft of No. 23 Pit. It was impossible, however, to carry out this intention, as the shaft was already deeply flooded with water, certainly 40 fathoms. All that could be done at the main shaft was to start pumping in the hope of getting the water down.
Black Damp - Soon after 7 o'clock the Coatbridge and Larbert brigades arrived on the scene, and attention was then directed to penetrating, if possible, the highest available inlet from the shaft to the workings there. A new obstacle was encountered in black damp, developed through the stoppage of the ventilation when the water rushed into the pit. The rescuers had to retreat. They found it impossible to keep a light burning in the shaft, and, later, when a canary was lowered in a cage and brought up again after a few minutes it was found to be dead.
After this renewed demonstration of hopelessness of rescue work at the main shaft, the operations of some of the rescuers, now reinforced by brigades from Plean and Bast Stirlingshire, were transferred to a disused mine adjacent to No. 23, Redding, but whose shaft is a mile distant, in the middle of a potato field. There the efforts of the rescuers were rewarded by the hearing of sounds below it. A windlass was rigged up over the shaft and soon it was clear that living men were at the bottom of this shaft. Their shouts were audible. News of this development soon attracted hundreds of dependents of the miners to the potato field and amid a scene of tense excitement the first member of the rescue party, Mr. T. Bogle, descended the shaft. He found down the shaft a narrow standing place, itself partially flooded, on which some twenty men were crowded, all very much exhausted and suffering from the bad air through which they had passed. The atmosphere in the shaft itself was good.Mr. Bogle's story is that 137ft. down the shaft he encountered a conduit leading to the disused workings. It was only 2ft. wide at the entrance, but widened somewhat as one went farther in. This entrance to the workings had at first been below the level of the water in the shaft itself, but the water level suddenly dropped, probably owing to the giving way of some barrier that had temporarily held up the flood while the water was over the exit from the workings into the shaft.
Narrow Escape - There was still great danger, of course, of the men there being drowned. Had the level in the shaft continued to rise that must have been their fate. Fortunately it fell, and as it fell the men in the workings were able to abandon their cramped position, clinging to the roof of the workings, as the tub in which Mr. Bogle was came down opposite the conduit. When the water subsided from it he caught sight of a face. It was that of the man Sharp, the first on the list of rescued given above, and Sharp was able to draw the tub, with Bogle in it, into the working.
The men in this shaft were then hauled to the surface, Sharp being followed by Myles, and then Thompson. After that it was found safe to haul up two at once. At the surface the rescue parties were ready with blankets, hot water, and towels, and most of the men here rescued were sufficiently well to be conveyed direct to their homes. These twenty-one men stated that they had made their way to the shaft from a distance of about a mile. They had been flooded out of their working places, had reached a series of steps, giving a rise of some thirty or forty feet above the flood level, and so reached comparative safety.
Partition Broken Down - Sharp, when brought to the surface, was almost unconscious, but was soon brought round with oxygen, hot-water bottles and brandy. His story is that the inrush of water into his working place swept him off his feet, and that he gripped a support at the side of the lining and held on until the water flowed off somewhat. He then came upon his comrades' Robert MacIntyre and Robert Lawson, and with them recalled that, the main shaft being flooded, the nearest means of escape from the mine was by the Wallacestone shaft. A partition separated the mine from this shaft, and the men had several hours' work with the pick in breaking down this partition, which consisted of a stone wall. Finding the Wallacestone shaft accessible, they collected as many of their comrades as they could find and took them along to the place where they were eventually found. Part of the way they were up to their necks in water.
It was from this same shaft that the three dead bodies were recovered. The man Thomas Brown was found naked. He had probably stripped off his clothes in order the better to fight against the torrent. John Forrester, another of the dead, is said to have lost his life in the effort to save his fellow-workers. When he might have made good his own escape he hurried back to warn others of their danger, and was so trapped by the flood. Both these men leave widows and families. The third dead man, Porteous, was married only a fortnight ago.
An Old Man's Escape - The ten men who made their escape from the main shaft were in a different part of the flooded pit. One of these ten Alex Harrier, or Harrower, who is about 70 years of age, says he was acting as bottomer in the pit when a boy handed him a written message to give to Mr Jarvie, the fireman. Harrower delivered the message, and Jarvie went off to warn as many men as he could reach. Jarvie has not been seen or heard of since. Harrower got to the shaft in safety with nine others: Hugh Johnston, Laurieston; Hugh Brown, Wallacestone ; Harry Aitken, Redding ; William Ashton, Brightons ; James Crawford, Laurieston ; William Allan, Falkirk ; John Brown, Falkirk ; David Wilson, Brightons ; and one other, whose name I was not able to get. Of this party only Hugh Johnston appeared to have been actually in the workings that were flooded, but they were the last who were able to get up the main shaft in safety. The forty-one men still in the mine were working another seam, and it is feared they may never be seen alive again.
The twenty-one men who were rescued were engaged in what is known as the Ball coal section, and this is at a level at least 45ft. higher than the other workings of the pit where their comrades lost their lives. Even at this higher level the miners were carried off their feet by the rush of water, and had to cling to the roof beams for a while.
Trapped Men's Call By Telephone - Robert Miles, one of the rescued men, said that he was working as a shot firer in what is known as the Ball coalfield. The first indication that anything was wrong was that the air current had changed. He heard a roaring sound. He and eight companions proceeded to what is called the Dublin section. They were up to their waists in water. They tried to get through on the main road. Down it the water was pouring to a depth of about 18in. through the roof. It was proposed , that they should turn back, but they made up their minds to go round by the air course. They met a number of men coming from another section who were also trying to get out. Then they just sat down, thinking the end had come.
Three men went to the telephone and got into communication with those on the surface, and they were told to go to another part of the mine. One of the party led them back, making for the shaft where the air was found to be quite good. The water was, however, still rising. On the way a collection of debris at one of the old roads obstructed their path, and they had to dig their way through with shovels and picks, and they also had to work with their hands. When they got through, there was a terrific noise, and the water poured in on them. Miles remarked to his companions: "We are away this time, boys." Eventually their lamps went out, and some of the party proposed that they should make for a higher point. Miles, however, thought they were high enough. Some of the men were praying and others were singing hymns. Then there was another terrific noise, and air started to blow through. Miles exclaimed, "I surely hear something," and then he saw a gleam of daylight. Then they heard the thumb-bell of the rescue men sounding as the latter came down the old shaft. Miles was the second man to be taken to the surface.
David Aitken, the last but one of the men to be brought alive to the surface at the old shaft, says the men near him at this working place tried first to escape by the intake airway and then by the return airway, but both proved to be blocked. They succeeded in telephoning to the surface to inform those above ground of the disaster, and were advised from above to try and make their way to the gutter hole shaft. This they did, and from there were able to cut their way through to the shaft of the disused workings, whence they were eventually rescued. Aitken's story throws a possible light on the fate of the three men whose dead bodies have been recovered. He says that immediately they reached the shaft a great flood of water came upon them. This may have been when the water-level in the shaft rose to the height of the conduit where they had found refuge, as described by Mr. Bogle, of the rescue party. Several men in the conduit were swept off their feet, and Aitken thinks that some of them must then have been drowned, as he remembered seeing an unconscious man under a stone to which the water had swept him. Aitken says he himself clung to an old tree at the side of the road and remembers nothing more till he found himself in daylight. [The Times 26 September 1923]
Entombed Miners - Search Prevented by Flood - Big Pumps at Work
The King last evening sent the following telegram from Balmoral to the owners of the Redding Colliery, near Falkirk:-
Falkirk Sept., 26 - The state of affairs at the Redding Pit, the scene of yesterday's disaster, at 3 o'clock this afternoon is as follows. No further dead body has been reached and no fresh rescue has been effected. In fact, as I stated in my last dispatch last night the actual efforts of the rescue workers have perforce been suspended since about dusk yesterday, as the mine itself was waterlogged and in the old workings at a higher level the air was so bad that the last two members of the rescue brigade then engaged were brought to the surface in an exhausted and half unconscious condition. That dictated the necessity of discontinuing that method of search for the missing men or their bodies.
A new plan was then adopted, and has been continued ever since. This was to institute more extensive pumping operations at the Redding pit shaft, which leads to the newer and deeper workings, and at the old Wallacestone shaft, whence the twenty-one men were rescued yesterday and the three dead bodies recovered, and to assemble a plant for both pumping out water and pumping in air into such workings as could be reached, in the hope that when these workings shall thus become accessible a gradual penetration to the bottom of the new workings will be feasible. This work, however, necessarily makes slow progress. It may be two days or four days before the mine is sufficiently free of water and sufficiently clear of black damp to warrant resumption of the direct search for the missing men. In these circumstances it is impossible to hold out reasonable hopes that any of the forty-two missing men can still be alive.
Mr. J. A. Masterton, H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines in Scotland, is in general charge of operations, so far as suggesting and direction are concerned, and he is naturally more reserved than the miners' officials. I gather that some of these officials saw with regret the suspension of rescue efforts last night, but here, as at the recent colliery disaster in Yorkshire, it is a case of actual conditions in the mine dictating the course of action irrespective of harrowed feelings. To risk fresh lives would be very heroic and might be imperative if there was a reasonable probability of the discovery of any one of the missing men, but that probability under the conditions hitherto prevailing simply does not exist. It can only come into view, when the workings are once more traversable.
The proximate cause of the disaster is the breaking through by water of natural and artificial barriers which were considered a perfectly efficient safeguard against the water that had accumulated in the older workings at a higher level. Under what immediate influence the barrier gave way is a problem at present unsolved. It may have been due to the wearing thin of the barrier under the persistent percolation of small trickles of water. Secondly, it may have been due, in some measure at least, to vibration in the new and lower workings of the present pit. Coal is cut here by machinery, and shot-firing is a regular practice. The shot-firer, Robert Myles, spoke yesterday of having fired one shot and being deterred from firing a second shot which he had ready because the air current changed and blew the products of the explosion back towards himself. That first shot was also followed immediately by the roar of rushing water in great volume. Did it open wider a breach in the rock barrier behind which the water at the higher level was held up?
A Remarkable Incident - A remarkable occurrence, which may be connected with the disaster, escaped notice yesterday. At the hamlet of Stand Riggs, a mile and a half from the Redding pit, on the opposite slope of a low range of hills, which shuts out the prospect to the south, there occurred at 2 o'clock yesterday a subsidence of ground in front of a row of cottages, creating a hole 14ft in diameter, which is said to be over, or near to, a long closed-up shaft of ancient colliery workings. Rumbling sounds continued all through the night. The only reasonable explanation is that a reservoir of underground water in these old and sealed workings burst its containing walls underground, and that the vacuum created by the escape of the water caused the workings to collapse and the hole to appear at the surface. The old shaft was about 308ft. deep, which would carry it down through the hill to a level not much above the old workings from which the men were rescued yesterday.
The conclusion from this incident is that the whole hillside was honeycombed with holes in which water had accumulated, and that some sudden fresh influx, or breaking down of underground barriers, had liberated a huge mass of water, which made its way to the existing level - namely, that of the newest and lowest seam in the Redding pit
One man, William Morrison, whose name is given in some lists of the missing, is alive and well. He did not go down the pit on Monday.
Official Statement - Later - At 5 o'clock this evening Mr. Gibb, general manager of the Redding Pit, gave me the following official statement summarising the day's work:-
At No. 23 pit arrangements are being made to de-water the working and the operations initiated yesterday have been augmented and progress is being made with them. At the old shaft, where the men were rescued yesterday, a new pithead is being erected and a winding and ventilating system has been installed and pumping operations will be commenced there also at the earliest possible moment. The shaft lining there is being examined preparatory to exploration and pumping more in detail.
The mechanical pumps are now already at work at No. 23 Redding Pit, one lifting a thousand gallons a minute out of the main shaft, and the other, an electric pump, raising about three thousand gallons a minute. A similar three thousand gallon-per-minute pump is on the site at the old shaft, with a view to use in the operations described by Mr. Gibb, but the clearance of the debris in this shaft will still take some hours. There are about 26ft. of water in this shaft. At the Redding Pit, leading to the seams which the colliery company are now working, the water level is 126ft. from the surface and the depth of water from there to the bottom of the shaft is 84ft. The search for the missing men of course cannot be resumed until this water is cleared away.
The depth of water in the main shaft implies that it extends throughout the workings, and as practically no reduction of depth is yet noticeable, though the level is certainly not rising now, it is likely that the inflow from the unknown source has not. yet altogether ceased.
Colonel G. Lane-Fox, Minister of Mines, has today telegraphed to Messrs. James Nimmo and Co., expressing deepest sympathy with the relatives of the men lost, and the hope that some of the men still unaccounted for may yet be rescued. Sir Adam Nimmo, the chairman of the company, who spent many hours here yesterday, remained in the neighbourhood overnight and was in the colliery yard early this morning. He still regards the disaster as somewhat of a mystery, as the rock barrier between the present workings and the old working to the south had always been regarded as impenetrable by water.[The Times 27 September 1923]
Flooded Mine Victims - Difficulties of Rescue Work - Falkirk Sept 27 - Neither labour nor expense is being spared at the flooded Redding Pit to make possible the resumed search for the forty-two missing men, but today very little progress in the reduction of the water level can be reported in the higher workings, which may ultimately prove accessible from the old shaft on the hillside.
Most of the day has been occupied in reducing the debris due to the collapse which followed the inrush of water. The work pursued from the old shaft is slow, for the old workings are extremely narrow, and there is only room for one man at a time to shovel away the falls. There is some expectation that the bodies of a group of men who were at work in the Ball coal seam along with the twenty-one who were rescued on Tuesday may be found in this part of the mine. Several of the rescued men are of opinion there were others not far behind them, who, unfortunately, were not able to get right out of the Ball coal seam into the old workings connected with the "Gutter Hole," as the old shaft is called, in time to get clear of the flood at its highest level. Not more than about half a dozen of the victims, however, are likely to be found in this locality. As for the other thirty-six, the possibility of reaching them hinges entirely on the success of the pumping operations, and it may be days before definite progress can be reported. At present actual manual labour, apart from that incidental to the working of the pumps at the main shaft, is concentrated at the "Gutter Hole" shaft, leading to the old workings. The management at noon to-day expressed themselves as quite satisfied with the excavation work that had been accomplished, and the hope was held out, that by this evening certain sections of the present mine might be reached.
At 7 o'clock this evening the report was that 70ft. of progress into the old working had been made, and that there were hopes of reaching the higher portions of the Redding mine by midnight. All this is however, dependent on what may be in front of the workers in the way of obstacles. One of the staff who came up at 4 o'clock said that at that time it was possible to see 20ft. ahead, but he was not certain that the state of the air would enable even a small man to remain in any advanced position which he might reach.
The Duke of York has sent the following letter to the manager:- "White Lodge, Richmond Park, Sept. 26, 1023. Dear Sir, - The Duke of York has learned with great sorrow of the appalling disaster at the Redding Collieries. His Royal Highness will be grateful it you will convey to relatives of those who lost their lives his very deep sympathy. - Yours faithfully, Louis Greig, Controller." [The Times 28 September 1923]
The Flooded Mine - Rescue Work Impeded by Black Damp
Black damp again interfered with rescue work at the Redding Pit, near Falkirk, yesterday. The working party had penetrated through the debris to an extent which enabled them to get through to the main roadway, but after that black damp was encountered and the men were obliged to withdraw. Their places were taken by rescue brigade men equipped with oxygen apparatus.
It is reported that it is fresh water that is pouring into the mine from, it is suggested, a stream, loch, or river. Search parties have been examining the countryside to discover the breaking of water.
Another name has now been deleted from the list of missing. Michael O'Donnel, it is stated, got another man to take his place in the pit on the night before the disaster, with the result that the substitute is among the forty-two missing men. His name is not yet known. Yesterday two of the victims, Thomas Brown and John Forrester, were buried, amid many signs of public sympathy. [The Times 29 September 1923]
Scottish Mine Disaster - Emptying the Flooded Pit
The men at the pumps have been working in relays to reduce the water in the shaft at No. 23 pit, the scene of the recent mining disaster at Redding, near Falkirk, and the official report issued at 11 o'clock yesterday morning showed that the water had been reduced l0in. between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. This meant that there were still about 90ft. of water in the shaft.
The officials have constructed at the old shaft, up which the rescued men were brought some days ago, a new apparatus to clear the mine of black damp. In ordinary circumstances this structural work would have taken weeks to complete, but it has been accomplished in four days. The relief fund instituted by the Provost and Magistrates of Falkirk has now reached considerably over £2,000.
Yesterday afternoon the water was decreased a further 2in., and with extra pumping apparatus it is hoped to empty the flooded shaft at the rate of five thousand gallons per minute. The authorities are of opinion that today some bodies may be recovered. [The Times 1 October 1923]
Redding Pit Rescue Work
The hopes entertained of recovering several of the dead bodies from the Redding pit had not been realized up to last night. It was hoped to have sufficiently cut away through the rock strata, at the "Gutter Hole" to get to the higher section, in which it was conjectured some of the men may have taken refuge. This work, however, has proved heavier than was anticipated, and definite results may not be obtained even today. A second pump was installed at the "Gutter Hole" shaft yesterday afternoon, and last night water was being removed at the rate of 800 gallons a minute from that particular section. [The Times 2 October 1923]
Flooded Mine Rescues - Five Men Found Alive - Imprisoned for Nine Days - Story of Ordeal
Falkirk, Oct. 4 - Five men were rescued alive from the Redding pit near here, between 3.30 and 4 o'clock this morning, after 214 hours' imprisonment or two hours short of nine days since the flood which rushed into the workings on September 25. This must be regarded as a marvel of human endurance on the one hand, and on the other as a triumphant justification of the hopes expressed alike by the men's surviving comrades and, after the first two days of rescue effort, also by the colliery officials themselves. The men rescued this morning are:-
James Jack, Canal-road, Redding:
John Miller, 25, Glebe-street, Falkirk;
Robert Ure, Wallacestone; and
Andrew Thomson, King-street, Reddingmuir.
In addition there have been discovered during today the bodies of four of the miners entombed in the pit. At the time of writing no names of these victims are available. Identification will be an unpleasant task, as the bodies have apparently lain in water for days. The bodies were discovered in the higher workings of the mine, and I cannot help connecting their discovery with the report of the first party of twenty-one men rescued on the day of the disaster. These men said they knew that some of their comrades on the ball coal section were behind them as they were making through the still running flood towards the old gutter hole shaft, but that one or more of the hindmost tumbled and fell. In fact, one of the survivors reported that he remembered seeing an unconscious or drowned man under a stone.
With the twenty-one men rescued on September 25, three dead bodies then recovered, five rescued alive to-day and four bodies found, and accounting also for the ten men who got up the main shaft of No. 23 Redding Pit before the disaster was complete, there are now thirty-two men still undiscovered in the mine out of the seventy-five below ground when the flood broke through between 5 and 6 o'clock in the morning of September 25.
This afternoon fresh excitement arose on the report that the rescue parties at work in No. 2 section believe there are three men still alive in this part of the mine. The sole foundation for this story is a statement made by the men rescued early this morning. It is, I am satisfied, a hope only, as the newly rescued have not been in actual communication with any other men in the mine since the disaster occurred.
An official report from the colliery offices issued at noon to-day states that in the early hours of this morning the five men were reached in No. 3 ball coal section. After receiving the attention of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Gough, they were brought out to Barker's Mission Hall, where Drs. Lawrie and Garrow were in attendance, and suitable preparations .were made to receive them. The exploratory work was continued, but no other men were found alive. An effort will be made to reach No. 2 section of the ball coal section from the Spion Kop district by driving drifts a distance of 400ft. Pumping is being continued and the body of water in the mine is being steadily reduced.
The First Signals - One of the most remarkable circumstances of today's rescue is that which was first noticed even before the five men were brought to the surface, and that was the lively condition of several of them. They are all rapidly recovering from their long fast and seem to have received no injury of a kind that will be permanent. The voices that the rescuers heard when they broke through a barrier from the other side of which the first signals from the living man were received, were intelligent, strong, and cheerful. The number of the living was given and the name of the speaker. It was Andrew Thomson. When, within an hour, the first of the party so wonderfully saved were brought to the surface, at the mouth of the old gutter hole shaft, which has been the scene of the rescue operations over since the disaster, the men were full of protests at the idea of allowing themselves to be carried on stretchers the short distance across the field from the pithead to the little mission room which forms the rescue station. Indeed, one of them. John Miller, insisted on walking.
The story of the rescue is thus told by Mr. K. H. McNeil, a Fife colliery agent, who was in charge of the rescue operations at the time the rescue party heard the tappings which indicated living men:-
How the Men Were Found - About half-past 2 this morning we broke through in the stone drift at the store -mine and were able to get about seventy yards along the low, narrow face and came against a stowed part of the fall. On listening carefully at this part distinct sounds were heard. Ten men of the rescue party were down working at this time. On their report another ten were immediately rushed down, and, by taking turns, speedily made a hole through in the direction of the sounds and were able to speak to somebody on the other side. The voices were quite clear, and in a few minutes we were through and shaking hands with the five survivors, all of whom were in excellent spirits.
The men said that for the first two days they had a very trying time. It was impossible to keep a light burning owing to black damp, and they scratched all their matches, but without success. They then crawled throughout the workings until they eventually struck what they imagined was a current of fresh air. They crawled up and down this current to keep themselves from getting cold and cramped and occasionally went down to the edge of the water to get a drink. All the food they had amongst them was one half piece of bread, which they divided amongst them on the first day, but they said that afterwards they never felt hungry.
The men were found at the foot of No. 3 Ball coal main airway. They had crawled all about that place, but never had any communication with any other person than themselves from the time the accident happened. They kept together all the time, and had attempted to get to the gutter hole shaft, and actually went past it on the first day. They were at the edge of the water all the time they were down the mine after the disaster occurred, but after the first day, when they had to wade waist-deep in water to get to a place of safety, they were high and dry all the time. The men were becoming very disappointed by the end of what they thought was the second day, but of course they had no real idea of the time.
About the end of the second day, as they thought, they suddenly heard a shot, and they commenced to crawl up and down the various roadways in the dark trying to locate the direction from which the shot had come. They heard another shot, and still more shots. These shots were the sounds of the blasting done by the rescue parties when they got into the old workings on Thursday September 27, to shift the falls and other compacted debris encountered in that part of the mine. The sounds raised the spirits of the imprisoned men. They all shook hands with one another and became perfectly contented, knowing then that their comrades were making every possible effort to rescue them
After we reached the men they were, as I said, in excellent spirits. Their first demand was for a cigarette, which was given them. A supply of hot Bovril, other restoratives, blankets, and hot-water bottles was immediately rushed to the spot, but the blankets and hot-water bottles were not used underground. The men we rescued were all able and willing to crawl the long distance to the shaft bottom. They said that since they had crawled so far during the time they were underground they would be fairly able to crawl to the shaft.
As early as 10 o'clock on Wednesday night the joyful hopes of the rescue party then at work were aroused, and in anticipation of a break through during the night Dr. Robertson was summoned and taken underground. After the men were released by the breaking through of the last barrier it was decided, after a consultation, that it would not be wise to raise them instantly into the open air above. They were given a little oxygen to breathe and were not allowed to continue smoking. They could not all be sent up at once as the apparatus in use in the shaft is an iron bucket, or kibble, which gives standing room for only two at the most, and the rescued men were in fact sent up one by one.
Stretchers Refused - The first two rescued men emerging at the surface were quite indignant about the idea of being carried on stretchers to the mission hall, and the third man, John Miller, actually walked across to the hall. The only one of the five who seemed badly exhausted was Robert Ure, who was the last but one of the party to be brought up. He was the special care of a number of doctors who by that time were on the spot, and their attentions secured his speedy revival. He lives at Wallacestone, the hamlet nearest the pit, and was conveyed home in the ambulance. Miller lives at Falkirk, and on the news of his rescue his father hurried over from the town and waited in the Redding Co-operative Hall while the young man was made ready to leave. This time Miller suffered himself to be carried out to the waiting ambulance van, but he was lively enough to reply "Cheerio; I'm all right - to the greeting of a comrade who called to him by name as he was being lifted into the van. He was then driven off to his home in Falkirk, Mr. Miller, sen., riding on the box by the side of the driver.
The three other men were also conveyed to their homes during the forenoon. Donaldson and Ure both live in cottages which may be said to overlook the field into which the gutter hole shaft emerges. Donaldson was received on the threshold of his cottage by his wife, but even before he reached her he was seen waving a feeble hand from under the cover of the stretcher on which he was being carried, in acknowledgement of the cheers of the crowd which had followed the ambulance van and now gathered round his door. Most of the rescued men under doctors' orders spent today in bed, and were inaccessible to inquirers.
The first member of the rescue party to reach the five men was Alexander Hill, a young miner, who says that when standing near the gutter hole shaft on the day of the disaster he thought he heard a cry coming up the shaft. This was after the twenty-one men had been rescued that day, but before the three bodies were recovered. He now thinks that the cry may have come from the men rescued today, as it is known they passed near the gutter hole shaft. When found today, however, the men were quite sixty yards from the bottom of the shaft.
I was the first to get there (said Hill). I found them in a good, safe place. The roof was all right and the air was wonderful. They were moving about in the space, one of them being near to where the opening was made. Before that we had heard the knocking. It seemed a long way off when we heard it first. We shouted, but we could not get any reply. When we got into the 2ft. wide tunnel we heard the knocking again. I gave a particular signal, two taps and then three rapid taps. It was responded to immediately by a similar tapping.
A Joyful Meeting - When I got through, the man near the opening seemed to know my voice. He said, "Is that you, Sandy?" I replied : "Yes ; is that you, Andrew?'' It was Andrew Thomson who spoke. I told him to hang on a bit and not to come near. Thomson then went along a short distance to the passage and brought the four others towards the opening. All were affected by emotion, rescuers and rescued being unable to contain their joy at meeting. I never saw a cheerier lot of lads in all my life than those men were at that moment. The strange thing about it is that, even with good air, they were able to endure such a long time underground. I should fancy men would have been driven insane by such an experience.
From the Rev. John Matthewman, the Superintendent Minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Circuit at Falkirk, I learn that two of the men rescued today are connected with the Wesleyan Church at Wallacestone. Mr. Matthewman said he had seen both men and in their faces there was nothing to indicate the terrible trial they had come through. The relatives of the men, however, informed him that physically they were considerably run down.
I prayed with one of the families (said Mr. Matthewman) and in giving thanks to God for the safety of the head of the household the devotions were of a very impressive character.
The wife in this case had borne up splendidly since the disaster took place, but today her endurance collapsed in the joy of her husband's safe return. One of the men remarked to Mr. Matthewman, "We prayed as you prayed now. We thought it was the natural thing to do. We were facing death and we knew it" This man told the minister that while he and his companions were prepared for death they had the will to live because of their families.
Rescuers' Shots - How Welcome Sounds Were Registered - Later - I have just gathered some particulars at Redding village which show that the five men rescued today were spared almost all uncertainty as to their fate. They were not far behind the group of twenty-one rescued on the day of the disaster and actually knew that the twenty-one were within reach of safely in the conduit which leads through the old workings to the Gutter Hole shaft, but they were themselves carried off their feet by the violence of the flood. They got cut off and afterwards, when they found themselves able to meet again, they took a wrong turning and were never afterwards able to find the way to the Gutter Hole.
It must have been on Thursday of last week, two days after the accident, that they heard the first shot fired by the rescue party. From that moment the hope of rescue changed into absolute confidence. The men found an old can, and it was agreed to drop a stone into this receptacle every time they heard a shot fired. This morning they counted the stones in the can and found over 300.
The Rev. John Matthewman tells me that it is really impossible to interview any of the survivors. He said:- "They are splendid, but they have a shrinking from publicity ; they are in wonderfully good physical condition at the moment, but, of course, they are upborn with the excitements of rescue and homecoming, and a reaction is bound to follow. Their immediate desire is to be left as quiet as possible and their immediate needs are a little food and a lot of sleep. The two that I chatted with and played with gave expression to the same three sentiments - (1) thanksgiving to God and their fellows for miraculous preservation and splendid rescue ; (2) concern for the other men not rescued ; and (3) keen regret that they could not join the number of the rescuers on the day of the disaster. I knelt with Mrs. Thomson and the family and prayed that her husband might be preserved and rescued this morning; I knelt on the same spot to give thanks for answered prayer."
At the colliery offices this evening I learned that the efforts which are now being made in No. 2 section of the ball coal are being furthered by the help of a new machine which arrived at noon, and that already considerable fresh headway has been made, including a drive of twelve feet into the solid coal. This work is a continuation of the search for further possible survivors in this higher part of the mine. The officials declined to make any statement about the four bodies said to have been encountered, and up to the time of wiring these have not been brought to the surface. It has been necessary, so prolific has been the crop of rumours published, for the Colliery Company to warn all interested that nothing is absolutely authentic except the officially posted notices at the colliery offices. All that these notices say about the main shaft is that pumping is being continued and the water level is being continually lowered. It is below the shaft that the main seam worked in Redding pit lies, and in the seam most of the men still missing must lie. They were in the lowest part of the mine when the flood descended upon them, and it is hardly conceivable that any one can have made his way more than 100ft. upwards. The hopes that are still entertained relate to men who may have been at work in the ball coal seam, which slopes upwards with the surface contour of the land to a point not far distant from the bottom of the old Gutter Hole shaft. After the startling events of today it is not surprising to find the vicinity of the colliery thronged with thousands of the public. [The Times 5 October 1923]
Lost Sense of Time - Our Glasgow Correspondent telegraphed last night:- An idea of time had been lost by the imprisoned men, who were amazed to learn that they had been entombed nine days. By the growth of hair on his face Miller estimated that the day was Sunday. As the time wore on they began to despair of being rescued, and had nearly given up hope. Indeed they had gone to the length of writing farewell messages, but when rescued they requested that these should be immediately destroyed. This request was complied with. [The Times 5 October 1923]
Rescued Miners' Stories - Chewing Coal to Evade Hunger - The King's Message
Falkirk Oct. 5 - The King to-day sent the following message from Balmoral to Sir Adam Nimmo, addressed to the Redding Pit, Polmont:-
The King rejoices to know that the efforts of the rescue parties have been rewarded by the saving of five of the entombed miners. His Majesty congratulates all engaged in this gallant work, and earnestly trusts that their endeavours may meet with further success. - Stamfordham
Falkirk woke up this morning to learn that during the night the bodies of three more victims of the Redding pit disaster had been brought to the surface. The men were Frank McGarvie, of Buchanan-court, Falkirk; Michael McKenna, Grangeview-terrace, Falkirk ; and Andrew Anderson, aged 50, Princes-street, California (a hamlet near Redding). Anderson's son was also at work in the mine on September 25, and his body has not yet been recovered. McKenna was the son of a widowed mother, and McGarvie, a young married man, leaves a widow and three children. The bodies of these men were three of the four of whose discovery I spoke yesterday. The men had in each case died of drowning. Flesh wounds were observed, but these were explained by one of the workers as being due to cuts made by the swirling of sharp-edged stones in the rushing water that knocked the men down. Their sufferings must have been of short duration. They were probably overtaken by the very first onrush of the flood, lost their feet, and were unable to rise again.
Beguiling the Time - The survivors brought home yesterday are with one exception remaining in bed and taking things as quietly as possible, most of them, and their relatives for them, under the doctors' influence, declining very firmly to tell stories for publication. Yet something has naturally filtered through, and it is now possible to get a fair idea of what the men went through during their nine days' imprisonment in the mine. There were ex-Service men in the party, and these related to their comrades their experiences in France and elsewhere. There would then be a bout of story-telling, and even such interests as the prospects of the local and other football teams were discussed over and over again - anything to relieve the tedium, the suspense, and the strain of hanging on to hope through so many hours in the darkness. None of the five had any continuous sleep, or so they report. All they will admit is having had fitful dozes. It is agreed that little or nothing of the pains of hunger was felt by any of the five, even though one of the men did say when found by the rescuers that he was starving and wanted bread.
All accounts of those who had talked with the men agree in this, that what kept them all sane was their confidence that they would ultimately be rescued. They had solid grounds for their confidence, as I stated last night. They knew that a larger party who, like themselves, had been working in the Ball coal seam had apparently got clear after having been only just in front of them on the way to the old Gutter Hole shaft, and from the second day onwards they were able .to count the shots fired by the rescue party in the work of shifting the falls in the workings. Today I have encountered a discrepancy in the story of the tin can and dropped pebbles which I reported last night. Instead of being three hundred stones in the can, which was a piecebox (a miner's receptacle for his food down below), there were, I am now assured, only thirteen, indicating that number of shots fired by the rescuers and heard by these five men.
John Miller, one of the rescued men, whose home is at Glebe-street, Falkirk, is a young man with a wife and a baby eleven weeks old. He has since described his experience as "an awful time of anxiety and misery," during which "not one of the party ever closed an eye. The awful darkness and the long silence were terrible to bear," He says: "We kept ourselves sort of warm by lying huddled together on the slate floor, but we were only warm on the upper parts of our bodies. From our thighs to our feet we were always cold. We were first cheered when we discovered an inflow of what proved to be fresh water, which enabled us to escape from thirst, and with it there came a welcome current of air. This kept us cheery for a time, but we did lose heart as the long hours passed and we did not know anything about time. It was hard to keep up." For a while the men had light, and kept it going as long as possible by burning only one lamp at a time.
I am fully satisfied that these five men were at first with the twenty-one who were rescued on September 25, and that they unfortunately got separated from the larger group by a fall of debris, which caused them to turn in search of higher workings. In that manner they lost their way to the old Gutter Hole shaft. One of the five men said to the Rev. J. H. Foss. one of the local Wesleyan ministers:- "We did not worry so much about out stomachs, but were more anxious to get into touch with the rescuers' party in order to get out of the mine and see our wives and weans. At one time the water was up to our necks." Another of the survivors said to Mr. Foss:- "After we had managed to grope our way up to the higher working our clothing was soaked, but we dried it as best we could, and we had a dry suit in two days' time, as far as we could judge the time." The men in bed were visited this morning by a barber, who removed ten days' growth of beard, much to their comfort.
At 12.45 today, on the return to the surface of a party of rescue workers, I learned that the efforts below ground were continuing, but there had been no new discovery. "Steady progress is being made" - so runs the official communiqué put up shortly afterwards- "both with the pumping of the water and the driving of the new road in the No. 2 section ball coal. Examination of the workings beyond those from which the rescued men were taken resulted in the discovery of the bodies of three men who had been drowned during the inrush of water. These bodies have now been brought to the surface."
Staving Off Hunger - Later - This evening some of the rescued men have distinctly relapsed, and one is reported to be suffering severely from shock. They have related some of their experiences to those about them. One has stated that when he and the others found themselves trapped they made for the highest available passage, and found it ended at the coal face. They feared the water might follow them upwards, and, as tested by stones they placed on the way they had traversed, they found that in the first hour or so the flood was still rising, but in two hours more it had gone down again considerably. For a day or two the water stood at the same level, and then, in the higher part of the mine where they found themselves, it continued to fall. Their only piece of bread had been consumed within a few hours. They had among them only one small piece of tobacco. This they also shared, and smoked it in their pipes. To stave off hunger they chewed matchsticks and boxes and small pieces of coal.
Tonight it is reported that the water level in the main shaft has fallen 8ft, and another pump, lifting 1,500 gallons a minute, is being installed. The coal cutting in No. 2 section of the ball coal area is advancing as fast as the Hardy patent coal cutter will allow. About 400ft., it is estimated, have to be cut through before the workings arc reached in which it is possible a few other survivors are lying. Machinery is still being sent down the Gutter Hole shaft to carry away this coal and the incidental stone.
More Bodies Seen - At 11.30 last night it was reported that the rescue party had gained entrance from No. 3 section to the Dublin section, and had seen a number of bodies huddled together, partially buried by a mass of dirt and fallen material. Black damp retarded the work of investigation, but it was hoped that within a few hours some of the bodies would be recovered. [The Times 6 October 1923]
The Entombed Miners - Strenuous Rescue Work - Falkirk Oct. 7 - When I left the Redding Pit this evening the men coming up from the old Gutter Hole shaft reported that the progress in driving the new heading towards No. 3 section of the ball coal seam, where it is hoped still to find at least three living men, was being made at the rate of six feet every four hours. There is nearly 400ft. still to cut. There is not much prospect of accelerating this rate, as, besides coal, ironstone balls and ribs, which are very difficult material, are being encountered. Every day that passes - we are now in the thirteenth since the disaster - lessens, of course, the chances of any further survivor being able to hold out.
Today's report of the pumping operations is that the water level is reduced by 14ft. The progress of the new drift and of the pumping in relation to the prospects of saving further lives and of eventually recovering the bodies of the drowned men is much elucidated in the following statement:-
The colliery workings which lead from No. 23 Redding Pit being neither specially deep nor very extensive, the long delay in exhausting the pit of water, and in the clearing of falls of all the workings both new and old included in the underground network, may seem to demand explanation, when it is admitted that the possibility of saving further lives still exists and that, the recovery of the bodies of all the victims is desirable before the Ministry of Mines inquiry into the disaster is opened. There has, however, been absolutely no intermission of effort since the early morning of September 25, and the best plant, the most trustworthy expert mining engineering advice, and all the labour that can possibly be utilized in the circumstances, are being continuously applied. The long period that is being required to clear the mine is, therefore, to be estimated rather in the light of the nature and extent of the calamity.
Workings Described - It has already been stated that the Redding Colliery stands on the northern slope of a low ridge of hills flanking the valley of the Forth at e distance of three or four miles from the river, which, in the neighbourhood of Grangemouth, is occasionally visible from the scene of the present rescue operations. The main shaft of No. 23 pit and the return shaft stand side by side in the colliery yard at a lower elevation on the northern bank of the Union Canal. Standing there and looking southwards over the canal, the contour of the land rises at first gently and then somewhat more steeply to the ridge where the Wallacestone stands. Turning and looking northwards towards the Clyde, the slope is seen to continue beyond the pit yard.
The whole of the broad hillside thus described is "honeycombed" with colliery workings, some of them worked out sixty to a hundred years ago, and the older are those which are under the higher ground. No. 23 pit at present works coal under the hillside on both sides of the canal, and the main shaft divides the worked area into two portions - one, the higher, extending southwards towards the old workings, and the other and lower running at an incline downwards from the bottom of the shaft. The lower seam is the main seam; the higher is that known as the ball coal seam. This ball coal seam at the higher level normally has connexions with the old Gutter Hole shaft and the ramification of worked-out roads leading to that shaft from higher up the hill.
When the flood came the whole lower workings of No. 23 pit were drowned under more than a hundred feet of water, and the water level rose in the ball coal seam to such a height as to come into the Gutter Hole shaft itself, and to cut off the connexions of that seam with the old and higher workings, and it was only when the water level dropped a little, as it did in the course of the first eight hours after the flood, that the twenty-one men rescued on the first day were able to get through into the opening into the Gutter Hole shaft. Falls of roof behind them cut of the access of the five men rescued on Thursday last to the same means of escape, and they remained buried alive for nine days while the rescue workers drove new headings in the old workings above the water level to their place of refuge.
The hope that the bodies seen by the rescue workers in the Dublin section at 11.30 on Friday night would be recovered in the course of yesterday was not realized, and the official report issued at noon yesterday was silent about the discovery, but two hours later it was stated that the water had been practically cleared out of the Dublin section.
Tho following official statement was issued this afternoon:- "Pumping is progressing. The lowering of pumps in No. 23 pit is being undertaken with a minimum of dislocation to progress. The mine driving is proceeding without interruption. It is noticed that several newspapers are making a statement that special developments are expected to-day. It is with regret that this statement has to be contradicted."
After a Requiem Mass at St. Francis Xavier Chapel, Falkirk, yesterday morning, the bodies of Frank McGarvie and Michael McKenna, two of the three men found dead on Friday morning and removed to the chapel the same evening, were buried. The funerals took place at Camelon Cemetery yesterday afternoon, and were attended by the same demonstration of public sympathy as when the first three victims were laid to rest last week. The third body found on Friday was that of Andrew Anderson, who was a Protestant, and his funeral also took place yesterday from his home at California, to Old Polmont Churchyard. [The Times 8 October 1923]
Divers' Descent At Redding - Progress Stopped - Flood 1,000ft. Wide - Falkirk 8 Oct - Three divers from the naval base at Rosyth have been endeavouring today to penetrate the water seal that shuts off No. 2 section of the ball coal seam from the accessible workings below the Gutter Hole shaft. At 4 o'clock this afternoon, when they were resting after three and a half hours spent down the mine, I received from two of the divers the statement that they had to turn back after making a distance of over 100 yards through a flooded way, because of the obstructions met with. Shortly afterwards at the colliery offices a bulletin was posted, stating that the divers had been underground and had penetrated the return airway to No. 2 section ball coal to a distance of 375 feet, when an obstacle was encountered.
At 10.30 to-night the general manager (Mr. Gibbs) made the following statement in the company's office:- The divers require twelve hours' rest, and they are taking it after their exertions this morning. The report of the foreman diver as to what he has found has been carefully sifted and considered in the light of knowledge possessed by people acquainted with this district of the pit before the accident. The result of this deliberation is that we think the divers went straight forward instead of taking the turning leading to the No. 2 section. It is proposed, in view of this information, to make a new and further attempt, and the foreman diver is now resting preparatory to going in again. We are very hopeful that he will now get through to the No. 2 section. In the event of his doing so we have arranged for more divers to be in readiness to continue the work. The pumping and the mining are going on satisfactorily.
The party from Rosyth are six naval auxiliaries. Three of them (George Brown, E. Froudo and W. Coward) are divers, and the other three attend to the. air pumps. The introduction of this new element into the search has naturally revived interest and hope in the work at Redding pit. It was only late last night that the men from Rosyth arrived, after a consultation at the colliery offices that had been in progress for some hours. In view of the repeated complaints of the colliery company about the publication of unfounded rumours, I wish to report that as late as 7 o'clock last evening the officials flatly denied that there was any truth in the story of divers being brought on the scene. The men's actual arrival was the next event.
The purpose of the experiment now proceeding is to shorten the time of reaching the ball coal seam by the ordinary mining operation of driving a new heading through the rock. If the divers could really get through the thousand feet of water lock they would probably be able to settle finally the question whether there are still survivors in the pit. The diving suits were taken below during the night and. a preliminary investigation satisfied the foreman of the party that what was asked of them was at least feasible. At 10.30 this morning the divers started on their journey. They carried food, an electric cable with lamp attached, a signalling apparatus for establishing communication with any men found alive, and powerful electric headlights.
Task of the Divers - The fallen timber and other debris encountered caused them to turn back, divers in such a situation not being able to do heavy manual labour. In this experiment the divers were provided with air in flexible tubes opening into their watertight clothing, and consequently no great freedom of movement was possible to them. The tubes, however, have the advantage of giving a larger supply than a box of compressed air carried on the back, and it can be made continuous, but the divers on returning to the surface this afternoon seemed greatly exhausted and said that the air supply had not been too good. The distance the divers would have to traverse under water to pass through the water seal, supposing they could do it without coming upon further and insuperable obstacles, is at least 1,000ft. Their means of communication with anyone found alive are very limited, but the apparatus they carry might enable survivors to signal.
Another method of expediting the approach to the No. 2 section is the pumping out of the water, which may eventually undo the water seal at the Gutter Hole shaft before communication with No. 2 section is established by the mining operations. Pumping is proceeding satisfactorily, and the water is being steadily lowered was the report at 1 o'clock today, and by 4 o'clock the time had arrived for the readjustment of .the pumps to the lower level reached at the Gutter Hole shaft. At the main shaft a fourth water pump is being installed and will increase the quantity of water raised there to three thousand gallons per minute. Even with the pumps at present at work the water level was reduced 6in. during five hours of the night, and progress at the rate of 3ft. per day is now within sight.
At a meeting today of the Executive of the Scottish Miners' Federation, Mr. R. Smillie, M.P., presiding, the secretary was instructed to write to the Prime Minister demanding a public inquiry into the Redding Pit disaster, and asking for a definite promise that there should be adequate protection for witnesses in order to prevent any fear of victimization, in view of an incident which occurred recently when one of the men who gave evidence at the inquiry into the Plean disaster was ultimately dismissed. It was also agreed to ask the Government to appoint a commission to go into the question of waterlogged mining districts. [The Times 9 October 1923]
Divers' Perilous Work - New Effort at Redding - Falkirk Oct 9 - A further attempt by the Rosyth divers to penetrate the flood at Redding Pit having failed, owing to the danger of their air tubes becoming entangled in debris, Messrs. James Nimmo and Co. last night resolved on another effort by fresh divers equipped with compressed air apparatus carried on the back, instead of air tubes carried through the water. They summoned a party of divers from London, who were expected to arrive at the pit early this morning.
The Rosyth divers went down again early yesterday morning and were in the workings very nearly four hours. They found it hard to make headway through the water owing to the slime underfoot and the matted debris, broken pit props, twisted rails, and other obstacles made their advance very difficult, and at every stop they were hampered by the risk of getting their air tubes entangled. After going about thirty yards they found the passage narrowed to 2ft., and had to crawl forward on their stomachs, a position in which it became more and more difficult for them to receive an adequate supply of air through the tubes. Reluctantly they had at length to give the signal for withdrawal.
After the divers had made their report at the colliery offices and it had been duly considered, the following official communiqué was issued at 11 o'clock:-
"The divers made a second attempt to get into No. 2 section ball coal this morning, but owing to the presence of silt at the junction of the No. 2 airway with the Spion Kop haulage road their further progress was barred and they returned to their post and reported that it was impossible for them to make further headway. This being the case, further efforts will be entirely concentrated upon the pumps and the driving of the mine. It is anticipated that the Kinglassie pump in No. 23 pit will be at work this evening. The water is being steadily lowered.
Although this communique does not say so, I gather that the assumption that the divers on their first descent failed to take the turning leading to No. 2 section was not warranted. This morning they got to the same place and found the same obstacles, and even managed to get through a doorway which they had previously thought to be a barrier, but beyond the door they could not get farther ahead. Efforts on their part to clear the obstacle were distinctly limited, owing to the risk of injuring and severing their air tubes. Such injury would probably have cost them their lives. The question now is which will be finished first - the driving of the new heading into No. 2 section or the lowering of the water level by pumping sufficiently to free for rescue workers the alternative way into the section.?
The mining continues to be hard and difficult work, and .progress is limited to a rate of barely 2 yards an hour. The pumping will be greatly accelerated when the new pump in the main shaft referred to actually comes into operation, provided that there is a common water level in all parts of the flooded mine. In conversation with the engineer in charge of the operations this afternoon I learned that at the very earliest it will be late on Thursday night before the mining is completed and No. 2 Section Ball Coal reached by that means. [The Times 10 October 1923]
Daring Divers - Another Descent At Redding - Enforced Retreat - Falkirk Oct 10 - Another daring attempt to effect an entrance to No. 2 Section ball coal at the Redding Pit was made this morning by the fresh party of divers from London. It has met with no success, and the management here are thrown back once more on the ordinary method of trying to pump out sufficient water to allow of access through the flooded workings, or alternatively to complete the driving of a new shaft through to the section.
The divers from London were sent by the firm of Siebe, Gorman, and Co., Limited, and consisted of O. H. Birwood (technical director), R. W. Gunn (engineer), Chief Diver F. Smith, Diver F. Lawton, with assistants J. W. Bateman and J. Ashley. After being acquainted with the situation, the party decided to send into the water Divers Smith and Lawton, using after all the ordinary air tubes instead of the self-contained compressed air containers. Smith's statement on his return to the surface was that he and his companion crawled all the way and that when they got to the place where the Rosyth men had had to turn back they found that the bottom of the passage went up in a gradient of about one in twelve and narrowed as they proceeded until, after advancing about 30ft., the leader could only get his helmet into the hole. When they got into that position they had to turn back, because they found that too much air was getting to their feet and they were afraid of being floated up to the roof and unable to retreat. They had to come out feet foremost, because if they had turned round head forwards their heads would have been lower than their feet. They reached the level in safety, but they only turned back because they felt that their lives would have been lost had they tried to go farther. They could not see anything, although they were carrying submarine lamps. The water was so black that the light did not penetrate it at all.
The official report records the failure of the divers and states that additional pumping power is being provided. The water is being lowered at such a rate that it is quite evident that the Number Two section ball coal will be reached by the lowering of the water rather than by the mine.
When I left the pit this afternoon pumping had temporarily ceased, so that the reduction of the water level will not be quite so rapid as was officially hoped. It should be understood, however, that the pumping at the old Gutter Hole shaft is proceeding all the time and is drawing out the water at the place where the divers have been trying to penetrate. The divers' reports show that even when water is got out some heavy labour will be required before the rescuers can pass into the section in search of the three men supposed to be still alive there. [The Times 11 October 1923]
Frustrated Hopes At Redding - Another Body Found - Falkirk Oct 11 - My report from Redding today must be again one of frustrated effort and disappointment. The diving experiments, three in number, by two different parties, yielded no result whatever, and the London men have followed the Rosyth men back to their base. The large Kinglassie pump had barely got to work at the main shaft yesterday morning when it broke down, and falsified the hopes held out by the official statement of a speedier reduction of the water level in the mine. The pump had to be dismantled and sent back to Alloa. It has not yet been returned. Meanwhile pumping has also had to be discontinued in the other shaft at No. 23 Redding pit, while the pumps were readjusted to the depth reached. At the Gutter Hole shaft the pumping has continued, but the mining operation conducted from this entrance to the workings has disappeared from the bulletin issued today, and I understand that the driving of the enlarged way through the very refractory material here encountered cannot be completed before Saturday.
This is the sixteenth day since the disaster. The mine will have to be cleared of water whether living men are in or not, so that the pumping operations must continue indefinitely till the work is finished. But it has today become clear that the chief hope of further rescues, should any survivor be still below ground, is concentrated upon the lowering of be water level sufficiently to allow of access through those flooded workings at the highest part of the mine which the divers did not succeed in penetrating. If the driving of the new way to the ball coal No. 2 section is not accomplished till Saturday, and the mine only then gives up its stubborn secret, eighteen days in darkness and helplessness, in wet and cold and without food, will have been the test of endurance to any man still breathing.
All that the mine gives up is its dead. Another body besides that of William Anderson, of California, which was brought up yesterday, has been located today, but it las not yet been identified.
One new development has occurred today. I report it without attaching to it the importance that some are inclined to give it. This is the artificial diversion of a small stream of water leaving the high moorland above the hamlet of California, at the distance of a mile and a half to the south-west of the Redding pit and at an elevation of some five hundred feet above it
That continued influx of fresh water into the mine workings is believed to have been traced through the intervening uplands to this source, and this morning workmen were sent to divert the stream into a wooden aqueduct Why the drainage from the moorlands was not regarded as a potential danger must naturally be a main subject of inquiry when the time comes for an expert examination of causes of the Redding pit disaster.
The officials express the hope in their communique, that the Kinglassie pump will be at work again within twenty-four hours. Despite the stoppage the volume of water, they state, is being slowly reduced. Economy in the posting of information is now being carried to a length which renders the official communique of little value as a record of what is happening from hour to hour. [The Times 12 October 1923]
Redding Pit Disaster - Pumping was continued yesterday at the Redding Pit, Falkirk, and it is expected that accay be had shortly to No. 2 section, where, it is believed, a number of men were trapped. The presence of black damp and water in the Dublin section is said to be retarding the progress of the rescue brigade, who had hoped to have recovered several bodies from this section. The Falkirk Central Relief Fund has now reached nearly £15,000. [The Times 13 October 1923]
Five Bodies Found At Redding - Steady Progress of Pumping - Glasgow Oct 14 - Despite the fact that nineteen days have passed since the disaster at Redding Pit the officials still declare that they entertain hopes of rescuing some of the men. The discovery of five additional bodies, however, has intensified the gloom which pervades the whole district. The great majority of miners at Redding now fear the worst. Three of the bodies were discovered late last night, and the other two this morning. All five were brought to the surface today. Of the twenty-seven men who are still unaccounted for no trace was discovered.
Great progress was made during the weekend with the pumping. The breakdown of the great Kinglassie pump on Wednesday is regarded as the most serious set-back which the rescue party have experienced since they started their strenuous efforts, and but for this, the officials maintain, they would have been through to the workings by last night. One official tonight expressed the opinion that it did not seem humanly possible, even assuming that, they had no further break-down in pumping, that they could cut through to the workings before 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Another official, however, was somewhat more optimistic. In his opinion, there was always the possibility that they might find air-locks in the workings, and it that were so, as the water was drawn away on one side the flooding would subside much more quickly than was anticipated.
In a letter to the Provost of Falkirk, Sir Robert Younger (the new Lord of Appeal in Ordinary), chairman of the Court of Directors of the Royal Caledonian Schools, says:- "The directors, moved and thrilled as they have been by the horror and heroism attending the recent appalling disaster at the Redding pit, have resolved unanimously to offer the hospitality of the schools to any of the children of Scottish miners left fatherless by that calamity who may be desirous of accepting it.'' [The Times 15 October 1923]
Redding Pit Disaster - The hopes of reducing the water level sufficiently to get through last evening to No. 2 section of the Redding Pit, Falkirk, were not realized last night, and Mr. Masterton, Divisional Mines Inspector for Scotland, expressed the opinion that it would not be possible to penetrate the section until between 3 and 4 o'clock this morning. Even then, it was thought, the presence of black damp might be such that it would be difficult for the rescue brigade to locate and: bring forth the entombed men, dead or olive. [The Times 17 October 1923]
Two More Bodies Found At Redding - Death Due to Black Damp - Glasgow Oct. 18 - At 6 a.m. this morning the rescue workers at Redding Pit, Falkirk, made their way into No. 2 section, upon which great hopes were centred, only to come upon the bodies of two men, David Brown and Thomas Brown. The men were uncle and nephew. David Brown was 24 years of age, and had only been working in the pit four weeks. Thomas Brown was 40 years of age, and leaves a wife and a family of young boys.
The rescue party included three mine managers, and two mine inspectors, and the officials were of opinion that the two men had been suffocated by black damp shortly after the disaster. Their bodies were found clear of the water, which must have advanced higher than the spot where they were found. The men had evidently followed the receding water until they were overcome by the black damp. Nothing now remains to be done but to recover further dead bodies from the pit. [The Times 19 October 1923]
Inquiry Into Redding Pit Disaster - Lieutenant-Colonel G. R. Lane-Fox, the Secretary for Mines, has directed Mr. Thomas H. Mottram, Chief Inspector of Mines, to hold a formal investigation into the causes and circumstances of the accident which occurred at the Redding No. 23 Colliery, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, on September 25, and Mr. Henry Walker, Deputy-Chief Inspector of Mines, to hold a formal investigation into the causes and circumstances of the accident which occurred at the No. 3 Pit of the Gartshore Collieries, Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshire, on July 28. The dates and places of the inquiries will be announced later. [The Times 20 October 1923]
Six more bodies were recovered at midnight on Wednesday from the Redding Pit. They were found in the main coal seam. There are still 19 bodies in the pit. [The Times 9 November 1923]
Another 11 bodies, it was reported yesterday, have been located in Redding Pit, but these have not yet been brought to the surface. Of the total bodies missing, only two have now to be accounted for. [The Times 23 November 1923]
Message From Redding Pit Victim - Messages have been discovered among the belongings of Thomas Thomson, a miner of Falkirk, whose body was one of the last batch of 11 brought from the pit on Thursday night. These notes were written on pieces of paper believed to have been torn from the book of the pit fireman. Written in the darkness of the mine, they are scarcely decipherable, the words running into each other. One read:- Dear wife, Willie, and Jeannie (his two children) be good to your mother. I am fine on this the 8 day if they get on.'' Another note read:- ''Dear wife. My love to you and mine. Written by father." Mrs. Thomson, his wife, stated yesterday that these notes were the only messages found among the party of 11. They had been left in her husband's piece tin. His tobacco-box was also found. An attempt had been made to scratch a message on it with a piece of stone, and in the box were a threepenny bit and a penny for his car fare home. [The Times 26 November 1923]
Redding Pit Disaster - Miner's Pathetic Messages Found In Time-book - As the result of further investigations it has been ascertained that three short messages addressed to his wife, were left by James Jarvie, King Street, Reddingmuirhead, one of the victims of the Redding Pit disaster. Jarvie was the night fireman of the shift which was at work in the pit at the time of the flooding, and his body, along with that of other ten men was amongst the last to be recovered in a part of the mine to which the water had not penetrated, and where it was apparent the imprisoned men had lived for some time. A copy of the messages, which were written on the pages of Jarvie's time-book, have been sent to his widow. The first message, evidently written on the day of the disaster, reads:- "25th - Tell my wife to keep up for the sake of her children, for I don't believe I will see her again. God bless you and help you, for my mind is made up I will never see you again. - Your loving husband, James Jarvie".
The other two messages are undated, and are in the following terms:- " My Dear Wife, - believe you think I am drowned. I am still living yet, and have great hopes of being saved. Keep your heart, Maggie and look after the weans, and my two boys in America."
"Dearest Maggie, - Convey the news to our two sons. Tell Peggie, James, Lilly, Jeannie, and wee Maisie to keep up. It is a sore blow to you Maggie. Good-bye."
The fact may be recalled that at the time of the disaster, Jarvie was regarded as having sacrificed his own life for those of his comrades. In the opinion of those who were rescued, he had ample time to get clear, but instead of making for the pit-bottom and safety, he elected to return and warn the ten others - beside whom he was found dead - of their danger.
Jarvie, who was a man of 49 years of age had an extensive knowledge of the workings of Redding Colliery, and in an endeavour to lead his comrades to safety had travelled over a very great part of the mine. [Scotsman 15 December 1923]
The last body of the 66 miners who lost their lives in the Redding pit disaster was recovered on Monday and identified as that of James Cochrane, 52, single, of Redding. [The Times 5 December 1923]
Chairman's Death At Company Meeting - Mr. James Mitchell, chairman of Messrs. James Nimmo and Co. (owners of the Redding Pit), was presiding at the annual meeting of the company in Glasgow yesterday, and had just made a sympathetic reference to the flooding of Redding Pit, when he fell back in his chair and died. Mr. Mitchell, who was 68 years of age, resided at Bannockburn. [The Times 6 December 1923]