Dumbreck 30 January 1938

9 killed in fire

  • Peter Byrne, brusher, single, age 58
  • Joseph Campbell, fireman, married, age 59
  • Henry Hagan, brusher, married, age 38
  • Joseph Mervin Kelly, brusher, married, age 30
  • Joseph Martin, brusher, single, age 26
  • James Martin, brusher, married, age 38
  • Robert Martin, brusher, married, age 35
  • Edward O'Neill, brusher, single, age 23
  • Peter Walker, brusher, married, age 36

Newspaper Reports

Nine Men Dead In Pit Fire - Rescuers Beaten By Smoke
Glasgow 30 January - Nine Scottish miners who were entombed in a blazing pit near Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, today, were found dead shortly before 10 o'clock to-night after heroic efforts to rescue them. It is believed that they died of suffocation.

The pit is the Kelly section of the Dumbreck No. 1 Colliery, belonging to Messrs. William Baird, and is situated about a mile and a half from Kilsyth, which is nearly 13 miles from Glasgow.

From shortly after midday rescue workers risked their own lives in gallant attempts to get through the blazing workings, but in vain. After hours of effort they were still encouraged to persevere by the hope that they might be able to get into some part of the pit where they would be free from the smoke until the imprisoned workers could force a way through.

There were 10 men working in the squad when the outbreak occurred about noon, and only one of them, Thomas Martin, of Kingston Flats, Kilsyth, the contractor in charge, was able to escape.

The men who have lost their lives are: -
Robert Martin, 36, of Queenzieburn; James Martin, of Croy; Joseph Martin, 23 of Kirklands Crescent, Kilsyth; Edward O'Neill, Manse Road, Kilsyth; Joseph Campbell, fireman, of Kilsyth; Peter Byrne, 32, of Kingston Flats, Kilsyth ; Henry Hagen, of Manse Road, Kilsyth; Joseph Kelly junior, of Twechar; and Peter Walker, of Kilsyth.

Robert and James Martin were brothers of Thomas Martin, who escaped; Joseph Martin was his nephew.

Survivor's Efforts - About noon Thomas Martin noticed smoke in the haulage way where he was working and went to investigate. As he walked along the road he found the atmosphere becoming thicker, but he struggled through with great difficulty for about half a mile. When he reached clearer air he found that some pit props were burning. Martin made a desperate effort to get back and warn his companions, but could not retrace his steps because of the thick smoke. He then telephoned to the pithead, and rescue brigades and volunteer squads turned out. Martin, unwilling to leave his mates in danger, was anxious to accompany the volunteers, but with difficulty he was persuaded to go home as he was in no fit state to help in the rescue work. [Times 31 January 1938]

Nine Die in Stirlingshire Mine - Suffocated by Outbreak of Fire in Supporting Woodwork - One Man Crawls To Safety - Three Members of One Family Among the Dead
Nine men were suffocated in No. 1 pit of Dumbreck Colliery, Kilsyth, Stirlingshire  yesterday, as a result of an outbreak of fire. Only one member of a squad of ten brushers, Thomas Martin, the foreman, survived. He was apart from the main group, and when he saw a flash, went to make inquiries. He met his nephew, Joseph Martin, and together they struggled through smoke and fumes for about 400 yards to a main roadway. There Joseph Martin separated from his uncle, doubled on his tracks, and lost his life. Thomas Martin succeeded in reaching the pit bottom and giving the alarm. In addition to his nephew, his brothers Robert and James lost their lives. Harry Hagan, another victim, was a brother-in-law of the Martins.
The Victims
The dead men were:-
Joseph Kelly, aged 31. Armiston, Twechar;
Edward O'Neill, aged 23, Manse Road, Kilsyth;
James Martin, aged 42, Smithston Crescent, Croy; Robert Martin, aged 35, Queenzieburn, near Kilsyth; Joseph Martin, aged 22. Kirkland Crescent, Kilsyth; Harry Hagan, aged 35. Manse Road. Kilsyth;
Peter Walker, aged 45, Kirkland Crescent, Kilsyth;
Peter Byrne, aged 23, Kingston Flats, Kilsyth; and
Joseph Campbell, aged 56, Jarvie Crescent, Kilsyth.
Most of the men were married.

The mine where the fire occurred, owned by William Baird & Co. Ltd.. coal masters. Glasgow, is a well-known landmark off the main Glasgow-Stirling roadway. There are two pits and normally they give employment to about 300 men. The fire occurred in No. 1 Pit, where coking coal, which is regarded as the cleanest of fuel, is mined. The pit goes to a depth of over 1200 feet and where the accident occurred lies about a mile and a half from the pit bottom. Brushers attend to the road and roof and clear up generally after miners have taken out the coal. The men involved were employed by a contractor in preparing the section for the night shift miners. A blinding flash followed by dense fumes, which quickly permeated the roadway, provided the prelude to the disaster, the worst of its kind in Mid Scotland for a number of years. Thomas Martin was separated from his workmates, and after the flash he decided make for assistance. Within a few seconds the roadway was filled with blinding smoke, and he struggled in the direction of the main road way. His nephew joined him, and on hands and knees they crawled along the muddy roadway for a few hundred yards before reaching an intersection. The young man went off in the wrong direction, while his uncle groped his way to a clearer atmosphere, ultimately reaching the pit shaft in a state of collapse, he told the pit officials what had happened, and within a short time issue squads were being organised.

Summons To Rescuers - The two electricians who received the telephone message from Martin were James Wilson and William Patrick. They were working near the shaft bottom, and on receipt of the message they ran in the direction of the fire.

News of the disaster quickly spread throughout the district, and many miners volunteered for rescue work. The rescue brigades at Coatbridge were summoned, and in view of the dangerous nature of their task, the name and number of each rescue worker were taken as he went down the nine. Gas masks and oxygen apparatus were provided, and local doctors were summoned to be in readiness. Police from the surrounding districts hurried to the pithead to render assistance. By five o'clock hundreds of people were in the vicinity, anxiously awaiting news of the happenings underground. There were many touching scenes as women relatives of the men involved, overcome with anxiety, broke down.

The suspense became more acute when it was learned that the progress of the rescue brigades had been impeded by a heavy fall of stone and that blasting was necessary to clear the roadway. Shortly after eight o'clock the worst fears of the onlookers were realised, when the first of the bodies was conveyed from the pithead to one of the sheds A hush fell over the crowd. Women wept. Little information, however, could be obtained, and it was fully an hour later before it was learned that all the entombed men had lost their lives through suffocation.

The trapped men had apparently made a brave bid for life, attempting to dash through the flame-scorched roadway.

Survivor's Account - Thomas Martin, who received attention at the pithead, was in so distressed a condition that he could give only a vague account of what had happened. He said he had the first indication that something was amiss when he saw smoke coming from the pit props. He rushed to a telephone, told the firemen that he feared fire had broken out, and then went back to see if he could warn the other men. He took an hour to get along the mile and a half of roadway to the shaft, and was overcome four times by the smoke. He held his breath when passing the smoking timbers in an effort to conserve his energy.

Task of the Rescue Squads - Representatives of The Scotsmen who arrived at the pit in the late afternoon gained some idea of the task which lay ahead of the rescue squads. Attired in special steel helmets and wearing respirators, the rescuers descended the shaft in batches, and took with them chemical extinguishers and sand. When they arrived at the pit bottom, they found the air was bad, and had to use their masks. Walking slowly along the main roadway, they had extreme difficulty in picking their way through the smoke which resembled a white mist. Their work was further hampered by a fall from the roof, and it was found necessary to blast the rock away in order to clear a passage. The fire which raged in the affected area, known as the north section of the coking coal, No. 1 Pit, made progress impassible, and, working in relays, the men passed bags of sand along to each other, and then threw the sand on top of the burning props in an effort to smother the smouldering woodwork.

The chemical extinguishers were brought into use, and a continuous supply of sand and refilled extinguishers were sent from the pithead.

After working for several hours in the pit. the rescuers, who were under the charge of instructors, returned to the surface, while others took their places. Realising the impossibility of cutting through the fire in time to rescue their trapped comrades, the squads worked round the affected area, confining the outbreak to a restricted portion of the workings.

When the rescuers stated that the coal did not catch fire, the smell being that of burning wood. The first body found was only a few yards from fresh air and safety.

Died Near Clear Air - Another stated:- “We found the first body at 8.15 p.m., and the other shortly afterwards All the men were dead, having been suffocated. Most of the bodies were found within 200 yards of clear air, and they had evidently tried to dash through the fire, instead of attempting to make a detour round the blazing pit-props. The fire was confined mainly to the pit-props , and the wood with which the brushers make up the roadway, the roof, and walls. This wood had all burned out, and fallen down on the roadway. When we found the bodies there was just a light fog in the vicinity."

The bodies of the victims were removed from the mine early this morning. When the first call for rescue workers was made, there were more volunteers than could be employed. The rescue gear included piping, which was led down the shaft to enable water to be conducted along the haulage road. Electric fans were also brought into use to clear the smoke from the affected area. As they worked at high pressure they threw up a tall pillar of smoke from the ventilator shaft. The rescue parties were also hampered by the extreme heat near the heart of the fire.

Among the officials who were early on the scene were Mr William M'Alpine, Messrs William Baird & Company's agent; Captain Buchanan, the local general manager, who descended the pit; along with Mr Stoker and Mr Hoyle, H.M. Inspectors of Mines.

A drawer in the pit,  Robert White, said he was working by the shaft when the alarm was raised. Along with others he went to the surface, but later descended the shaft to assist in the rescue work. "When we got to the scene of the accident , the pit props were blazing, and it was impossible to do anything. The fire was about nine feet high by about twelve feel across, and the haulage road was completely blocked." He did not think that the trapped men could have much space to retreat from the smoke, and added that they were probably suffocated within a comparatively short time.

There were distressing scenes at the surface, although the menfolk waiting at the pithead to identify relatives stoically hid their feelings. A railway embankment which runs alongside the pit was thronged with spectators, while doctors and ambulance waggons stood by. Special police were drafted to the scene to keep back spectators from the surface workings. Union officials were also in attendance, while the Lanarkshire Coalmasters' Association sent out their ambulance and rescue equipment car to the scene. In the evening, while the relatives of the victims stood at the pithead, a shower of sleet and snow, and intermittent falls of heavy rain, made conditions most unpleasant.

Father of Five Children - By the death of Robert Martin, a widow and five young children have been left. One of the children, a neighbour stated, was recently severely burned, while Mrs Martin, who had been in Stirling Infirmary, had to use crutches for over two years as the result of an accident.

Mrs Martin, mother of Joseph Martin, was in a state of collapse, and was led away from the pithead by sympathisers. By the death of her son she has now lost three members of her family in pit accidents, her husband and another son having also died in the pits.

Sam Hagen calling at the pit on learning that there had been a disaster, was informed that his brother was one of the entombed men. " Harry," he said to a reporter, "was married and had a family of three. I work in another pit, and this month has been one of ill-fortune for our family. At the beginning of the year my little girl was taken suddenly ill and died. I looked upon that as an ill omen for the New Year, and now before the end of the month I have lost my brother." [Scotsman 31 January 1938]

Pit Disaster - Cause of Fire "Definitely Unknown" - Family of Eight Orphans - Collieries in the Kilsyth, Croy, and Twechar areas were idle yesterday as a mark of respect for the nine men who were suffocated in Dumbreck No. 1 Pit, Kilsyth , on Sunday, by an outbreak of fire. The burgh flag was flown at half-mast at Kilsyth Town Council Chambers. Men occupied with the rescue operations remained in the underground workings during the forenoon, a slight sign of recurrence of the outbreak having shown itself early in the morning. This was promptly dealt with, and the men remained merely as a precautionary measure.

While deep sympathy is felt for all the bereaved it is specially strong for the widow of Peter Walker, who is left with a young family of eight; the widow of Robert Martin, who has five young children; and Mrs Joseph Kelly, jun., who has a child of 15 months. Walker had not been long in Kilsyth, having gone from the Wishaw district of Lanarkshire quite recently.

Funeral Arrangements - Seven of the nine victims were Roman Catholics, and arrangements are being made for the bodies being taken to St Patrick's Church, Kilsyth, to-day, where a special service will be held before interment in a common grave in Kilsyth Cemetery tomorrow. The disaster is the worst in the Kilsyth district since the Barrwood explosion of March 8, 1878, in which 17 lives were lost. An official statement issued yesterday from the Twechar headquarters of the owners of the mine, Messrs William Baird & Co., said that the cause of the fire was so far definitely unknown. Captain William Buchanan, head of the firm in the area, remained in the mine from early on Sunday afternoon till six o'clock yesterday morning. [Scotsman 1 February 1938]

cottish Pit Disaster - Funeral of Victims at Kilsyth - The nine victims of the Dumbreck Colliery disaster were buried in Kilsyth Cemetery yesterday. Almost all the public works and places of business were closed for the afternoon. The coffins of the seven Roman Catholic victims were carried from St Patrick 's Church to the graveside by miners and relatives, and were interred in one grave. Several thousand people lined the funeral route. The funeral of the two Protestant victims, James Kelly, of Twechar, and Peter Walker, of Kilsyth, took place from their homes. A service which was held in St Patrick's Church was presided over by the Rev. Father Harold, who descended the pit on Sunday evening, and administered the last rites. The funeral procession of the Roman Catholic victims was preceded by Croy Band. The mourners included relatives, Magistrates, and other members of the Town Council of Kilsyth miners' Union representatives, and mining officials. [Scotsman 3 February 1938]

Kilsyth Colliery Disaster Relief Fund - Donations received towards the Dumbreck Pit (Kilsyth) Disaster Fund now amount to £699 13s 5d. These include one of £500 from William Baird & Co., Ltd., 168 Wast George Street, Glasgow (the owners of the pit), one of £75 from Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bt., and one of £10 from the Most Rev. A. J, M'Donald, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. [Scotsman 10 February 1938]

The fund for the relief of the dependants of the men who lost their lives in the Dumbreck (Kilsyth) pit disaster now amounts to £768 3s. [Scotsman 14 February 1938]

£500 Donation to Dumbreck Pit Disaster Fund - The trustees of the Redding Pit Disaster Fund, Falkirk, have given a donation of £500 towards the fund for the relief of sufferers through the Dumbreck Pit disaster, Kilsyth. The Kilsyth fund now amounts to £1387. [Scotsman 16 February 1938]

Disaster Fund - Contributions to the Dumbreck Pit Disaster Fund at Kilsyth now amount to the sum of £1519 5s 3d. A donation of 50 guineas has been given by Imperial Chemical Industries and £50 by the Kilsyth Co-operative Society. Ltd. [Scotsman 21 February 1938]

Kilsyth Pit Disaster Inquiry - Survivor Alleges Dangerous Condition of Airway - Allegations to the effect that an airway in the pit was ill-constructed, not properly brushed, and dangerous, were made at a fatal accidents inquiry at Stirling yesterday by the sole survivor of the disaster which occurred in Kelly's section of No. 1 pit, Dumbreck Colliery, Kilsyth, on Sunday, January 30. Nine men lost their lives as a result of an outbreak of fire in the pit, and the inquiry was into the cause of their death.

The men who lost their lives were Edward O'Neill, brusher, 39 Manse Road, Kilsyth; Peter Walker, brusher, 42 Kirklands Crescent , Kilsyth; Robert Martin, brusher, 35 Queenzieburn Rows. Queenzieburn, Kilsyth; James Martin, brusher, 9 Smithstone Crescent, Croy, Dumbartonshire; Joseph Campbell , fireman, 64 Jarvie Crescent, Kilsyth; Joseph Martin, brusher, 19 Kirklands Crescent, Kilsyth; Henry Hagan, brusher, 35 Manse Road. Kilsyth; Joseph Mervin Kelly, brusher, 37 Annieston, Twechar, Dumbartonshire ; and Peter Byrne, brusher, 42 Kingston Flats Kilsyth.

Mr C. C. Cheyne, Procurator-Fiscal, is in charge of the inquiry for the Crown. The Miners' Union and the dependants of eight of the men are represented by Mr Tom Cassells, M.P. for Dumbartonshire, with Mr Joseph Barrie, solicitor, Glasgow, appearing for the relatives of Robert Martin. Messrs William Baird & Co.. owners of the colliery, are represented by Mr W. A. D. M'Intyre, solicitor Glasgow. Mr T. Ashley, H.M. Divisional Inspector for Scotland; Mr Arthur Stoker Senior Inspector of Mines for the West of Scotland; and Mr J. A. B. Horsley, Chief Electrical Inspector of Mines, London, represent the Mines Department. Also in attendance are Mr Andrew Clarke, president, and Mr James Barbour, vice-president, on behalf of the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers.

Evidence By Survivor - Thomas Martin, aged 46, brushing contractor, 42 Kingston Flats, Kilsyth, the sole survivor, who was over two hours in the witness-box, said he was a brushing contractor and had eight men in his employment. Joseph Campbell was the fireman in Kelly's Section, where they were employed. They were all at work until ten o'clock, when they sat down together to have their piece. At that time there was a haze of reek. He had no idea where it was coming from, but Joe Kelly went down the brae to inquire and found nothing wrong.
"About half-past eleven the reek began to rise again," said Martin. "We worked away, as we thought it would die away. I then said to the fireman that there was something far wrong, and that I would have to go and see what it was. When I got to the foot of the main haulage road, the reek was so heavy that it beat me, but I travelled on and was down four times before I reached the trap doors. 1 went through the trap doors right to the bottom, but nobody was there."

He telephoned to the surface for assistance, and then went into the Auchenvole new mine, where he found two engineers, and told them to cut the current. They then travelled up to the fire and found that for thirty yards, there was a solid mass of fire from roadside to roadside. They threw three bags of stone dust on the flames, but it was useless.

"No Consideration For Men" - “I said, 'What about these men?' but, my Lord, there was no consideration for the men at all. It was the fire that was considered. They seemed to have no thought about the men. The fire was the whole point."

Martin, in reply to Mr Cassells, said he had instructions from the fireman not to walk in Kelly's Road. It was a general prohibition for every day.

Is it a fact, to put it bluntly, that Kelly's Road airway was not properly brushed and was ill-constructed?- Yes.
Sheriff J. Dean Leslie - And dangerous? -Yes my Lord.
Mr Cassells - Isn't it a fact that for a considerable distance in Kelly's airway there was a point where you had actually to crawl through if you wanted to get through? - Yes.
And isn't it a fact that the roofing conditions in this particular area were shocking? - Deplorable.
Witness added that if there had been a proper intake supply of air on the left hand side the men would have got the smoke earlier. If the road had been in proper repair the men would have won to safety.
Mr Cassells - Do you consider that there were any reasonable steps taken at all in this colliery on this date to deal with a fire emergency with regard to having stone dust pails and fire appliances? - Very scarce, sir.
When did the rescue squad arrive? - About two o'clock.
Did the rescue squad understand what they had to do? - They were waiting on the captain of the team coming with a plan.
Even as late as two o'clock the rescue squad had no proper instructions? - As far as I saw.
When you saw them at two o'clock that day they seemed like an army without a general? - It seemed like that, but I don't know what they were told.
Questioned by Mr M'Intyre on behalf of the Company, regarding- complaints about ventilation, witness declared, "The fireman was fed up complaining about the air in Kelly' s section."
William Reid Patrick, aged 33, 71 Low Craigends, Kilsyth, chief electrical engineer at the colliery, was cross-examined by Mr Cassels and His Majesty's Inspector of Mines rewarding the electrical system.

Fusion In The Cable - In reply to the Mines Inspector, he said it was not usual to leave the current on in the cable on a Sunday. It was usually shut off about midday on Saturday. Previous to Martin meeting him and telling him about the smoke, he had no idea that there was any current in the cable at the side haulage road where the fire occurred. As a safeguard he pulled out a switch. The fire was on the right-hand side of the road, where the cable was situated.
In answer to Mr Horsley, witness said he did not observe any evidence of electrical fusion in the junction box. There was nothing to see in the box, as the contents were practically burned out. There was, however, evidence of fusion in the cable attached to the box, and he thought that was sufficient to account for the fire.
Witness said "That is a lie," when Mr Cassells suggested that it was a fact that there had been complaints at the colliery of the breaker at the switch-box coming out so often that he (Patrick) jammed the breaker to try to keep it in.
Will you agree that the system of signalling immediately the breaker came out is not just as satisfactory as it might be? - I don't know any other system more satisfactory.
The Sheriff - Was there a defect in the Installation that morning? - There must have been.
Mr Cassells - Do you consider that, so far as your inspection was concerned, you were doing your duty to your masters and to the men working underground? - I do.

No Pit Bottomer on Duty - "If the current was put on on the Sunday, it was put on by someone unknown to me," said William White, shaftsman, Kingston Road, Kilsyth. White, who said that he was pretty conversant with the underground conditions, admitted that on the day of the disaster there was no pit bottomer on duty. He was led to believe that the pit bottomers had slept in.
Mr Cassells - I put it to you that it was a dangerous thing to permit of working below ground, even on a Sunday, without a pit bottomer? - I have nothing to do with it.
Would you agree that it isn't a desirable thing?
Mr M'Intyre - I object. It is not a proper question.
The Sheriff - There is no harm in it.
Mr Cassells - Let me put it this way, that in the interests of better and safer working in the colliery, would you agree you should always have a pit bottomer on duty below ground when you have men work?
Witness - You should.
The Sheriff - You wouldn't have a drynurse, too? (Laughter.)
The inquiry was adjourned until today. [Scotsman 26 March 1938]

Formal Verdict At Kilsyth Pit Disaster Inquiry - Denial That Fire-Fight Was Planned Before Rescue Work - A denial that fighting the fire was the first object, and that no consideration was given to the rescue of the men, was given by William M'Alpine (57), Ingleside, Kilsyth, agent for Dumbreck Colliery, when he gave evidence at the resumed inquiry at Stirling on Saturday to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the deaths of nine men who lost their lives as a result of a fire in Kelly's Section of No. 1 Pit, Dumbreck Colliery, Kilsyth, on January 30. The jury returned a formal verdict.
Both the manager and the advising electrician to Messrs William Baird & Co., admitted that the fire was caused by the bursting of an electrical cable. The agent who was examined by Mr Arthur Stoker, Senior Inspector of Mines for West of Scotland for the Procurator-Fiscal told the Court that he went down No. 1 Pit, but on going into the return airway, he could not see for smoke. He put men on to the fire,and then went up to Paterson's mine,but turned back as he felt very giddy. There was an ample supply of extinguishers, stone-dust, and other material for fighting the fire.
Mr Stoker-Was there any hope of getting through the main return way to the rescue of those imprisoned men? - There was no hope.
It has been said in this Court that fighting the fire was the first object, and no consideration whatever was given to the rescuing of those men. Do you agree? - That is ridiculous. I risked my own life to try and get to these men.
It is quite true that all the time considerable effort was given to fighting the fire? - Yes, we had to do that. We had to fight the fire to get to the men.
Did the efforts to put out the fire in any way interfere with any other effort that was being made to reach the men? - No, they didn't interfere.
Anything that stopped the rescue brigades from getting to those men was the smoke? - Yes.
Witness discounted a suggestion that matches had caused the fire. He had formed the idea that the fire was caused by the fusing of an electrical cable. He thought a fall of stone was sufficient to break down the cable from the hanging points. Mr Tom Cassells, M.P. representing the Miners' Union and the relatives of eight of the dead men, before cross-examining witness, said he accepted entirely what M'Alpine had said as to the effort that was made to get the men out as quickly as possible. In reply to Mr Cassells witness admitted that so far as the air current was concerned somebody had erred.
Manager's Evidence - Alexander Fleming (54), Kelvinbank, Kilsyth, manager of the colliery, in answer to Mr Stoker, said that no instructions had ever been given by him that the men in Kelly's section were not to travel by the airway.
Can you tell us when you were through Kelly's return before the accident? - About ten days before.
Could you travel it with ease, and without getting on your hands and knees? - Yes.
On the day of the accident could those men, who are now dead, have travelled out that way with ease? - Yes.
Mr Cassells - I put it to you, there is a distance of at least 30 to 50 yards in Kelly's return where it is a physical impossibility to walk, and that you have to crawl on your hands and knees to get through? - I disagree.
If evidence is adduced to that effect, the evidence is entirely untrue? - I disagree, any way.
Do you consider the condition in which you found Kelly's return air-way two days after the accident would afford ready means of ingress to and egress from the workings? - Yes

Rescue Operations - George M'Laughlan (34), Ella Street, Coatbridge , a member of No. 2 rescue team from Coatbridge, said that a little past eight o'clock they went into the return air and reached the place where they eventually found the men. Eight were found lying in Waddell's road, and one at the side haulage way. Witness, in reply to Mr Cassells, said that in the first instance he received instructions from his instructor to go by Kelly's section. He was fifty yards inside Kelly's return when he turned back localise of the time-limit . He did not return because of the condition of the place.
Is it not a fact that you found that the condition inside Kelly's return was very bad in this respect, that the roof was very low? - No, it wasn't exceptionally bad at that length.
Had you to go down on your hands and knees? - Yes.
Had you to go down on your hands and knees in Waddell's road? - No.
William Buchanan, general manager of Wm. Baird & Company, told the Court of the arrangements made for the attempted rescue of the men. They were confidently of the opinion, he said, that the men had blocked themselves off and had short circuited the air either in Waddell's road or somewhere else so that they would not get the effect of the smoke. It was up to the rescue party to explore in every possible direction for the men.
Mr Cassells - What justification had you for arriving-at the conclusion that those men had secluded themselves in the manner in which you have indicated? - There was no justification; it was a hope.
I put it to you quite frankly that the reason why the first rescue squad were directed or instructed to go down Waddell's road was because you knew that the men would not use Kelly's return either because there was a prohibition or else it was in such a condition as to be unsafe for travelling on? - I emphatically dissent from that view.
At the conclusion of the evidence, Mr Cassells said he thought the Court ought to have had the opportunity of hearing an opinion from the Mines Department with regard to this particular colliery.
The Sheriff - Do you mean a witness from the Mines Department?
Mr Cassells - The reason why I raised this question is simply because I raised this question elsewhere, and I was informed this was to be a most thorough investigation. It means that unless this investigation is more thorough than it has been up to the present time it may eventuate that a Government public inquiry may be necessary. I was hoping that possibility need not arise. We should be fully informed of all the circumstances , but evidently that is not to be the case.

Addresses To Jury - Mr Cassells, addressing the jury, raised the question of the deficiency of ventilation, and declared that if there had been a proper system of ventilation there would have been a clear and uninterrupted air-flow right throughout the section, and that the men would have been informed that a fire was taking place long before they did. The men would have used Kelly's return if it had been in a satisfactory condition, but he contended that Kelly's return airway was in a shockingly deplorable condition. He asked the jury to completely condemn the condition of the particular air return on the morning of the accident. Dealing with the electrical system at the colliery, Mr Cassells said he was not prepared to accept it that a single flash caused the disaster. There must have been, at least for some definite period of time, flashing from the cable taking place. He pointed out that the purpose of the legislation was to make sure that when dealing with a dangerous quantity like electricity the management must see to it that if they had the slightest suspicion of anything being wrong, the colliery should be immediately stopped. He considered that the lives of men were of far more value than the working of any colliery, and he contended that it was the duty of the jury to bring in recommendations.

Mr W. A. D. M'Intyre, solicitor, Glasgow, on behalf of the owners, expressed publicly their very deep regret at the occurrence, and their deepest sympathy with the relatives of the men who had lost their lives. The origin of the fire, he said, was a very simple one, but it had been clouded with a great deal of technicalities and a lot of irrelevant matter. The cause of the fire was simply that there was a fall from the roof which struck the cable, thus causing a fault. He submitted that the air was adequate, and that the way out was perfect and in order. There could be no suggestion that the regulations had not been carried out at the pit. The jury, on the suggestion of Sheriff J. Dean Leslie, returned a formal verdict to the effect that, as a result of a fire, the men were so severely injured that they died of asphyxia, caused by the inhalation of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in the pit. [Scotsman 28 March 1938]

Inquiry Into Scottish Pit Disaster - Stirling March 27 - When the public inquiry into the fire at Dumbreck Colliery, Kilsyth, on January 30, as the result of which nine men lost their lives, was continued at Stirling yesterday a denial was given to a statement made at the previous day's hearing by Thomas Martin, who was the sole survivor of the trapped party.

Questioning William McAlpine, the colliery agent, Mr. A. Stoker, senior Inspector of Mines for the West of Scotland, said it had been declared that fighting the fire was the first object and no consideration was given to the rescue of the men. McAlpine replied that with another man he tried to get along the main return way to reach a point beyond the fire. Both of them were forced to go back as the smoke was beating them, and the visibility was so bad that no one could penetrate, even with apparatus. He risked his life trying to get to the men.

Summing-up Sheriff J. Dean Leslie said he was sure that no parties appearing there could go away thinking that there had been anything really serious which had not been thoroughly investigated.

The jury, without retiring, returned a verdict that the nine men died of asphyxia due to the inhalation of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. [Times 28 March 1938]