Home Farm 23rd January 1877

Report by Ralph Moore, Inspector of mines, 16th February 1877

Home Farm colliery has been worked for the last 10 years; the lessees are Messrs Hamilton, McCulloch and Co and the lessor is the Duke of Hamilton. About 6 o'clock on the morning of Tuesday 23rd January last, when upwards of 60 men had descended the mine for the day, there was a sudden rush of water, sand and mud from the Ell coal workings to the two shafts which are within 40 feet of each other. Fortunately for about quarter of an hour it ran down only one of the shafts and all the men except 4 escaped by the other to the surface. The stream then flowed down the shafts for 10 hours until by calculations subsequently made all the hollows in the mine were filled and it seemed hopeless to expect that the four men who were in the workings could be alive. Attempts were made however to reach them by clearing away sand out of the Ell coal, but after 2 days it was abandoned.

The colliery works 3 seams, the Ell, Main and Splint at 47, 59 and 72 fathoms respectively. It appears that 8 days before the final inundation a fall of roof had taken place in the extreme rise workings of the Ell coal where that seam was known to be within 108 feet of the surface; this fall of roof allowed the water from the sand and gravel above the seam to run down into the Ell coal and through the shaft to the seam below known as the splint coal. It appears that the pumps were unable to keep the water under, and the men in the seam were laid idle; the workings in the middle or Main coal were never interrupted. I had not heard anything of the occurrence until a telegram on the morning of the 23rd, and I was there that day.

It appears that the managing partner of the colliery called in Mr McCreath, the Duke's Mineral adviser, and he descended the mine and examined the place. Mr McCreath is a mining engineer of high standing in Scotland and I have no doubt advised what in his opinion the circumstances seemed to require, and his suggestions were being carried out up to the morning of the final inundation, which was wholly unexpected.

The Procurator Fiscal, on behalf of the Lord Advocate, in accordance with Scotch Law, is making an independent inquiry into the circumstances.

Names of Dead

  • John McNeil collier 39 (age given as 36 on death certificate)
  • David Hinds, collier, 34 (death not registered until November 1878)
  • Jno. McGregory, collier, 51 (age given as 50 on death certificate)
  • Jno. McAllister, collier, 50

Newspaper Reports

An extraordinary mining accident occurred yesterday through the flooding of a pit, at Hamilton, near Glasgow, by which 4 men were drowned. The pit, which is owned by Messrs Hamilton, McCulloch & Co, is leased from the Duke of Hamilton, and is known as the Home Farm pit. It has been worked since 1864, has 2 shafts, and three seams of coal are worked - the ell, the main and the splint - each being several fathoms below the other. It has hitherto been a safe pit, but a few days ago there was a fall of roof in one of the workings and water began to collect. Every effort was made by propping up the roof to prevent any further damage, and it was thought that all apprehension of danger had been removed. On Monday night several men were engaged in furthering this form of precaution, and all, with one exception, left about 6 o'clock yesterday morning. About half past 6 o'clock other three men went down the pit and proceeded, it is believed, in the direction of the solitary worker. In a short time between 50 and 60 others followed, but while they were proceeding to their several facings, a great crash was heard, followed immediately by the noise of rushing waters, which came on with such impetuosity that some of the men were lifted off their feet and on of them had an arm broken. They succeeded, however, in reaching the bottom of the shaft, and were quickly brought to the surface. Before they quitted underground the water gad reached a depth of three feet or four feet. The crash thus referred to was the falling of the roof, which is of rock, and the four men in the more remote part of the pit being thereby cut off from all communication with the shaft, their fate is only too certain. Some 15 ponies also perished. The accident, with its attendant flooding, has had an extraordinary effect on the surface. A subsidence of something like 100ft having occurred over an area of about a mile, it is estimated that something like 400,000 cubic yards of sand, gravel, &c, have thus disappeared into the pit. The names of the deceased are John M'Neil, 39, who has left a widow and two of a family; David Hynds, 34, leaving a wife and six of a family; John M'Allister, 50, a wife and two of a family; and John Toll (or Gregory), 51, a wife and two of a family. [The Times 24 January 1877]

FLOODING OF A HAMILTON COLLIERY - LOSS OF FOUR LIVES - Between six and seven o'clock on Tuesday morning a fearful catastrophe took place in the workings of the Home Farm Colliery. At the time in question some 60 or 70 men went down into the pit but a short time before that four men had proceeded to their work. As some of the second party were going along the passages in the mine, they noticed that the air current was coming in an opposite direction to what it should do. Almost immediately afterwards they heard the sound of rushing water, when all proceeded to the pit bottom, where they signalled to the engine-keeper to be taken up. This seems to have been done with great promptitude. No time was given to the four unfortunate men who were at work in the mine to join their fellow-workmen, as the rush of water was very sudden, and before the last man could get into the cage the water was up to his knees at the pit bottom. William Simpson, the fireman, had a narrow escape. He was amongst the last to reach the bottom, being overtaken by the mud and water and knocked down, but rescued by two of his comrades dragging him out. He got one of his arms broken, and there was a report that some others also received trifling injuries.

The spot where the water rushed in is some 350 yards from the pit mouth, and within 40 or 50 yards of the river Clyde.

An exploring party on Wednesday descended the Home Farm Colliery and found the two lower seams filled with water, but from the state of the ell or upper workings, some hope is entertained that the four men left in the pit are still alive, and efforts are being made to reach the spot where it is imagined they may be imprisoned. The water has ceased to flow into the pit from the river. The ground which has subsided extends to eight acres, and the hollow is filled with water to the depth of 40 feet. [Falkirk Herald 27 January 1877]

Home Farm Colliery Inundation - Three Bodies Recovered - As our readers are aware, fully twelve months ago operations were commenced at Home Farm Colliery, under the management of Mr Wm. Kirkwood, with the view of clearing the water out of the chasm caused by the disastrous inundation of January 1877, and ultimately resuming the working of the coal. The chasm has been pumped dry, and for months past men have been engaged clearing out the silted-up underground workings. Something like excitement was infused into their task on Sunday morning. About seven o'clock in the long level, 400 fathoms from the pit bottom, they came upon the remains of two of the four men who lost their lives by the inundation. The dead bodies were lying 20 yards apart, and by the clothing upon them were identified as those of David Hynds and John Gregory. ON Monday morning, a third body - supposed to be that of John M'Neil - was come upon at a point a considerable distance nearer the working face. The body of the fourth victim of the catastrophe, whose name was M'Allister, it is expected will soon be reached. On Wednesday the remains of the three men found were buried in Larkhall Cemetery. [Hamilton Advertiser 2 November 1878]

DISCOVERY OF THE BODIES OF IMPRISONED MINERS AT HAMILTON. Nearly two years ago the Home Farm Colliery near Hamilton was flooded and four miners were entombed. All efforts to reach the poor men were utterly futile, and indeed it was believed that their bodies would never be recovered. But for some time strenuous efforts have been made to clear the pit of the water with the view, if possible, of resuming the working. It was believed that all the open spaces in the workings were silted up with sand ; but it was discovered that there were some spaces entirely clear. The bodies of the men were at length found, and there is the clearest evidence that the men had been alive for some time - how long it is needless to speculate. Their stomachs, it is said, were when examined found to be entirely empty, suggestive of the long lingering pains of starvation being added to the other horrors of their situation. On the other hand a piece napkin was found containing an intended breakfast apparently unbroken, and a tea-flask with its contents intact. In one place - that of the man who is supposed to be amissing - the clothes were found hanging, and there is evidence that he must have begun the labour of the day. The hutch in his place, which was not filled in the morning when the fireman passed, is full now, and there is the appearance of other work having been done, and a pick lying as if hastily cast aside. At a short distance from this man's place there is the opening through which the main current of the water must have rushed. If seeking safety he sought to cross that current, imagination fails to suggest where he may now be. There is also the clearest evidence that the men were not helplessly despairing - not stunned into stupid inaction. It was soon discovered that several brick erections, put up for the purpose of conducting air, had openings in them which human hands must have made. A prop was found, four feet long or so, frayed and crushed at the ends, showing clearly that it had been used as a ram for the purpose of forcing out the bricks. One can easily conceive that towards the end this labour must have been done frantically and without hope; for none of the openings made disclosed the slightest chance of escape. The hand thrust through would always convey the tidings that egress by that way was impossible. It appears, too, the labour must have been done in the dark, for hitherto none of their lamps have been found, and an oil-flask which has been discovered tells us that in one case at least little or no oil had been consumed. Nor can it be said that they ever considered their position entirely hopeless. When found they were near enough to be within crying distance. One would think that at the last they would have lain down together and consoled each other as they best might. Perhaps they did so. Perhaps it was only at the very end they separated, using the last thrill of energy to discover each for himself a way out. Of their cries, sayings, or feelings there is no record. It is said there is writing scratched with a pin on a tea flask, but it has not yet been deciphered. It is not likely it will add much to the facts that are already known. Such is the last of the sad story. It is some consolation to think that those whom experience and skill in such matters had made wise thought at the time, and for ought that yet appears will still think, that to have saved the men alive was not possible. [Fife Herald 7 November 1878]