Fife Accidents 1901 to 1914
This section contains newspaper reports on selected accidents in miscellaneous areas of Fife from 1901 to 1914 inclusive. Please check the indexes in the Accidents Section for reports by the Inspector of Mines and accidents in other areas.
4 December 1901
FATAL FIFE PIT ACCIDENT. - This morning an accident occurred at Pannie Coal Pit, Kirkcaldy, whereby William Reynolds, miner, residing at Rosslyn Street, lost his life. It appears that deceased, along with another miner, had been working an underground windlass, when something caught the hutches which were being drawn up, and the men lost control of the windlass, one of the handles of which struck Reynolds on the head, inflicting injuries from which he died before medical aid arrived. [Evening Telegraph 4 December 1901]
8 March 1902
Accident At Blairhall - On Saturday, Joseph Sharp jun., Newtoun, Kincardine, was injured in one of the pits at Blairhall Colliery, near Oakley, by an explosion of fire-damp. Sharp was burned about the face, neck and hands. He was conveyed home and attended by Dr Sinclair, Culross. [Dunfermline Journal 15 March 1902]
31 March 1902
James Young, 49 a miner residing in Thistle St Cowdenbeath, died late on Monday night in Dunfermline Cottage Hospital from the effects of injures sustained in the Lochhead Pit belonging to the Lochgelly Iron & Coal Co on the afternoon of Monday. Deceased was engaged at the coal face, when a large quantity of stone fell upon him. [Herald April 2 1902]
24 September, 1902
Fatality In A Fife Pit - Thomas Reekie (20), miner, Oakley Rows, Carnock, Fife, was fatally injured in the Oakley Colliery Company's No. 2 pit, Kinneddar, on Wednesday night. While he was filling a hutch with coal at the face a large stone fell from the roof, and crushed him. The stone was so large that it had to be broken up and levered off before he could be extricated, and when he was found life was extinct. [Scotsman 26 September 1902]
2 October 1902
Fatal Accident in a Fife Colliery – This forenoon an accident occurred at the West of Fife Coal Company’s No 6 Pit, Townhill Colliery, by which William Simpson, a young man, was killed. Simpson had been braking a waggon, when he was knocked down by the brake, which sprang out of position, and he was run over. [Edinburgh Evening News 2 October 1902]
8 October 1903
Fife Miner Killed – A fatal accident took place to-day at Sunnybraes Colliery, Saline, worked by the West of Fife Coal Coy. While Samuel Ramage, miner, Longfaulds, Saline, was working at the coal face, a large fall from the roof took place, and he was killed on the spot. [Edinburgh Evening News 8 October 1903]
20 November 1903
Kirkcaldy Miner Killed – This morning a fatal accident took place at the Dunnikier Colliery, Kirkcaldy, belonging to Messrs Herd & Co. A race of hutches ran away on a wheel brae and Andrew Herd, pit drawer, 22 years of age, was caught by the hutches, and crushed against the wall, death being instantaneous. [Edinburgh Evening News 20 November 1903]
29 April 1904
Fife Pit Fatality - Patrick Curran, a young miner, was found dead yesterday in the West of Fife Coal Company's No. 7 pit Townhill Colliery. While Curran had been working in the five-feet seam, a stone weighing about three quarters of a ton had fallen upon him from the roof. [Scotsman 30 April 1904]
8 July 1904
Fife Pit Fatality - John Pearson, brusher, Kingseat, was found yesterday morning to have been killed in one of the pits at Fordell Colliery. A fall had taken place from the roof, and Pearson is supposed to have been suffocated. [Scotsman 9 July 1904]
24 December 1904
Lumphinnans Colliery Accident - Contractor Injured - William Arthur, contractor, residing at 140 Main Street, Lumphinnans, while following his employment in No. 11 Pit, Lumphinnans Colliery, this morning, a large stone fell from the roof, crushing him against a building which he was engaged at. Although none of his bones were broken his right side was so much injured that it was found necessary to remove him to Dunfermline Cottage Hospital. [Evening Telegraph 24 December 1904]
23 January 1905
Pit Fatality In Fife - A large fall of stone occurred in Michael Pit, East Wemyss, during the week, and while a squad of miners were engaged yesterday in clearing it away, a large stone weighing over three tons suddenly fell. John Mitchell, seventeen years of age, residing at Edington Place, Dysart, failed to get clear, and was crushed to death. [Scotsman 24 January 1905]
27 November 1905
Fatality In A Fife Pit. - Yesterday forenoon, William Cairns, Galloway's Buildings, Methil, was killed in the Rosie Pit, East Wemyss. Along with his son he was working at the face, when the coal burst out with terrible violence, and inflicted injuries from which Cairns died. His son had a miraculous escape. [Scotsman 28 November 1905]
2 March 1906
Another Fatal Accident In Wemyss Collieries - Yesterday morning another fatal accident was reported in Wemyss collieries - the third this week. The brushers in Rosie Pit Buckhaven, had finished their work and one of them, Robert Herd (60), was returning to the Pit bottom on a race of hutches, when, on an incline, the hutches upset and Herd was pinned against the wall, the heavy hutch killing him on the spot. Herd leaves a widow and grown-up family. [Scotsman 3 March 1906]
14 May 1907
Serious Boiler Explosion – Man Killed: Others Injured - Havoc was wrought yesterday afternoon at the West of Fife Coal Company's No. 6 pit, Townhill Colliery, through a boiler explosion. The few men who were at the time engaged at the pithead were almost paralysed, and some rendered temporarily unconscious. Two men, who were in charge of a cart loaded with pit props, were blown a distance of about a dozen yards along with the horse, whose skull was pierced. Beyond shock these men appeared to suffer little injury. The westmost portion of the boiler, which remained almost intact, flew in a westerly direction. In its course, which did not seem to be much impeded, it struck the base of the chimney stalk, a square structure standing from fifty to sixty feet high, and landed fully 100 yards further on. The stalk fell in various directions, and the bricks were shot long distances away. Two or more of them broke the windows of the winding engine-house, and John Bell, the engineman, received a violent blow on the right arm. Robert Tosh, a shunting engineman, was in the haulage engine-house when he heard the unusual noise, and on rushing out he was struck on the back of the head by a flying brick. William M’Lean, a labourer, who had been engaged in clearing the fireholes, had a marvellous escape, having temporarily left the boiler-house only a few seconds before the explosion occurred. Not long after the outburst it was discovered that George Henderson, the boiler fireman, was missing. An hour elapsed, however, before his body was recovered from among the rubbish on a short stair leading down to the boilers. About 200 men are thrown idle. [Scotsman 14 May 1907]
The Fife Fatal Boiler Explosion - The inquiry at the instance of the Board of Trade regarding the boiler explosion at No. 6 pit, Townhill Colliery, by which George Henderson, fireman, was killed, was resumed at Dunfermline yesterday. Robert M'Intosh, shunting engineman, testified that the float attached to the boiler was working properly. He had been in the boiler-house twenty minutes before the explosion occurred, and he then noticed that the glass water gauge was broken, but nothing was said by Henderson about it. He had been the fireman himself for twelve months before Henderson entered the company's employment, and he knew it was impossible that, as stated by James Whyte the previous day, the pressure could be 60 Ib. on one boiler and 45 Ib. on another, as all the four boilers were connected. On being recalled, William Dryburgh, the colliery manager, said that when Whyte was fireman he had to stand over him, as if with a drawn sword, to get him to raise the steam to 45 Ib. It was Whyte himself who put the additional weight on the safety valve, and he was spoken to about it after a visit by the boiler inspector. It was not true that Whyte said to witness that he was leaving the colliery because of the unsafe condition of the boilers. The following were the questions submitted to the Commissioners , with the answers returned:-
1(a) Was the boiler of sufficient strength to stand a working pressure of 45 Ib. per square inch? (b) Was that pressure ever exceeded ?—Yes. There is no proof that the pressure of 45 Ib. was ever exceeded.
2. Was it properly fitted with safety valve, feed pipe, water gauge, and float, and were all in good order and in safe working condition?—The boiler was properly fitted with all fittings mentioned except a glass water gauge, which was broken.
3. Were the boiler and fittings examined and tested at sufficiently frequent intervals and by competent persons?—Yes.
4. Was the engineman justified in neglecting to fit a new gauge glass on the day of the explosion or to report to the manager?—No. A glass water gauge should have been fitted certainly not later than 10 A.M. on Monday.
5. Waa the manager justified in allowing the furnacemen to work continuously from 6 A.M. on 12th May to 4.50 P.M. on 15th May?—No. We desire to add this, that we have some sympathy with Mr Dryburgh in the difficult position in which he was placed by the sudden desertion of his service by Whyte. But we think he ought not to have permitted Henderson, however anxious and willing this man was to work three shifts on end. In our opinion, Henderson who, under ordinary circumstances was a careful and reliable workman, was overwrought and exhausted, and in consequence failed to pay sufficiently close attention to the water float.
6. What .was the. cause of the explosion ?—Overheating , from shortness of water.
In reply to Mr Scott, as to the question of the expenses of the inquiry, tho Chairman said they had concluded that the engineman, John Bell, should pay £5, and that the manager Mr Dryburgh , as representing the company, should pay £55 towards tho expenses. What they meant by that was that the £55 should not come out of Mr Dryburgh's own pocket. [Scotsman 3 July 1907]
24 July 1907
Mining Fatality At Wemyss - George M'Gillvary (45) was early yesterday killed in the Michael Pit shaft. He had been repairing the steam pipe, and was returning to the top. He had given the signal to the engineman, and was entering the cage when it rose. He was caught between the doorhead and the cage, and received injuries which proved fatal within an hour. [Scotsman 25 July 1907]
12 August 1907
Miner Killed - Yesterday forenoon Andrew Brown, Methil Brae, was fatally injured in Pirnie Pit, Methilhill. He was assisting with some props, when a fall of rubbish struck him. He did not long survive after being extricated. He was about eighteen years of age. [Scotsman 13 August 1907]
29 August 1907
Fatal Mining Accident - Yesterday, John Penman, residing at Union Street, Kirkcaldy, while working in Dubbie coal pit, near Dysart, was killed by a fall of coal from the face. He leaves a widow and nine children. [Scotsman 30 August 1907]
26 August 1908
Steelend – Sudden Death In A Pit – John Black, a miner, aged 36 years, and residing at Lethans Cottages, died suddenly on Wednesday while at work in the low bottom seam of the Lethans Colliery. The cause of death was believed to have been due to heart failure. [Dunfermline Journal 29 August 1908]
7 December 1910
Gallantry of Fife Miners - In Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court Sheriff Armour Hannay conducted public inquiries into five fatal accidents. In regard to the death of Thomas Thomson, miner, Kirkcaldy the evidence showed that on December 7 Thomson while at work in Pannie Pit, Kirkcaldy, was buried under a heavy fall from the roof. His comrades worked for four hours before he could be extricated, and this was accomplished only by the efforts of Colin Mackay, underground manager, and John Foster, miner, who at great personal risk crawled under the debris and getting hold of Thomson dragged him out. Two days later he succumbed to his injuries. The Sheriff said this accident illustrated not only the dangerous work which the miners undertook, but also the pluck and gallantry with which they assisted each other. He asked the officials to bring the names of Colin Mackay and John Foster before the trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund, and they might possibly get a further reward in the shape of the King Edward medal. [The Times December 27 1910]
23 January 1911
Fatal Result of Fife Pit Accident - Andrew Strachan, miner, Whitemyre, Dunfermline was injured internally while he was employed, in a pit in January last. He was removed to the Dunfermline and West fife Hospital, where he died from his injuries. [Scotsman 12 October 1911]
9 March 1911
Fife Colliery Accident – Three Lives Lost - Outburst of Deadly Gas - Telegraphing this morning, our Dunfermline correspondent says another illustration of the perils of the pit was given last night in the western district of Fife, when three men perished, and others had narrow escapes. Those who lost their lives are:-
John Peden, miner, Low Valleyfield;
George Peden, a drawer, his brother; and
James Jamieson miner, Low Valleyfield.
Continuing the development of the fields in the western district of the county, the Fife Coal Company have sunk a pit on the Torrie estate to a depth of more than 200 fathoms. There was a sudden burst of gas from a side working in the five-feet seam. There was an explosion, which brought down a large quantity of material, entombing the two Pedens and Jamieson. Three others were also overcome by gas. The gas is described as carbon monoxide H., and is of a deadly nature. Soon the word spread throughout the various workings that men had been entombed, and rescue parties under the direction of Mr Thomas Borland, jun., were speedily formed.
By means of the telephone Mr Henry Rowan, the general manager of the Fife Coal Company's Western Pits, was communicated with at Cowdenbeath, and, as on previous occasions, he was one of the first to descend the shaft. “They can't get near them,” were the discouraging words which came from the mouth of the shafts and all hope was then abandoned of the two men and the boy being dragged from amidst the noxious gas at an early stage.
Rescue Work - Mr Rowan had brought with him the appliances which were not long ago provided by the Fife and Clackmannan Miners' Association at Cowdenbeath. Motor cars were soon on the road conveying men who have been specially trained for such, emergencies, and, equipped with their oxygen helmets, they descended to the pit. Such was the usefulness and the practicability of the new appliance that but for its existence and the possession of ambulance knowledge the death-roll would have been seriously augmented, for three men were for a time in an unconscious condition, and it was only by the vigorous application of the Sylvester method that animation was obtained. There is an ambulance corps in the village of Torryburn, and their gallantry was demonstrated in the heroic attempts at rescue. Mr Robertson, one of His Majesty's Inspectors of Mines, was early apprised of the calamity, and he motored from Kirkcaldy to Valleyfield, where he was joined in making official inquiries by Mr John Shaw Soutar, Procurator Fiscal for West Fife. Among the heroes was William Anderson, who succeeded in rescuing his brother Henry, In attendance at the pithead, as well as below, were Dr Gordon, Culross, and Dr Tolmie, Newmills.
A Loud Explosion - No full explanation of how the disaster happened is yet available, but the testimony of a miner who was below at the time was this:- “We heard an awful noise. I though the drums of my ears were bursting.” It seems that only four men were engaged in the Dunfermline splint seam, the lowest strata in Fife, and this is regarded as extremely fortunate. It happened that there was a cage at the low bottom when the panic arose, and the men were brought to the surface in safety.
The miners who were rescued were reported last night to be out of danger, although suffering from the effects of the noxious gas and of shock.
There are some particularly sad circumstances in connection with the accident, one of the victims being the sole support of his widowed mother.
As the result of previous disasters in Fife, there is in existence a relief fund, but the money has been drawn upon to such an extent that the fund is pretty well depleted.[Scotsman 10 March 1911]
11 April 1911
Fife Pit Disaster – Four Lives Lost – Peculiar Accident at New Shaft - Not many days ago it was reported in The Scotsman that the Coltness Iron company had embarked upon an enterprise which promised to be the largest of the kind in Scotland. Yesterday afternoon the company's colliery at Blairhall, the undertaking referred to, about five miles to the west of Dunfermline, was the scene of an accident involving the loss of four lives. Without the slightest warning of danger, four men were plunged from what they would naturally have supposed to be safe footing into what everyone above ground believes to be a watery grave. As was indicated before, the pit was being sunk to an exceptional depth and little had been undertaken in the way of exploring the coal field.
No Possibility of Rescue - The necessary machinery for the drawing of coal had not been finally adjusted. What are known as slides for the cages were being put in position and this operation was not out of the hands of the pit-sinkers. A defect had somehow existed near the bottom of the shaft. At the pithead last night little information could be gleaned, beyond the fact that all hope was abandoned of any man who had been down coming up alive. They are bound, it was said, to be lying in the "sump," which is of such a depth as to preclude all possibility of rescue.
Dr Tolmie and Dr Gordon, both of Culross, were early upon the scene, and remained for many hours in the vain hope of being able to render assistance.
What the actual cause of the accident, was may remain a mystery.
The Victims - Various facts, however, could be elicited. Four men had been working on a platform at a depth of more than 500 fathoms. The names of the men are:-
Alexander M'Callum (40), Newmills ;
Barney O'Neilly (21), Newmills;
John Boyle (40), Low Valleyfield; and
Henry Newman (30), Culross.
The scaffold, it seems, was worked up and down by means of a steam winch. It had been lowered and raised for the fourth time when something gave way. Scaffold and men went to the bottom. The rope was, by the weight attached to it, drawn to its utmost capacity. A considerable time elapsed before it was realised what had actually happened, and even at a late hour last night pitworkers who had walked long distances were at a loss to know how such a disaster, already spreading gloom over what is practically a new district, had occurred. M'Callum is the only one of the four who was married. The distance which the men fell was not great as compared with the actual depth of the pit, but the fall, apart from the large accumulation of water at the bottom, would be sufficient to cause death.
The State of the Pit - At midnight there were many men present ready on the least call for volunteers to descend the shaft. Such are the water conditions below that the recovery of the bodies will be a matter of great difficulty. There is no more powerful pumping machinery in the country, yet the water has been growing, and it will continue to baffle the best engineering skill until the source can, if possible, be diverted. [Scotsman 12 April 1911]
29 October 1911
Man Killed in a Fife Pit - An accident occurred yesterday forenoon in the Fife Coal Company's Valleyfield pit, near Culross. A number of men were engaged in repairing work in the shaft, when Thomas Sim, a shaftsman, over-reached himself in working-at the side, and fell to the bottom. The injuries were of such a nature, that death must have been instantaneous. Sim was married, and leaves a widow and children. [Scotsman 30 October 1911]
30 October 1911
Girl Fatally Injured at a Dysart Pit - While Agnes Coventry (16), who resided at 4 Edington Place, Dysart, was engaged yesterday at the picking table at the Francis Pit (Earl of Rosslyn colliery), her shawl was caught by a revolving shaft and before she could be extricated she received severe injuries. Dr Derrick was immediately summoned, and after attending to the patient he ordered her removal to Kirkcaldy Hospital, where she died. [Scotsman 1 November 1911]
5 November 1912
Kirkcaldy Miner Killed - A fatal accident occurred last night at Pannie Pit, Dunnikier Colliery, Kirkcaldy, resulting in the death of James Forrest, a miner who resided in St Clair Street. He was engaged brushing when a heavy stone fell from the roof, crushing him underneath and causing instantaneous death. [Scotsman 6 November 1912]
29 December 1912
Mining Accident At Methil - Yesterday morning John Rankine (42), blacksmith, engaged in the shaft of the Wellesley Pit, lost his balance and fell to the bottom, a distance of twenty fathoms. He struck a girder in his descent, and death must have been instantaneous. Deceased was to have finished work for the year in a few hours. The colliery staff is busy fitting up the pit for another set of cages, and Rankine was one of the most cautious men engaged. He leaves a widow and two young children. – Another accident took place in a second pit belonging to the Wemyss Coal Company, a Buckhaven man, John Simpson, being felled by a large stone in the Rosie Colliery. His back and legs were seriously injured. [Scotsman 1 January 1913]
21 March 1913
Fatal Accident at a Fife Colliery - An accident occurred late on Friday at Kinneddar colliery, by which James Shepherd, miner, Polmont, was fatally injured. A large stone, weighing about five cwts, fell from the roof and pinned him to the pavement. He was conscious when other workmen went to his assistance, but he died before he could be removed to the surface. The stone had fallen upon his chest and left arm. Shepherd was forty-five years of age and married. [Scotsman 24 March 1913]
16 April 1913
Fife Miner Killed - The old mineral workings at Pirnie, Methilhill, were yesterday the scene of a fatal accident. James Donaldson (62), Methil, had just started in the section where a new coal-cutting machine was installed when a large stone, crashing from the roof, almost buried him. It was long before his companions could move it to extricate him, but death must have been instantaneous. Donaldson was one of the original members of Methil Town Band. [Scotsman 17 April 1913]
29 April 1913
Fatal Accident at a Fife colliery - An accident occurred yesterday in the Fife Coal Company's Blairadam colliery, by which John Macmillan (14), drawer, son of Thomas Macmillan, miner, Thistle Street, Cowdenbeath, lost his life. He had been struck by a runaway hutch, which jammed him against a prop. He was so severely crushed that he was dead before he was relieved. [Scotsman 30 April 1913]
15 May 1913
Fatal Accident to Kirkcaldy Mines. - William Russell, miner, twenty-four years of age, who resided at 58 Pottery Street Kirkcaldy, died in Kirkcaldy Hospital last night as the result of injuries sustained while at work in Wemyss Colliery. He was employed in the underground workings yesterday morning, when a tree supporting the roof gave way, striking him on the head and causing a fracture of the skull. [Scotsman 16 May 1913]
21 May 1913
Fatal Result of Fife Pit Accident - As the result of an accident which occurred in the Wilsons & Clyde Coal Company's colliery at Lethans Fife, on Wednesday of last week, John Turnbull, pit roadsman, Saline, has died in the Dunfermline and West of Fife Hospital. [Scotsman 30 May 1913]
5 October 1913
Fatal Explosion In A Dysart Pit - At a late hour on Sunday night an explosion of gas, which injured three miners, one fatally ccurred in the underground workings of the Frances Pit, Dysart, belonging to the Earl of Rosslyn's Collieries (Limited.) The scene of the accident was a heading in No. 10 level, where three men - Alexander Suttie (31), 218 Links Street, Kirkcaldy; James Somerville, (21), 30 Dovecot Crescent, Dysart; and David Duncan (21), 13 Edington Place, Dysart, were at work. Without any warning being given a violent explosion took place, and all three men received severe burning injuries. They were medically attended and removed to Kirkcaldy Hospital, where Duncan died last night as the result of the injuries he received. The condition of the other two men was last night stated to be unchanged. The cause of the explosion has not yet been discovered. All the men were working with safety lamps at the time of the accident. [Scotsman 7 October 1913]