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Memorials - Page 17

Cadder Disaster

Cadder - Glasgow, Lanarkshire. 3rd. August, 1913

The colliery was owned by Carron and Company and was about four miles to the north of Glasgow. The entrance to the mine was the downcast shaft called No.15 and was used to wind men and coal. The shaft was about 169 fathoms deep. At the shaft bottom, the main haulage road or ‘Main Dook Brae’, served as the air intake went 45 yards to the east, then turned N.N.E. to run in that direction, dipping for about 1,500 yards. About 125 yards from the pit bottom there was a cabin which was used by several of the firemen and where the books were kept. The cabin was partly built of brick and was formed from an old bricked and arched roadway which led to the north into the mine.

The district general manager was Mr. James Bonar. The manager of the No.15 pit was Mr. Archibald Spiers, who had been down the pit from between 7 and 8 a.m. on Saturday, 2nd. August till about 11 a.m. he was there on Sunday for two hours and was always within call. He received news of the accident at 8.30 on Sunday. William James Owens, the undermanager was sat the colliery on 3rd. August. The manager of the No.17 pit was Mr. James McWinnie. The head electrician was Mr A. Hughes and under him at No.15 pit was Mr. Edward Flynn. The colliery employed about 290 men underground and produced about 400 tons a day.

When this roadway was abandoned and a new one driven, the corner became dangerous and a fall of roof occurred so as a result the roof of the new roadway was strengthened by means of iron girders and on top of the some timber was laid. The roof was ‘lofted’. The timber props were placed and laid across one another to a depth of 10 to 13 feet. Next to the cabin there was a telephone space and next to this there was an electric switch board room which was roofed with I-girders upon the lower flanges of which were placed plates and a top packing of timber similar to that over the cabin. The main cables came down the shaft to the switch room as single armoured cables. From the switch board, two unarmoured cables led back to al lighting switch 70 feet from the pit bottom. The cables were seven stranded, rubber insulated, taped and braided and were supported on porcelain insulators as far as the haulage-switch and after that they were supported by flexible cords fixed by nails to the timber of the roof.

Direct current at 500 volts was supplied and the lamps were placed in groups in series on this cable. Some were 120 volts and some 250 volt. Electricity had been installed at the pit in 1906, but in June, 1913, it was reconstructed and remodelled. Six armoured cables led inbye from the switchboard into the mine for the coal cutters and the pumps. The fact that the lighting cables were not armoured was significant in the resulting accident.

The main haulage road had branches into side levels. The first, No.1 was at 750 yards from the pit bottom then followed the No.2 level leading on the east side of the communication road to No.17 pit, Conner’s level, No.3 level and Stewart’s level and No.1 machine level all crossed the main haulage.

The face lay in a large, irregular circle of about 700 yards in diameter with its centre in the main airway about 1,000 yards from the pit bottom. The parts worked on Sunday, 3rd. August, 1913, when the accident happened, were the No.1 machine section at the extreme north east of the mine and the No.2 machine section at the north west of it. Repairs to the roof were also being done but no coal was being drawn to the surface. These parts were fed with air from the intake which split right and left at various parts of the haulage road. The main return led from the No2. machine section from west to east, right across the mine crossing the main intake about 1,000 yards from the pit bottom It then turned south- east and then south ending up in an upcast shaft called Nop.17 shaft about half a mile from No.15 shaft. This return airway was called the communication road.

Is was obvious that if a fire broke out in the cabin, the smoke would be carried and distributed in all the airways of the mine and finally emerge up the upcast shaft of No.17 pit. One way of preventing the smoke going in to reach the men working at Nos. 1 or 2 machine level would have been to leave a door open somewhere in either the communication road or into one of the levels. The other way, when once it was known that there was a fire near No.15 pit would have been to reverse the air and send the smoke up No.15 pit.

Under Section 36 93) of the Coal Mines Act, 1911 it was compulsory to have two means of egress to every mine. This provision was complied with at the mine. It was also required under the Act that the air current could be reversed. To do this the mine had a steam jet which led 40 fathoms down the shaft and them upwards. The quantity of air sent down the mine was usually 20,000 cubic feet per minute and it was considered a well managed mine.

The seams of coal that were worked were slightly inclined and there were several faults and a dyke of whinstone. Between the seams there was a considerable quantity of shale lay, oily, but not sufficiently rich in oil to warrant working. There was also sandstone, fireclay and some ironstone. The pit was lit by naked lights. The fireman had safety lamps and the miners carried the small tin oil lamps usually employed by Scottish miners.

At about 3 p.m. of Sunday, 3rd. August a back shift of 25 men under the charge of fireman Reilly went down the No.15 pit. J. Owens, the undermanager saw them down the pit. They all had naked lights except Reilly and McCann. The latter was going to explore a place at the extreme north of the mine. The men were divided into three groups. One group of eight men went to work in the No.2 machine section, two men, Alexander Brown and Hugh McCann were working at the pumps at the extreme north of the mine and the remaining fifteen went to work a coal cutter and do other work in the No.1 machine section on the eastern side. Charles Reilly, the fireman, was to supervise them all.

As it was a Sunday, the usual pit headman, was not at work but John Lees, a boiler furnaceman, acted at the pit head and took the names as was required under the Eight Hours Act. No coal was to be drawn and the check weighman was not present. Prior to the coming into force of the Act in July, 1912, it seemed usual in the mines of Great Britain not to have a bottomer if men and coal were not being raised. The Royal Commission of Coal Mines recommended that in all cases a bottom should be stationed at the pit bottom as long as there was no one in the mine. The Act came into force on 1st. July, 1912 and required that, so long as there were no men underground, other than mine officials or persons authorised to give signals, a bottomer shall be in constant attendance for the purpose of receiving and transmitting signals. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887 provided that in the absence of a bottomer, that signals might be given by the fireman is duly appointed. These rules remained in force until they were replaced by the new regulations which came into force on the 10th. September, 1913, after the date of the accident. These new regulations did not allow the fireman to act as bottomer. It was usual to have a regular bottomer on week days. On Sundays it was usual if the week day bottomer, Etherson, went down, to send him to work away from the pit bottom. The fireman usually acted as bottomer on Sundays. On the day of the accident, Etherson did not go down the mine, but Reilly, the fireman, rang the men down and then went to his duties examing the mine which left the shaft bottom unattended until he returned.

The back shift proceed to the cabin at the top of the brae, 125 yards from the pit bottom. Some of the men took off their coats and left them hanging near the cabin and some in the telephone space. Most likely some of the coats held matches and perhaps pipes but they generally took these to their working places. Others carried their coats further inbye. They then all proceeded down the Main Dook Brae to the lamp station where they waited until Reilly had inspected the workings.

The lamps used by Scottish miners were different for the candles used by the English men. They consisted of a small tin something like a coffee pot with a lid that snapped down and a wick about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The men provided their own oil for which they had to pay 2s. 3d. (11p.) per gallon. This oil was called ‘seal oil’ but was composed of fish and cheap mineral oil with about fifty percent of heavy Scottish paraffin mixed in with it. The flash point of the compound was high and it was not especially dangerous or inflammable. The lamps were hooked to the miner’s caps and with movement, his cap and clothes became more or less impregnated with the oil which sometimes had caused them to be set alight. In named light pits the miners carried their pipes and matches and smoked where and when they pleased. This custom had existed for many years and was not considered dangerous as there had been very few accidents. The oil was carried down the pit in small tin flasks and most of the men had one in their pocket. When they went into the mine, each man would see that hi lamp is trimmed and full of oil and would throw away the exhausted wick. While still burning he would often cast the old wick on the floor still burning and tread it out after he had lit the new one. There was no evidence from the officials that the men were careless with their lamps.

The men in the No.1 machine section appeared to have reached their station at about 4.30 p.m. and started work. Soon afterwards a fire broke out at or close to the cabin and no doubt extended to the timber which lay over it. The smoke was carried at once to the Main Dook Brae and rapidly into the workings. At some time, probably about 6 p.m., Reilly smelt it and concluded that there was something wring. He appeared to have warned the men on the No.2 machine section and then gone across to No.1 section by way of the No.1 machine level and turned southwards into the main airway down which the smoke was coming and went straight into danger. The pump man went the same way.

In his report Sir Henry Cunninghame commented:-
“If a communication door had been opened so as to short-circuit the air and smoke, and if the men had remained in their working paces, it is probable that the whole of them might have been saved. It must be remembered that Reilly did not know where the fire was. He had never seen a fire in a pit before consequently his omission was only what many men would have done in the circumstances.” Among the men following this path was Robert Dunbar who was fully acquainted with the roads and workings. He was followed by Keenan and O’Neil. Dunbar had waited for and revive O’Neil and this party of three found the smoke very thick in the Main Brae so he turned eastwards in Stewart’s level went through a door and got into the return airway. They then went by McLaren’s and Harrogan’s headings into Connor’s heading, along a communication level and through two doors at No. 3 bench into the downcast air of No.17 pit. Dunbar’s coolness and courage saved his party.

The Inspector commented:-
“Had others followed him they might have been safe. His action illustrates the use of Rule 60 of the New Regulations which provides that where one of the two ways of egress from amine in along a road not usually travelled, every fireman shall at least once a quarter traverse the whole of such a way in order to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the same.”

The rest of the men who had been working in the No.1 machine section went into the main airway and as they started work about 6.30 p.m. It seemed probable that by 7 to 7.30 p.m. they were dead. Of the men in the No.2 section, four went eastwards along the return and instead of continuing by passing along the crossover road, which seemed to be their only chance, they entered the main airway and lost their lives. Of those who stayed in the No.2 machine section, all lost their lives with the exception of Michael McDonald who got into a dead end of air and lived until the forenoon when he was rescued.

When Dunbar’s party got to the surface of No.17 shaft, they went to No.15 where they found the firemen of the night shift, William and Joseph Brown, had gone down. Dunbar waited until they came up and heard that during their descent, they saw noting of the fire until they turned the corner of the main airway, William Brown thought that the cabin had caught fire but did not see anything that indicate that the fire had been caused by electricity, even though the cables were burning. He came to the surface and went down with a party to try to extinguish the fire but failed to do so.

William Owens then went to the No.17 pit, got the air current reversed and the rescue parties were the able to go down the No.17 shaft. Two bodies were discovered at 11 p.m. There was no rescue apparatus at the pi. Preliminary steps had been taken to form a brigade. Canaries and other apparatus specified in section 5 (c) of the Rescue and Aid Order of 2nd. April, 1912 had been provided. By midnight, Mr. McLaren, Senior Inspector of Mines for the Western part of the Scottish Division and went down the No.17 shaft. By this time the reversal of the air had cleared much of the smoke and gas and he was able to get to the road where it crossed Stewart’s level. A rescue brigade had been telegraphed at Cowdenbeath, Fife, fifty miles away who arrived at the pit about 3 a.m. They were informed that only smoke helmets were required and found that these were inadequate for the job and had to come to the surface for oxygen apparatus. It was rescue party that found and recovered a number of bodies. Michael McDonald was still alive and revived by Dr. Miller at the surface. The rest of the victims were not recovered. The total number who lost their lives was twenty two.

Those who died were:-

  • Hugh Anderson, bencher aged 17 years.
  • Charles Armstrong, drawer aged 24 years.
  • Cuthbert Bell, machineman aged 32 years.
  • Alexander Brown, pumper aged 15 years.
  • John Brown, 19 Hole borer
  • William Brown, hole borer aged 17 years.
  • Patrick (Pat) Darragh Brusher 19
  • George Davidson, roads man aged 21 years.
  • Partick (Pat) Duffin, brusher aged 34 years.
  • Andrew Dunbar, drawer aged 20 years.
  • James Flynn
  • George Harvey, brusher aged 32 years
  • Thomas Holland 28
  • Owen McAloon, pony drive aged 17 years.
  • Hugh McCann, hand pumper aged 37 years.
  • Alexander McMillan 54 Machineman
  • George McMillan, stapper aged 29 years.
  • Robert Ramsay, roads man aged 30 years.
  • William M B Ramsay, roads man aged 26 years.
  • Patrick (Pat) Regan, brusher aged 32 years.
  • Charles Reilly, fireman aged 35 years.
  • John Worthington, reddsman aged 28 years.

The inquiry into the disaster was held at the Justiciary Buildings, Jail Square, Glasgow from the 22nd. to the 29th. September by Sir Henry Cunynghame, K.C.B., when all interested parties were represented. Sir Henry concluded the Report with the following statement“

I think that this case shows the desirability of making cabins as fireproof as possible, especially in mines where naked lights are employed. Here, above the cabin there was a pile of timber exactly in the position most calculated to burn fiercely it lighted. It would have been better if there had been a stone packing instead.

I may add that the accident shows how desirable it is that not only fireman but that some men in at least in each group who are working independently should be acquainted with the roadways of the mine and should be instructed what to do in the case of danger. This pre-arrangement and organisation is desirable in factories and in ships, and it is especially necessary in mines where escape is usually only to be effected by one or two roads. I would also call attention to the need for teaching fireman the danger of smoke containing carbon monoxide. I do not think they all understand the differences between carbon monoxide and carbonic acid and other gases found in ordinary smoke, and it appears to me doubtful whether they are sufficiently acquainted with the best methods of dealing with the danger arising from it.”

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