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Lindsay Colliery - Kelty, Fife. 14th December 1957 - Page 3

The Disaster

The Lindsay Colliery was at Kelty, about three miles north of Cowdenbeath
(The Disaster)

One hundred and seventy four men were employed underground on the night of the 13th/14th. December 1957 when the explosion took place. Of those in the Glassee Seam, 13 men were employed in the No.3 Unit, under the charge of Robert Cook, deputy and William Masterson, overman both of whom were killed in the explosion. In No.4 Unit there were 16 men in the charge of Robert Smith, deputy. The work in No.3 Unit was to cut the face, brush the bottom gate and withdraw the supports from the waste. In No.4 Unit the work was that of the first preparatory shift.

When the men arrived at the No.3 Unit there seems to have been some difficulty in starting the brushing of the bottom road because loose coal and inability to get the face belt to run. The coal cutting machine was also held up for the same reason. By 2 a.m., however, the coal cutting machine had cut out the bottom corner and had passed the gate. Soon afterwards Cook, the deputy, is said to have fired three brushing shots. The brushers then cleared up, erected a girder and began packing dirt on the high side of the road. By 3 a.m., waste drawing had been completed and at about 3.30, the deputy asked one of the workmen. S. Fitzsimmons, to help tighten the face belt and get it running for the day shift. He then proceeded to do this, when in his own words, "the next thing I knew was man were laying on top of me." This was at 4 a.m. and W. McAughey and R. Condie were on the No.3 Unit said they were blown over by hot air and dirt and that the air was thick with black smoke. W. Fleetham and W. Monoaghan were blown over but saw no flame. Another man said, "There was no terrific heat, just warm air.

The men working in the Mynheer Development did not hear anything but shortly after 4 a.m. They were told by Fleetham that something had happened in the No.3 Unit. Five of them, accompanied by another man from the No.4 Unit, immediately set off to see if they could rescue any of the man affected. They were unable to approach the Unit by the intake because of dust and fumes. David O'Donnell and Alex Moyes managed to enter the return airway and reach the face. They saw the bodies of T. Johnstone, J. Hughes, and D. Anderson and then they had to retreat. On the way down the face they met Davy Scott and Robert Muirhead and returned up the face with them. They were followed later by R. McCartney and Edward Tungate. O'Donnell and Moyes were soon overcome and had to be helped out by Muirhead and Tungate. Scott was then overcome; Muirhead did his best to help him out but found it physically impossible and had to make his own escape. Scott's body was later recovered.

On his way to the Mynheer Development, Fleetham had telephoned the surface to report the explosion. A.M. Sneddon, the deputy in the Mynheer Development had also phoned to inform the manager and summon the Rescue Brigades. The messages were passed on to the manager W. Ried at his home. He tried, without success to phone the Cowdenbeath rescue Station by way of the Area Office so he telephoned J.C.B. Haynes at his home at 4.10 a.m. and asked him to get the Rescue Brigades.

The message was passed on at 4.35 a.m. The manager arrived at the pit about 4.25 a.m. and was soon joined by other National Coal Board Officials. All men not needed for rescue operations were withdrawn from the mine and it was found that nine were unaccounted for.

The Rescue Superintendent and two assistants arrived at the colliery with equipment at 4.40 a.m. The Station did not have a permanent Rescue Brigade of it's own and a brigade had to be made from the trained rescue workers who worked at the colliery. At 5.30 a.m., a team was ready to go underground. Ten minutes were spent receiving instructions from the Coal Board Officials and the first team went down at 5.40 a.m.

They established a fresh air base just beyond the loading point at a place called the Old No.1, about one and a half miles inbye. They were followed by the Group Manager who took charge of the operations underground. The manager remained in charge at the surface.

The team left the air base about 6.40 a.m. and made a complete circuit of the affected district, stating in the return side and they had no difficulty in getting along the road to the face, though it was rather warm and the visibility was only twelve yards. During this operation they located the bodies of the nine missing men, all of whom were dead. About ten yards beyond the coal cutter they discovered a whole unsmoked cigarette lying on the ground at the foot of a prop. They found no other contraband and arrived back a the air base at 7.20 a.m.

Efforts were being made to restore the ventilation and temporary repairs were made to the overcast which had been slightly damaged by the explosion. Sheets were erected to divert as much air as possible to clear the district so that it could be entered without breathing apparatus. This was done by 9.20 a.m.