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Fire At Michael Colliery, Fife, 9th September, 1967 - Emails Page 1

A Report By Eric Savage Of The Mines Rescue Service, Cowdenbeath
9 Died in This Tragedy

George Shanks - Correction, Michael Pit
Charles Toner - Looking for information on my grandfather Charles Toner
Lennie Smith - What The Pit Meant To Our Family Over 5 Generations
Seonaid Osborne (McKenzie) - Janet (Etta) McKenzie Was A Nurse At The Michael Pit Disaster 1967

George Shanks
21 November 2010
Correction, Michael Pit

There is a slight problem on your main page, it's a spelling error ie TRADGEDY should be TRAGEDY

Don't let my New Zealand email address fool you, I was born and brought up in Leven and my brother was working in the pit at the time, but fortunately not on that shift, ending up going south to England to work in the pit there,  and my other brother worked in the office.


George Shanks

Thank you very much for the correction George, it is sorted now.

Charles Toner
30 Dec 2009
Looking for information on my grandfather Charles Toner

I’m looking for information on my grandfather Charles Toner he was a miner at the Michael Colliery in East Wemyss in Fife he was originally from County Durham and was very involved with the Mineworkers Union.

He died in 1935/36 ish in his mid fifties, I believe he worked from the turn of the century until his death at this pit.

Since I last wrote I’ve been shown a picture of my grandfather sharing the platform when a miners rally in west Fife was being addressed by A.J. Cook (the general sec. of the miners at the time of the national strike). I assume by this that he was fairly high up in local union affairs , he was also I’m lead to believe a "justice of the peace" in East Wemyss.

He came to Scotland from Jesmond Co Durham, married a local girl--- Mary Burns ---- probably in the early 1900s , she I believe died in the early 1940s, I would imagine there would be lots of Burns around this part of Fife (he died from emphysema in 1935 aged 55)

They had 3 sons Hugh, Pat, and Charlie (my father) all now deceased.
Hugh was well known as the Rector of Holy Cross Academy in Edinburgh,
Pat was the MD of Lothian Steel Co,
My dad was an architect and lived most of his life in the west of Scotland.

His parents died when he was a teenager and the war was on.

Any info would be gratefully received.

Lennie Smith
22 Dec 2009
What The Pit Meant To Our Family Over 5 Generations.

Hi Fionn, I’m Lennie. I was looking through your site today and was particularly interested in the article about the Michael Colliery. The disaster of 9th September 1967 was not just the loss of one of Britain’s greatest collieries and the life of a small village but it ended the association of one particular family who were involved at all levels from the time of the first sinking’s, Nos 1 and 2 shafts in the mid / late 1890s through the 1925 / 27 sinking of Nos 2 & 3 of the " Big Michael ", and the deepening of No 2 pit after the war to the 430 fathom level.  

I have often wondered if any family in Britain have ever been so involved in a single colliery and should be interested to hear others stories if they have such involvement but it must be remembered that Michael was no ordinary pit !

My great, great grandfather David LINTON worked at Michael from the beginning, as did his 2 sons David & John. My g. g . grandfather was killed in the Michael on 27th Jan 1909. His daughter married my g. grandfather, John Cairns who started as a boy in Rosie Colliery then moved to Michael when the pit opened. My grandmother Marjory Cairns (b. 23rd Dec 1905) was a weaver to trade but later worked in the pit canteen and did office cleaning. Her brothers Alex, David, and John all worked at Michael although Alex and John spent the war years in the army.

In 1925 with the sinking of Big Michael, a young man called Leonard Smith (aged 23) was sent by his employers Doncaster Cementation to take charge of the sinking and appointed master sinker for the job. With him he brought his 4 brothers Frederick (my grandfather), Headley (spider), George and Allister (killed Normandy 1944). Len was master sinker, Spider shotfirer, Fred foreman in the sinking shaft (not bad for a 19 year old), George did the bookwork and Allister looked after the cementation side of things. Len hand picked the sinkers himself, mostly Irish, and the families of Raffertys, Devines, McHales and such, still living in the area, are there  thanks to the Michael and Lens choice of workers. My grandmother Marjory married Fred in 1927 and their son Victor (my father) served an apprenticeship in Michael starting in Wemyss Coal Company as it was then. An interesting point is that my mother Rita met my father on the first day at work. They left school on the Friday and were sent to the pit (directed labour) met each other and here I am. My father was a foreman fitter in Michael at the time of the disaster, my great grandfather John Cairns (d.10 Dec 1964) was awarded a merit for 64 years service and I have the merit hanging proudly on my wall at home in East Wemyss. (Can’t be many men with that length of mine working service).

I decided not to follow in the family tradition but joined the Merchant Navy where I am at the moment. I had just returned from Japan and was with my grandmother on the night of 8th 9th September 1967 when the disaster happened. We arrived at the pithead at an early hour and stayed all day. We witnessed it together, joined from time to time by all the living members of the extended family. Devastation at the realisation that we were losing the Big Michael, had lost 9 men and what the pit had meant to our family over 5 generations. My great grandfather’s nephew Andrew Cairns was a manager there at one time so that completes the circle, from manager to canteen worker. All involved in the life and work of a great colliery. I may one day count the number of family members who worked there but it’s a lot. More than 3000 men and women were employed at one moment at Michael. The village of East Wemyss has a population of 1881 or thereabouts. What a pit!
Best wishes.

Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2009

Fionn, good morning. I noticed the message placed by Seonaid Mc Kenzie regarding her mother Etta who was a nurse at Michael at the time of the disaster.

I have enquired of my father regarding this and he says yes he remembers her. Further enquiries will be made with the old miners still living and in time I may well be able to give greater detail as to the particular part she played on 9th Sept. 1967.

My grandmother was alerted by the convoy of vehicles travelling up the pit road early on that Sunday morning, mines rescue, ambulances, police etc, and woke me. We went immediately to the pithead and stood there at the check box but as casualties began to be brought up the local police constable Willie Fowler moved us away.

Willie died a few years back but I well remember the conversation my father and I had with him over a few drams regarding that morning. Willie was the police officer who attended the men declared dead and was present throughout the matter of identification and such like. I have no doubt that he worked closely with Seonaid’s mother at that time as he did mention about the doctor and nurse (s).

Please forward this on and I have no objection to you passing my e-mail address to her that she my contact me if she so wished.

Best Regards


Seonaid Osborne (McKenzie)
22 October 2009
Janet (Etta) McKenzie Was A Nurse At The Michael Pit Disaster 1967

Hi there,  
I have found your website after doing a bit of research.
My mum was a nurse at the pit at the time of the disaster and helped some of the survivors. Her name was Janet (Etta) McKenzie and she died on Sunday the 18th of October 2009.
I am sure that you will not remember her, but on the off chance that you do, I thought I would let you know.
It would be nice to hear from you if you do remember her.
Best regards,
Seonaid Osborne (McKenzie).

Sent:                    03 May 2012
Subject:              Inquiry re Seonaid Osborne / McKenzie
I realize my inquiry will be a bit different, but I hope you can help. My name is Glen McKenzie, and I believe Seonaid to be a cousin I have never met. It appears that her mother, Etta is my Aunt. She was married to my father's younger brother. My father's name was John and I believe that Seonaid's father's name was Ronald. 

I would be so grateful if you could relay my email to Seonaid so that I could have contact initiated. 
Thanks very much

Glen W. McKenzie
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada