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Cadder Coal Mine Disaster, Scotland,1913

This afternoon, I am straying from my usual diet of tourist related information to dwell on a 'dark' side of Scotland's history, as manifested in the deep coal mine disaster detailed below.

The loss of life was bad enough but I suggest readers take a minute to reflect on the implications for the families of the deceased, especially those left abandoned with no income. For example, the wife of James Flynn (maybe age about 30 years) was left with ten children, no income and probability of being forced to exit the company owned house in which the family lived.

In 1913 there would have been no cushion of social security/welfare benefits. There may well have been some sort of public subscription to assist dependents but such would have afforded short-term relief. The next year World War 1 started. Over and above the foregoing there was discrimination against Catholics in the West of Scotland, a situation which continues today in the form of continuing tension between the Protestant and Catholic communities which results in occasional acts of violence.

The story of Mrs Flynn would make an interesting topic for a history/genealogy focused TV programme including the tracing of her descendants.

Within the next week or so I am plan to try and locate the Mavis Valley village.

This afternoon, in course of my recording of memorials in the Glasgow region burial grounds, I came across a memorial to some of the deceased arising from a catastrophic fire at Cadder, about five miles north of Glasgow which resulted in the deaths in total of 22 men.
Here is a report from the Evening Times, Aug 2nd, 2013-
Fifteen bodies were found huddled together. They had been overcome by gas or lack of oxygen. The men were all found in the same direction, as if they had been fleeing from the flames.
One rescuer noticed how close the men had been to the safety of an air-trap door.
The dead men were Hugh Anderson, Charles Armstrong, Cuthbert Bell, brothers John, Alexander and William Brown, Patrick Darragh, George Davidson, Patrick Duffin, Andrew Dunbar, James Flynn, George Harvey, Thomas Holland, Owen McAloon, Hugh McCann, Alexander Macmillan, George Macmillan, brothers Robert and William Ramsay, Patrick Regan, Charles Reilly and John Worthington.
Hugh McCann left behind nine children, according to the Scottish Mining website.
James Flynn had 10, Charles Reilly seven. Patrick Darragh's widow was just 15.
SIx of the dead miners - the Brown brothers, the Ramsays, and the Ramsays' brother-in-law, George Davidson - came from Mavis Valley.
The fatal pit went down almost 1000 feet and ran north under the River Kelvin.
At its peak, it produced some 400 tons of coal each day, and employed 300 men. Iron was also mined there.
On Sunday, 100 years after they perished, all 22 miners will be remembered when East Dunbartonshire Council Provost Una Walker unveils a specially commissioned cairn.
Mavis Valley suffered badly in the disaster. Its first houses had gone up about 1850 and by 1901 there were 428 people living in 89 houses.
Today, there is almost nothing of it left. Traces of it are hard to find.
Provost Walker took the Evening Times a few hundred yards along the path of the Forth & Clyde Canal from Bishopbriggs Leisuredrome.
Parallel to the canal bank, screened by trees, is Mavis Village's main road.
It was along here that the horse-drawn hearses made their way to the funeral service at the village hall, two days after the disaster.
Today, the site of the village is marked by a large raised concrete bed, which was part of the machinery used to load iron and coal on to vessels on the canal.
Behind the bed, and overgrown by weeds, lies the remains of the road between the village and the canal.
Here and there, old house foundations can be glimpsed through the trees. A hidden ditch indicates where villagers disposed of waste.
"The Carron Company demolished Mavis Valley in the 1950s when it was still a village," said Provost Walker.
"I think it was because of the lack of electricity and sewage pipes to the village, but it still seemed to be a vibrant place, even then.
"My older sister said that even in the 1950s there were young children from here who were being bussed to school in Glasgow.
"We have spoken to one gentleman in his 90s who took us along here and he remembered there was a Co-operative shop in the village, and there seemed to be a nursery for young children."
The provost added: "There was a big inquiry into the disaster.
"The Carron ironworks and colliery were able to employ lots of lawyers and experts to prove it was not the company's fault.
"It said it was the fault of one of the workers, who had dropped something out of a lamp.
"In those days they didn't have the expertise or technical knowledge we have today to pinpoint the seat of the fire.
"The company was determined not to be blamed for the blaze. An open verdict was returned.
"This was long before the Welfare State and the bereaved families were more or less abandoned.
"There were widows who, because they did not have anyone else old enough to go down the mine, were put out of their home.
"One widow, who had three children, married another miner within weeks because otherwise she and her family would have been out on the street."
The council now plans to clear some trees from the area of the old village, carry out a survey and erect a storyboard and a fingerpost to mark out Mavis Valley to visitors.
Sunday's ceremony will take place outside Bishopbriggs Library at 2pm.
In a final twist, the building houses the local school that some of the children of Mavis Valley would once have attended.
Mavis Valley And The 1913 Pit Disaster: Local Stories, by Bill Findlay (East Dunbartonshire Council);
Here is a a video clip of the memorial at St Kentigern's Cemetery. It is assumed that the dead listed on the memorial were all of the Roman Catholic faith.
  • Owen McAloon
  • Thomas Holland
  • John Worthington
  • Patrick Darroch
  • Hugh McCann
  • George MacMillan
  • Charles Reilly
  • James Flynn
  • George Harvey
  • Patrick Duffin
  • Patrick Regan


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