Fatal accident at Drumlemble – the death of Donald Kerr

I was looking through the records on the Scottish Mining website to see if there was anything of interest that related to South Kintyre when I came across the following entry.

1859 July 25th – Drumlemble, Campbeltown (Duke of Argyll) Donald Kerr died aged 40 by getting entangled with the signal wire in the shaft“.

I mentioned this incident to Campbeltown historian and writer, Angus Martin, and he very kindly found this account of the death of Donald Kerr in the Campbeltown Library – this article is from the Argyllshire Herald from August 5th, 1859 and reads as follows:

FATAL ACCIDENT AT DRUMLEMBLE

On the morning of Monday the 25th ult., a fatal accident occurred at the coal-pit at Drumlemble. As three of the colliers were ascending the pit, one of them named Donald Kerr happened to look out of the basket, when unfortunately the recoil of the signal wire which had previously been broken, caught him by the chin and dragged him out of the basket. Before he could be rescued from this perilous position, he lost hold of the wire, fell to the distance of 90 feet, and was killed on the spot. His remains were taken up in a very mangled state. One of the two two workmen who were in the the basket at the time was the son of the deceased. We understand that the men at the bottom of the pit hallooed to the man at the head of it, informing him of the condition in which the signal wire was. Immediately on receiving this intelligence, he communicated it to the person in charge of the engine, at the same time urging upon him to be very cautious, as it was men who were coming up. A widow and seven children survive to mourn the loss of the deceased. It is now 25 years since any fatal accident occurred at this colliery. 

donaldkerr_ah

Article about the death of Donald Kerr, collier at Drumlemble Pit. Argyllshire Herald, 5th August 1885. From the collection at Campbeltown Library.

This account makes harrowing reading – that Donald’s son, Alexander, should witness his father die in such a way is quite horrific. I am left wondering how the family survived after Donald’s death and if the Duke of Argyll ever compensated them in any way…

Jan Nimmo

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