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.
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…
Lines to memory of James McArthur: Killed at Drumlemble Coal Pit
‘Twas a lovely Spring morning in April
And the lark sang his song loud and clear
When we miners set out on our way to the pit
With light hearts and full of good cheer
We laughed and we joked, as we strode on our way
Not a thought of the mine and it’s dangers
For sport was the topic, as usually the case
On the merits of Celtic and Rangers.
When we reached the pit head in the corner we saw
“auld Jamies” swing his lamp to and fro
He was melting his wax, and preparing his light
Ere he’s start on his labours below.
The signal bell rang, and the cage lowered away
Sinking silently out of the light
But little we thought as we watched him go down
Of what was to happen ere night.
Our work down below but two hours begun
When news came in whispering breath
That a fall had occurred at Jamie’s coal face
And we feared he had met with his death.
The doctor was ‘phoned for, and soon he appeared
Anxious to do his best
But alas! our poor comrade had passed away
And lay in Eternal Rest.
We laid our tools and hurried away
Our work for that day at an end
By custom thus showing the respect that we held
For our poor, unfortunate friend.
Our thought flew to his aged mother
Of ten and four -score years
When we thought of her feeble old frame
Our eyes dimmed with tears
He was called away while at his post
No warning was given
But we hope to meet some other time
At the Golden Gates of Heaven.
James MacArthur was crushed under a coal fall in April 1914, whilst working for the Campbeltown Coal Company. The poem was composed by John Lambie who died in an accident, in 1926, at the Wimbledon Pit.