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Mauricewood Colliery Disaster 1889

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Glencorse, Midlothian, Scotlandmap
Surnames/tags: Mining Disasters Scotland Disasters
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | Scotland Mining Disasters | Mauricewood Colliery Disaster

Contact: Scotland Mining Disasters


History and Circumstances

  • Date: 5 September 1889
  • Location: Glencorse, Midlothian
  • Type: Coal Mine Fire
  • Victims: 63
  • Cause: "Smoke from a fire the return which penetrated the workings but how the fire was caused there was no evidence to show."
Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
Thomas Adams, 7 Manderston Place Yes Yes No Yes
David Anderson, 1 Manderston Place Yes Yes No Yes
Thomas Bennett, 4 Lindsay Place Yes Yes No Yes
William Brockie, 13 Walker Place Yes Yes No Yes
William Brown, 1 Lindsay Place
William Brown, Glebe
William Daily, 3 Fieldsend Yes Yes No Yes
J. Davidson, Edinburgh Road
Robert Dempster, father, 6 Lindsay Place
R. Dempster, son, 6 Lindsay Place
William Dempster, 19 Walker Place
Robert Dickson, 13 Fieldsend
Thomas Foster 13 Leslie Place
John Fraser 27 Napier Street
John Glass, Pryde's Place
William Grieve, 5 Leslie Place
C. Hamilton, son, Greenlaw Cottages
Mitchell Hamilton, father, Greenlaw Cottages
Mitchell Hamilton, son, Greenlaw Cottages
Robert Hamilton, 4 Leslie Place - uncle of Richard Hamilton, brother-in-law of Robert Tolmie
Richard Hamilton, 4 Leslie Place - nephew of Robert Hamilton
Robert Hunter, Roads Farm
William Hunter, 8 Walker Place- father-in-law of David Penman
Thomas Hunter, Pike
James Irvine, 10 Leslie Place
David Kinnimont, father, Roslin
Robert Kinnimont, son, Roslin
William Lamb, 5 Walker Place - son of Robert Lamb, Leven, Fife
George Livingstone, 22 Fieldsend Yes Yes No Yes
Alexander McKInlay, 12 Leslie Place Yes Yes Yes Yes
David McKenzie, 10 Lindsay Place
Hugh McPherson, father, 12 Lindsay Place
Peter McPherson, son, 12 Lindsay Place
Thomas Meikle, 5 Lindsay Place
William Meikle, father, 6 Leslie Place
William Meikle, son, 6 Leslie Place
Walter Meikle, 6 Leslie Place
Robert Millar, 3 Fieldsend - stepson of William Daly
William Miller, 3 Fieldsend - stepson of William Daly
Martin Morgan, Pryde's Place
G. Muir, Greenlaw Cottages
David Penman, 8 Walker Place - son-in-law of William Hunter Yes Yes No Yes
George Pennycuik, father, 12 Walker Place
George Pennycuik, son, 12 Walker Place
D. Porterfield (brother of Robert Porterfield)
Robert Porterfield (brother of D. Porterfield)
James Porteous, 5 Walker Place
J. Purves, 10 Lindsay Place
John Sinnott 7 Fieldsend
James Somerville, 18 Napier Street
Alex Stewart, John Street
James Stark, nephew, Pike
M. Stark, uncle, Pike
Thomas Strang, 2 Walker Place
Robert Tolmie, brother-in-law of Robert Hamilton
William Urquhart, Eskbridge
John Walker 4 Fieldsend
John Walker, James Place
Andrew Wallace, brothers, 2 Lindsay Place
David Wallace, brothers, 2 Lindsay Place
James Wright, brothers, 9 Lindsay Place
William Wright, brothers, 9 Lindsay Place
Matt Wright, 8 Leslie Place

[1] [2] [3]

Rescue Efforts

5 September 1889: Attempts were made to reach the 80 fathom level on the carriages, but this was found to be impossible due to smoke. The fan speed was increased and this allowed the 80 fathom level to be reached by about midnight and two bodies, a MacPherson and a Walker were recovered. The 80 fathom level door was closed using a long pole.

6 September 1889 About 1:00pm on 6th September, or 25 hours after the fire broke out, the 120 fathom level was reached and the 160 fathom level was reached by about 2pm on 6th. Timber was still burning briskly, and a fire hose was used in an attempt to extinguish it. The tunnel was almost blocked. Nineteen bodies were recovered but the rising of the water stopped all further rescue attempts.

An attempt was made to reach the east side workings via the door at the 120 fathom level however this attempt failed due to smoke entering at the 80 fathom level.

Rescue attempts were abandoned, and it was decided to close the mine.

7 September 1889 At about 3pm air-tight scaffolds were placed on the top of the Mauricewood and Greenlaw pits, with the former remaining in place and the latter being removed a day or so later.

4 October 1889 On 4th October the mine was reopened. The fire appeared to have gone out and efforts were made to pump out the water which had risen by 37 fathoms.

7 October 1889 On 7th October smoke was seen from pipes at the 80 fathom level, and the tunnels below were blocked. The tunnels were later unblocked and operations restarted to pump out the water and recovering the rest of the bodies.

16th March 1890 The 160 fathom level was finally reached and between that date and the end of March the final thirty six bodies which remained in the mine were recovered. Three were found in the sump at the bottom of the main incline, twenty-nine were found on the east side. When the final bodies were brought to the surface, they were found to be red from the ironstone, and in part mummified, and covered with fungus. [1][4]

Results and Findings

There were 102 people employed at the colliery at the date of the diasater, 25 above ground and 77 underground. When the fire was discovered a total of 70 people were underground: Of these only seven survived and 63 died. [1]

Of the officials of of the mine, the following were amongst those who perished:

Oversman (Overseer): George Muir.

Inspector or firemen: Edward Lyden, George Hunter and David Hunter.

Roadsmen: Robert Dickson and James Somerville.

The fire took four days to extinguish and it was not until over six months later, towards the end of March 1890 that the last bodies of the victims could be recovered.

Mauricewood was connected to nearby Greenlaw Mains by a level roadway between the two. From the bottom of the Mauricewood shaft an incline had then been driven downwards at an angle of 50 degrees for a further 293 metres (over 950 feet) - an incline of 8 in 10 – and this represented the only access to and from the actual mine-workings which spread off eastwards and westwards for distances up to 366 metres (nearly 1200 feet).

The miners maintained that despite recent changes in the law requiring that all pits should have a second escape shaft, there was none at Mauricewood.

However, the Fatal Accident Enquiry of 26 December 1889 concluded that the shafts and outlets of the mine conformed with current regulations and that the Shotts Iron Company, who owned the mine, were not in breach of regulations. [1][4][3]

The Inspector believed that the cause of the accident was smoke from a fire the return which penetrated the workings but how the fire was caused there was no evidence to show or that it was due to any want of care of the management of the mine. The Inspector's reported concluded: It does not appear to me that the secondary cause of the accident, the inspection of a current of hot air and smoke from the return upset to the main incline at the 80 fathom level, was anticipated or might reasonably have been anticipated by the management of the mine. I am not aware of any loss of life from a similar cause although some case without loss of life have occurred and are recorded under the title of “Paradoxes in the ventilation of Mines” in the Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers Vol. XIL, page 93.


  • Mines Inspectors Report 1889.
  • The Colliery Guardian, 13th October 1889, p.382, 28th October 1889, p.595, 1st November 1889, p.633, 3rd January p.27, 21st March 1890, p.443.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Scottish Mining Website Mauricewood 5th September 1889 Report by J B Atkinson, Inspector of Mines
  2. Scottish Mining Website List of men killed in Mauricewood Pit Fire on 5th September 1889 from Report by J B Atkinson, Inspector of Mines for the Eastern District of Scotland
  3. 3.0 3.1 National Mining Museum Website Mauricewood Pit
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Scotsman Mauricewood pit disaster novel gets to the heart of the truth

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