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Panels prepared in partnership with the Calder History Group; West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust

Panels prepared in partnership with the Calder History Group; West Calder and Harburn Community Development Trust, West Lothian Council Museums and Local History Services:











A Recognised Collection of National Importance

Home > Collections & Resources > Displays & On-line Exhibitions > Burngrange

Burngrange: 10th January 1947

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For the 76 men working underground at Burngrange pit, Friday the 10th January 1947 began as an unexceptional day. Burngrange was a modern well-equipped pit, sunk little more than a decade earlier, and provided a valuable source of oil shale during the dark days of world war two and the fuel shortages that followed. The mine workings had reached their maximum extend in 1945, and work was now underway to "stoop-out" the more distant parts of the mine; extracting the supporting pillars of shale and allowing the roof to gradually collapse.

At about 8pm, a shale miner returned from his meal break to find the roof of the workings in a dangerous condition. He summoned his "drawers", who assisted him in mining operations, to come forward and take a look.

Inflammable gasses were seldom a problem in shale mines, and the use open-flamed acetylene lamps was usually permitted once an area had been tested for the presence of gas. In the urgency of the situation, the need for this gas testing was overlooked, and the open-flamed lamp worn by one drawer ignited a pocket of gas. A flame travelled into a stooped-out area of the workings and sparked explosions that knocked the miner to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries.

For half an hour or so afterwards, fourteen miners working deeper in the mine remained unaware of the explosion and the fires that it had created. By the time that fumes and poisonous gasses were drawn into these deeper workings, fires had cut off all hope of escape. Despite the heroic efforts of mine staff, mine rescue, and national fire service teams, it was four days before the fire was subdued sufficiently to reach the bodies of those who had perished from carbon monoxide poisoning and lack of oxygen.

"Report on the causes and circumstances attending the explosion and fire... at Burngrange No. 1 & 2...". Ministry of Power and Fuel, October 1947

"Plan No.1". Appendix to the Burngrange Report showing the general layout of the underground workings.

"Plan No.2". Appendix to the Burngrange Report showing areas of the workings affected by the fire and location of the victims

"A Brief Description of Operations,,,". A promotional booklet by Scottish Oils Ltd, c.1938 including a detailed desciption of Burngrange pit.

"Plan of land disponed at Burngrange". Map showing pithead buildings and various lands sold by Scottish Oils, dated July 1960.

"Trust Deed". Legal document regarding the setting up of a trust fund for relatives of the victims.

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We are happy to licence use of many images, extracts, and other resources of this website under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial licence (Scotland). See full copyright statement. Such material should be attributed to Almond Valley Heritage Trust and, where practical, a hyperlink provided to www.scottishshale.co.uk.