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The Burngrange Disaster

by John Crombie, West Calder - written in January 1947

This poem was written by a fellow shale miner from West Calder in the immediate aftermath of the Scottish shale oil industry's worst mining disaster at Burngrange No. 1 & 2 Pits. On 10th of January 1947, an underground explosion and fire led to the death of 15 men which was by far the greatest loss of life in any accident during the history of the industry. The 15 men tragically killed in the disaster were: John McGarty, Thomas Heggie, Henry Cowie, John Lightbody, David Carroll, William Carroll, William Greenock, James McAuley, David Muir, Anthony Gaughan, William Ritchie, John Fairley, Samuel Pake, William Findlay and George Easton.

Twas on a dreary Friday night,

The Burngrange miners were put to flight,

There were fifty miners underground,

And all did hear that feerful sound, [sic]

 

The cry got up by every man,

"Run for the bottom as fast as you can",

When on the hill they made the count,

And found that there were fifteen men left out,

 

Some returned to seek their mate,

But found that they were far too late,

The section is a blazing hell,

Was all that these brave men could tell,

 

All through the town the news soon spread,

And all made for the mine pit head,

Then through the crowd the news was spread,

They have one out "but he is dead",

 

The women came from far and near,

For news of ones they loved so dear,

What everyone did want to know,

Was what happened to those below,

 

The firebrigade from every town,

Were pouring water down the mine,

They knew that all out they had to go,

As time for those below,

 

The men were working day and night,

But what a fire they had to fight,

And what was top most on their mind,

Those fourteen miners left behind,

 

All Friday night they fought the flames,

On Saturday things were just the same,

The crowds still standing round the pit head,

Waiting for the news they dread,

 

Sunday brought a spot of light,

By those who had the fire to fight,

The fire is gradually going down!

But not a soul yet have we found!

 

On Tuesday morning things were tense,

One fireman rushed the smoke so dense,

His mates could only stand and stare,

For one they thought they'd see nae mair,

 

The one who rushed the fire soon fell,

But what they saw did make them yell,

For fourteen miners he had found,

All seated round him on the ground,

 

A fresh brigade soon ventured through,

They knew the work they had to do,

The dead they carried through the flames,

Before they checked up all their names,

 

Their work was not quite over yet,

They had another chum to get,

More fire and shale they fought out through,

Until they found his body too,

 

These fighting firemen understand,

Deserve a shake from everyhand,

Ffor all the men they couldn't save,

They carried to a proper grave.

 

© John Crombie

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