Udston mining disaster

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Coordinates: 55°46′19″N 4°05′13″W / 55.772°N 4.087°W / 55.772; -4.087


The Udston mining disaster occurred in Hamilton, Scotland on Saturday, 28 May 1887 when 73 miners died in a firedamp explosion at Udston Colliery. Caused, it is thought, by unauthorised shot firing[1] the explosion is said to be Scotland's second worst coal mining disaster.[2]

Keir Hardie, then Secretary of the Scottish Miners' Federation, denounced the deaths as murder a few days later.[3]


The Udston Colliery, owned by the Udston Coal Company, was situated at the top of Hillhouse, Hamilton behind where Townhill Road now runs. Opened in 1875, it was a small pit employing approximately 200 men and boys working in three coal seams at depths of up to 1,000 feet (300 m) underground. The workings of the colliery extended for 150 acres (0.61 km2) and were bordered on three sides by the Blantyre, Earnock, and Greenfield Collieries. The last remaining colliery buildings and the pit waste were removed in 2002 and today the site of the colliery is now a housing estate and part of Hamilton’s western expansion programme.

The disaster[edit]

At 9am, having been hard at work for almost three hours, many of the day shift downed tools for their breakfast. During this break, at approximately 9:07am, an explosion ripped through the Splint Seam destroying everything in its path.

The explosion manifested itself in a volume of flame and dust at the number two or downcast shaft, followed seconds later by a volume of flame from the upcast or number one shaft which set fire to the wooden sheds or headings above it.

The sound of the explosion was heard in neighbouring Greenfield Colliery through a 135-foot (41 m) barrier of solid coal. In the Blantyre Colliery (where an estimated 216 men had lost their lives 10 years earlier) miners working that morning were temporarily blinded with the dust thrown up by the vibration of the explosion.

The 73 men who died at the Udston disaster were paid on average 3/3d (16p) per day or 17/6 (86p) per week (equivalent to £69.72 per week today in 2007) [1].


In December 2001 South Lanarkshire Council acknowledged the disaster by placing a commemorative plaque on the miner’s statue standing outside Brandon Gate council offices in Hamilton’s Brandon Street. Accepting the plaque on behalf of the victims was Hamilton’s oldest surviving retired coal miner, 96-year-old Jimmy Glen who, in 1917 at the age of 13 years, started work at the screening tables in the Bent Colliery.

In 2002, a memorial plaque dedicated to the six East Kilbride miners, who died in the disaster, was unveiled in the memorial garden at Priestknowe roundabout in East Kilbride.


  1. ^ "The Flag in the Wind - Features - Notable Dates in History" Archived 2014-12-05 at the Wayback Machine., Scots Independent
  2. ^ Bolton, Wilma S. Black Faces and Tackety Boots: True Stories from the Coal Mines of Lanarkshire ISBN 978-0-9552998-0-3
  3. ^ "Udston Pit Disaster", The Gazetteer for Scotland
  • "Udston 28th May 1887", Scottish Mining
  • "Udston Colliery Disaster 28th May 1887", Hamilton Advertiser, June 4 1887
  • Moore, Ralph Report to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Home Department . On the Circumstances Attending an Explosion at Udston Colliery, Hamilton, on the 28th May 1887, London, Houses of Parliament, 1888