muirkirk in the hills of ayrshire - from the muirkirk enterprise group


Kames Colliery Disaster Audio Project

Robert Lowe 's Story

The companionship was great and the camaraderie was brilliant there. The miners were always joking about serious things and dangerous things. Close. There were a closeness to the miners. In the pit baths you washed each other backs and that sort of thing. There were some clever people, people who could have went to university and that; They were working in the pits. You got people who could have been accountants; they were looking after other peoples wages and doing their tax. In fact my uncle who was killed, he was one of them that was good at that sort of thing and helped people fill in their tax and things like that. But they were all talented people; they all had different talents. We usually walked in, two or three of us, always a group of people together. My Uncle, my Uncle Rab and Tommy Mackin and quite a few. I forget all their names again. But we usually walked in together. That night I went in along, carrying a box of gelignite for my uncle. We walked in and had a wee talk at their work, in at where the explosion was. We had a wee talk to them there. Then we went on to our own work, which was further on then away down a big dook and u-turned back again. So it wasn't long after that, the shift had no long started when it happened.

I remember the blast. It was a tremendous blast! The air! the blast of air pressure. Things were getting blown about and moved, shaking and everything. And we knew right away that it wasn't a fall, even at my age. You realised. You'd heard falls - You'd heard cave-ins and the creaks and groans of the rock. But that was different. We knew there was something really serious and the experienced and older men like Tommy Mackin & Peter Wyper. They helped and got me and one or two others and led us to safety.  Oh you were scared, but maybe no as scared as you'd think. Because we didn't really realise how serious it was. We knew it was serious, but the main thing was getting into the intake airway. So there was a mine that we went across and it got us into the intake airway and we knew we were safe then. The next thing was the older ones again, the experienced men, the fireman getting things organised. Once they told us what had happened and they'd been men killed and that we were needed to help carry stretchers and that was out the intake aircourse, the intake, the fresh airbase.

Strange you had feelings; you wonder why I didn't feel this. There were men on stretchers and they were dead and you didn't feel any sorrow or anything like that. You just had no feeling. You just didn't realise. It was much later until you realised; It was just the shock. It was quite a long carry away out to the pit bottom, there were places where you were doubled up and bits where you were walking in the gotten in the water. The skin on your hands were blistered with the stretcher. Everything was like clockwork; It was well organised. But we didn't realise, I didn't realise anyway til I was up the pit quite late on. Up the pit and you seen all the lights flashing. We were told just to make your way quickly as you could to the baths. After meeting your relatives and so on. Your relatives will likely be there. But as quickly as you can, get to the baths. But there were reporters and everybody was jostling to interview you and just the blinding flashes of the cameras.

That's when you felt it. Aye. Then the worst bit was the families there. My family and my uncles family was there as well and it hit you then.. When the family realised who was killed. I didn't know whether they had any earlier warning, but to me it seemed as if they didn't know until I stepped off the cage. My family were obviously delighted, but it was my fathers brother that was killed as well, so they had mixed feelings again. All the families were there, that's when you really felt how bad it was. Then it was just getting changed and making your way back home. A lot of families where getting together, maybe in one house ; close friends all getting together. All the young boys ; Andrew Findlay, Donald McGarry, Tom Casey. Some of the younger men I knew better. But when you see the list, it all springs back to mind again that you knew the older ones too. These were boys you run about with; you played with, your pals. They were your pals.

One of my pals; Andrew Findlay. His girlfriend, they were planning to get engaged. It was Andrews brother Jimmy and I. There were no way of getting in touch with her: there were no telephone in the wee house. Just in case news broke out, it would be a big shock to her hearing in that way. We decided to, during the night, early in the morning. We got onto our bikes and cycled up through Muirkirk, Glenbuck, Glespin, Douglas and it wasn't far from the Douglas roadend. You just turned right and went along and there was a wee cottage. A fair distance, you're talking about three hours, aye, it was just getting light. Well it was Jimmy, he was a bit older than I. Jimmy spoke and talked to the family and let the family know. After that we didn't wait long, we just went back home again.  We did a lot of cycling so we were fit. We did usually a lot of cycle runs, even coming from the pit. We used to cycle round up to Strathaven and going round the valley. So we were fit enough, we never thought of that, that never bothered us that much. I don't know what on earth we would talk about, probably but what had just happened. That's when you started to think and find out all the people who had been killed. Then you were with family and everything, that's when we all feel pretty sad. I think about what had happened. We got in touch with other friends that we knew and were sharing our wee stories.

Andrew - Just a typical young bloke, happy go lucky, good fun, loved walking in the hills. I ran about mainly with Andrews's brother: Wullie and I did a lot of cycling together. Jimmy, the bloke I went with that night was in the air force for a good number of years. But Andrew was a good bloke. Andrew was a wee bit younger than me, I think he was about 19 or 20. Donald McGarry was about 19, a couple of year younger than me.

That was a horrible affair that, the church service before it and so on. The funeral; it was a terrible night. A really bitter stormy night and when we walked into the graveyard, it was just mounds of earth; That kind of struck me. The amount of earth that was all opened out; all the graves that were opened out. And then again the families where all there and that's when you really broke down if you did, at the funerals, when all the families where suffering. It was very dull and I think it went on for a good bit. It was such a huge disaster to happen to the village. Everybody was connected in some way; pals, friends, cousins.