A village remembers

Dow Duncan (94), former Bowhill miner, unveils 80th anniversary plaque commemorating the disaster which claimed 10 lives at Cardenden Community Garden
Dow Duncan (94), former Bowhill miner, unveils 80th anniversary plaque commemorating the disaster which claimed 10 lives at Cardenden Community Garden

a COMMUNITY in Cardenden came together at the weekend to remember miners who lost their lives in a mining disaster 80 years ago.

Residents, including relatives of the miners, joined councillors, schoolchildren and local organisations in a service to mark the anniversary of the disaster that killed 10 men.

The men died in an explosion at Bowhill Colliery, near Cardenden in Fife, on October 31, 1931.

A memorial service on the eve of the anniversary was organised by Cardenden Community Council and local history and miners’ groups, and around 150 people turned out to commemorate the event by unveiling a plaque to their memory.

A ceremony was held at Bowhill Community Garden, followed by a march through the town to another service at a monument in Bowhill Cemetery where wreaths were laid in memory of the miners who died.

The disaster was one of the worst in the region’s long mining history. Some of the miners, whose ages ranged from late teens to early 50s, died of severe burns, while others succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The disaster was reported at the time to have been caused by the ignition of gases in the mine.

Explosion

Rescue attempts were also foiled by the presence of toxic gases left behind after the explosion which hung over the site. Rescue crews took canaries down to test the air but most of them died, all but confirming that the miners were dead.

Crews used gas masks and fans to clear the toxic gas, and it took almost a full day to pull the last of the bodies out.

The memorial event started off at the village’s community garden where Dow Duncan (94), the oldest surviving miner, who worked in the Bowhill Colliery, unveiled a plaque to the men who died.

Dignitaries, villagers and relatives of the men, along with pupils from all three of the village’s schools, Scouts and other organisations then marched to the cemetery behind piper W Glendenning, who played a lament before a service, conducted by Rev. Ben Pieterse of Auchterderran St Fothad’s Church was held and a number of wreaths laid.

Fitting service

These included one from Nicky Wilson, acting president of the National Union of Mineworkers; local MP Lindsay Roy and MSP Helen Eadie; Councillor Willie Clark on behalf of Fife Council; members of the deceased miners’ families and one from each of the three local primary schools – Denend, Cardenden and St Ninians.

“It was a really fitting service, with every part of the community involved, and we were pleased with the way it all came together,” said Alex Burns, chairman of Cardenden Community Council.