1876: Alexander McBrochan

1876 Jan 20| Lanemark  No. 1

  • Alexander McBrochan (18) | Fell down pit shaft

This sad story of a young miner falling down a shaft to his death is tinged with some uncertainty. The fatal accident entry in the Scottish Mining website reads that on 20th January 1876, 17 year old Alexander Thomson, drawer was killed at Lanemark No.1 pit when he “fell down the pit, no one could explain how”. However the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald newspaper report of January 22, 1876 names the miner as Alexander Broggans and expands on the circumstances of the accident.

FATAL PIT ACCIDENTA young lad name Alexander Broggans was accidentally killed in Lanemark coal pit on Thursday morning last. The deceased has been employed for some time past as a drawer in the Boigside Pit. It is supposed that for the purpose of getting sooner to work he had purposed descending the Lanemark shaft. Not being acquainted with the place he stepped on at the wrong side. No cage being there to receive him, he was precipitated down the shaft a distance of 50 fathoms. When recovered he was dreadfully mutilated. Death must have been instantaneous.

Alexander’s death certificate records his name as Alexander McBrochan an 18-year-old pit drawer that was killed on 20th January 1876 at Lanemark Pit with cause of death recorded as “Fell down pit. Instantaneous Death”.

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He was born on 14th June 1857 at Pathhead the son of Mary McBrochan, who had moved to New Cumnock from Stoneykirk, Wigtonshire. At this time Mary found work as a hand-sewer, however in the 1851 Census the then 28 year-old was recorded as a pauper, lodging with a McMillan family at Pathhead.

Mary’s name does not appear in the 1861 Census nor that of 1871; and her son’s death certificate of 1876 records her as deceased. Neither does Alexander McBrochan name appear in the 1861 or 1871 census records. However, that of an Alexander Thomson (same age as Alexander McBrochan) appears in both as a boarder with the McAdam family. It may be the case that Mary McBrochan died (no record of her death certificate) soon after the birth of Alexander and that he was brought up as Thomson (perhaps the surname of his father?) before reverting to McBrochan as he entered adulthood. This would explain the Alexander Thomson’s entry in the Scottish Mining web-site.

Whatever the case it would appear that Alexander was orphaned at a young age. On the day of his death the 18-year-old must have set off well before 5 o’clock (time of death was record as ten-past-five in the morning) on a dark January morning to walk from Pathhead to Boigside Pit, for another day of pushing coal hutches from the coal face. However, the newspaper supposition that Alexander was effectively taking a shortcut via Lanemark No. 1 pit (if this is Afton No.1 pit) to Boigside doesn’t seem to make sense and perhaps the Scottish Mining website comments “no one could explain how”  better reflects the circumstances of Alexander’s death.

Acknowledgements

National Library of Scotland

  • http://maps.nls.uk/index.html
  • All maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
  • Ayrshire Sheet XLII.SW, Surveyed: 1908, Published: 1911

Scotland’s People

Scottish Mining Web-site