1846 December 22 

  • Mansfield Colliery
    • George Brown (36) – fall of coal

Fatal Accident – New Cumnock, 22d Dec 1846 –

At Mansfield Colliery, in the neighbourhood of New Cumnock, this day, one of the workmen, named George Brown, was in the act of undermining that portion of the seam he meant to take down for the day’s “dark,” when it unexpectedly gave way, and crushed the unfortunate man to eternity in a moment. The deceased was a sober, inoffensive, individual, and in the prime of life. He has left a wife and small family to lament their irreparable loss. [Dumfries and Galloway Standard 23 December 1846]

  • George Brown (1810-1846)

Although his headstone in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock records he was 42 years old when he died, George was born at Perth on 12th July 1810 and therefore was 36 years old when he ‘lost his life in Mansfield Coalworks’.

It is not clear when his father and mother moved the family to New Cumnock  their names appears in the 1841 Census records of the parish. At this time his parents were living at High Linn while George, his wife and three sons (Thomas, John & William) were living at Mounthope, at which time George was employed as a tile manufacturer, probably at the clay pits near Hall of Mansfield. Two daughters (Elizabeth and Jean) were born at Mounthope before their father lost his life


George Brown headstome , Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock (Robert Guthrie)

 1847 December 12

  • Nithsdale Iron Company coal pits
    • John Riggs

Fatal Accident at New Cumnock. – A young man, named John Riggs, met his death under very painful circumstances, in one of the Nithsdale Iron Company’s coal pits, at New Cumnock, on Sunday week. It appears that he was employed in driving a horse in a ginn, drawing water out of the pit, and had got a boy belonging to the works in to drive the horse for a short time. He then took the notion of going down the pit, and seeing the workings below. The pit-head’s-man remonstrated with him against going down, as it was against his orders. Riggs took a lamp and went down, and was watched to the bottom by the pit-head’s-man and another person. He got safe down; examined the workings; and was seen getting into the bucket to return to the top, and was spoken to and answered by the people on the pit-head several times. They, however, observed his light go out in an instant, and heard a plunge in the water. Thinking that he had fallen into the pump, one of the men immediately went down, and found him in a sitting position, and in about two feet of water. He was then, to all appearance, quite dead. It is thought that he died in a convulsion fit, to which he was subject. Deceased was a native of England, and a very steady, industrious young man.-Ayr Observer. [Glasgow Herald 17 December 1847]

  • John Riggs (?-1847)

The Nithsdale Ironworks was formed in 1847 by John Nicholson, William Muschamp and Nicholas Ward from the north-east of England which was established on the banks of the Connel Burn. They had acquired a lease of the Afton Minerals and the right to produce pig-iron. Experienced men iron-workers from Shotley Bridge and Consett, County Durham were brought to get the new venture underway. [1]

The young Englishman John Riggs was probably one of those that moved to New Cumnock from County Durham. The nearest match in the 1841 Cenus Records for County Durham is 14 year-old John Rigg (not Riggs), son of John and Margaret Rigg. His name does not reappear in the 1851 Records.


Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

1851 November 21

  • Mansfield Colliery
    • John Campbell
    • George Houston

Fatal Colliery Accident at Mansfield Colliery, New Cumnock on Friday last. Two workmen being hauled up the shaft when half way up a rock fell from above causing them to fall to the bottom of the shaft killing both George Houston and a John Campbell. Houston left a wife and family. Campbell was unmarried [Ayr Advertiser Newspaper dated Thursday 27th Nov., 1851]

  • John Campbell

I have been unable to identify John Campbell from the Census Records etc. There is a John Campbell, aged 14, coalminer, Mansfield Cottage in the 1851 Census Record but he also reappears in the 1861 records at the same address.

  • George Houston (1804-1851)

George Houston was born in 1804 at Skerrington, Old Cumnock the son of George Houston and Jean Campbell. In 1829 while living at Abbey Green, Lesmahagow he married Jean Gilchrist. Two years later their first child Margaret was born at Mutton Hole in Lesmahagow before the family moved to New Cumnock where they settled at Mossback, a steading near to the farm of High Polqhueys and just over a mile south west of Mansfield Colliery. Here they had two other daughters  Helen and Nicholas followed by five sons George, James, John , Alex and David.

His son George, erected a headstone in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock im memory of his father George aged 47 year old and his sister Nicholas who died three years later, aged 12 years old.


Mossback ruins with High Polquheys in the background, New Cumnock (Robert Guthrie)


National Library of Scotland

  • Ayrshire, Sheet XXXVI (includes: Auchinleck; Old Cumnock)
    Survey date: 1857   Publication date: 1860

Scotland’s People


  • Census Records

British Newspaper Archive

Scottish Mining Web-site


[1] J.L.Carvel, The New Cumnock Coal-field (1946)