Fatalities: 1850s

 1851 November 21

  • Mansfield Colliery

    • John Campbell

    • George Houston

      • rock fall on to cage causing them to fall to bottom of the shaft

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]


By Permission of National Library of Scotland

  • 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 and that year a son George was born at Mutton Hole. Two years later a daughter Margaret was born 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 (first son George had died in infancy), 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)

1856 September 30

  • Craigman Pit

    • John Kennedy (42)

      •  Fall of stone

John Kennedy was born on 27th December 1814 at Dalquharran coalworks Dailly , the son of William Kennedy and Jane Murdoch.

John married Marrion Robertson, daughter of John Robertson, cotton weaver in Pailsey and Isabella Semple. Together they had six children  Ann (1842, Dailly), William (1844, Dailly), Jane (1846, Tarbolton), John (1849, Coatbridge), Francis (1851, Tarbolton) and Janet (1854, Birnieknowe, Auchinleck) before the family moved to Coalburn, New Cumnock.


By permission of National Library of Scotland

John found work as a miner at the pits as Craigman.  These pits had been establishd along with others at Marchburn* to the north had been founded by John Nisbet and George Sloan [1], Sloan was married Nisbet’s sister Agnes.. (N.B. in later years when Craigman farm closed , the farm of Marchburn adopted the name of Craigman).

On the 17th September 1856 daughter Jane was born at Coalburn but sadly 13 days later her father John was killed while working at Craigman. His entry in the Scottish Mining Website records the cause of death as “A back weight fell upon him in a sinking shaft“, while his death certificated recorded that he was ‘killed by a fall of stone, not certified’.  John was buried in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock, there is no record of a headstone.

The following year the Nisbet and Sloan partnership dissolved and Nisbet transferred his activities to working coal at Coalburn and Guelt and limestone at Benston.


By permission of National Library of Scotland

Widower Marion, finding work as a hand-sewer, had another daughter Catherine born at Coalburn in April 1859. Two years later she married widower William Hardy, coalminer living at Craigbank, New Cumnock and the following year a daughter Mary as born at Craigbank. Marion and William along with younger ones in the  family moved to Kilmarnock, where William worked in the woollen mills.  In 1875 William, now working in the coal miner at Kilmarnock, died aged 60 years old.

Meanwhile daughter Jane had married widower George Sloan, the co-founder of the Craigman and Marchburn venture, who was no longer a coal-master but a coal-miner. In later years Marion returned to New Cumnock to live with daughter Jane and her family at Connel Park. In 1897 Marion died at Dalleagles aged 63 years old.   Jane, who was born 13 days before her father John Kennedy was killed, died in 1929, aged 83 years old.

1859 September 5

  •  Boig Pit

    • James Kirk (42)

      • crushed by cage ascending pit shaft

James Kirk was born September 1816 at Auchans, Dundonald the son of Boyle Kirk and Margaret Gray.  In the 1851 Census we find him visiting a family in the Gorbals, Glasgow at which time he was a coal carter. It is unclear when he arrived to work in the New Cumnock coalfield at a pit run by the South Boig Coal company.  The pit on the lands of the Boswells of Garallan & South Boig, had been ‘originally exploited by James Hood and followed by the firm of Dunlop and Eaglesham who continued to operate it until 1865, when it was taken over by the newly formed Lanemark Coal Company‘ [1].

The famr of South Boig sits on the east side of the junction of the Boig Road and the New Cumnock – Dalmellington Road.  In Franis Guthrie’s map of the New Cumnock Coalfield [1] the South Boig pit is shown on the west side of the junction.


Map of The New Cumnock Coalfield  (Francis Guthrie,Surveyor).

The only coal-pits shown in Ordance maps of that time are  situated near the farm of High Boig and a row of houses but are on the south-side of the New Cumnock – Dalmellington road, which are probably on the lands of Bank.


By Permission of National Library of Scotland

On the 5th September 1859  James Kirk according to his death certificate was killed at Boig Pit ‘ by a bruise in the act of ascending a coal-pit’ . There as no medical attendant also reported by J. F Murdoch, Procurator Fiscal and certified by Dr. Hunter. The account in the Scottish Mining Website reports his accidental death as ‘ Got jammed by the cage in the shaft when being drawn up‘.  James Kirk was buried in the Auld Kirkyard but there is no trace of a headstone. He left behind his widow Jean Reid.


National Library of Scotland

  • http://maps.nls.uk/index.html
  • All maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
    • Ayrshire, Sheet XLI (includes: New Cumnock; Ochiltree; Old Cumnock)
      Survey date: 1857   Publication date: 1860
    • OS Six-inch 1st edition, 1843-1882
    • Ayrshire XLII.9 (New Cumnock)
      Survey date: 1856   Publication date: 1858

Scotland’s People


  • Census Records

British Newspaper Archive

Scottish Mining Web-site


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