1867-May-31: Bank Pit

1Hugh Brown37fell down shaft

Hugh Ross Brown was born on the 4th March 1830 at Crofthead of Hoodston, Ochiltree the first-born of John Brown, woollen weaver and Grace Bowman. The family continued to live at Crofthead for some years where Hugh worked as a hand-loom weaver.  In the 1861 census records the Browns are found in the parish of Old Cumnock with Hugh working as a ploughman on John Craig’s farm at Guelt while the rest of his family live at Green in the town where father continues to work as a woollen weaver.

It is while at Guelt that Hugh meets Janet Mitchell daughter of John Mitchell and the late Margaret McLeod. Janet was born at Grievehill in 1841, at the row of houses at Mansfield Colliery where her father worked as a coal-miner. The couple was married in New Cumnock Reverend George Anderson of the Free Church in 1863 and set up home at Grievehill, with Janet’s widowed father and older brother William. It was at Grievehill that their daughters Margaret McLeod Brown (1863) and Grace Bowman Brown (1865) were born.

Map1 Mansfield Colliery Reproduced by Permission of the National Library of Scotland

Hugh found work at the pithead of the Bank Colliery loading and off-loading hutches from the cage as it descended and ascended the shaft. It was while at work on Friday 31st May 1867 that he fell to his death.  The newspaper report reads –

FATAL ACCIDENT:  On Friday last as a man of the name Brown was engaged in his duties at the pit mouth at Bank Colliery, he fell down the shaft and received injuries which he survived only a short time. He was engaged in taking off and putting the hutches on the cage, and at the time in the question, instead of running the hutch upon the cage, he ran it into the open side, when hutch and man together were at once precipitated to the bottom. When taken up he was found to be unconscious, and on examination his back was found to have been broken. He lived only a short time. He has left a widow and two children to mourn his hapless fate.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Saturday 8th June 1867

In the extract of the accident taken from the Annual Reports of the Inspector of Mines and given in the Scottish Mining web-site, the Inspector extols his frustration over an avoidable tragedy.

It is needless to remark that if a self-acting guard had been in use this unfortunate occurrence would have been prevented. The contrivance is inexpensive, and easily applied; it is applicable to all collieries; I have called attention to it for the last 10 years, but I am afraid that something more than publicity is required to insure its general application.

Scottish Mining Website

To add to the tragedy, Hugh’s wife Janet was expecting their third child, a daughter Janet Ross Mitchell who was born at Grievehill some five months later in September.

Hugh’s widow Janet passed away in 1897, aged 55 years old at Polquheys Road, Pathhead. Her middle daughter Grace Bowman Brown would later marry Forbes Morrison who arrived in the parish from Aberdeenshire and established himself as a druggist in the town based at Inverafton in the Castle, at the  home of Dr Richard Gilbertson Herberston. In 1919  their son John Morrison was killed while working as a guard on the Lanemark Coal Company mineral railway.


British Newspaper Archive
[1] Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, Saturday 8th June 1867

Scottish Mining Website
Fatal Accidents
National Library of Scotland
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1 | Mansfield Colliery Row