1872-Oct-25: Boig Pit

1William Ferguson19Struck by cage

William Ferguson’s (or Fergusson) story begins in the parish of St. Quivox, Ayrshire, where in 1826 his father James Ferguson and Annie Hamilton were married by the Reverend Mr. Renwick of the Relief Congregation.  The couple later settled in Stevenston, Ayr where James worked in the local coalfield. It was here that their first three children Elizabeth (1834), James (1836) and Allan (1838) were born. The next three children Mary (1842), John (1844) and Ann (1846) were born across the Ayrshire coalfield – Dailly, Kilmaurs and Kilmarnock respectively.

William (1852) was the seventh and last of the children born by which time the family had moved to Craigmark, Dalmellington. By 1861 the family were living at Darnconner Square in the parish of Auchinleck where father James, along with sons James and John worked in the local pits.

On the move again, the family returned to the parish of St. Quivox living at Low Mainholm. Tragedy struck on 17th October 1864 when 66 year-old James Ferguson died from his injuries after a large stone fell onto his arm from the roof while working at Craigie No. 1 pit, Ayr. On his death certificate the occupation of his later father, Allan Ferguson, is recorded as ‘pit-manager’. Two weeks later his 93-year-old mother Mary, also living at Low Mainholm, died of old age; her grandson William the informant on her death certificate.

Craigie Pit was owned by Robert Brown, having opened Craigie No. 1 in 1855 with five more added in the following six years. Brown later turned his attention to South Boig in the New Cumnock coalfield and in 1865 formed the Lanemark Coal Company with two partners.

The Ferguson family must have moved to New Cumnock soon after their father’s death with some key events in lives of William’s siblings taking place. In August 1865, Allan  Ferguson died at Craigbank leaving behind window Jean McWhinnie. The following year James Ferguson and his wife Elizabeth McMillan had their first child together at Coalburn. In 1870 John Ferguson living at Greenhead, New Cumnock married Agnes Thomson, daughter of William Thomson, shoemaker in the Castle.

It is at Greenhead in the 1871 census records that we find 68-year-old widow Anne Ferguson, daughter Elizabeth (34) and son William (19) along with grandchildren John (8) and Anne (1 month).

Map 1: Greenhead and Couplagate (Courtesy National Library of Scotland)
Greenhead Row in the forefront

William worked at South Big pit, owned by Robert Brown’s Lanemark Coal Company. On the 25th October 1872 almost six years to the day after his father was killed at Brown’s Craigie Pit, 20 year-old William lost his life  at South Boig. The brief newspaper report reads –


MAN KILLED – On Friday last a collier, named William Ferguson, aged 20 years, employed at the bottom of Boig Pit, was killed by a descending cage striking him. Death was instantaneous.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, November 2, 1872

William’s death certificate contradicts the account to some extent, giving his age as 19 years old and Dr. R. G. Herbertson certifying that he died at the pit, one-hour after sustaining his injuries.

William’s mother Anne passed three years later at Couplagate , aged 79 years old.


British Newspaper Archive
Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, November 2, 1872
Scottish Mining Website
Fatal Accidents
National Library of Scotland
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1 : Greenhead and Couplagate
Scotland’s People
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments