Young Englishman John Riggs was probably one of several Englishmen that moved to New Cumnock from County Durham to work at the Nithsdale Iron Company on the banks of the Connel Burn.
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.
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.