A fundraising campaign has been launched to renew a memorial for the men who lost their lives in one of Scotland’s worst mining accidents almost a century ago.
Forty men were killed when water flooded No. 23 Pit, in the Braes village of Redding, near Falkirk, on Tuesday, September 25, 1923.
Some drowned in the initial rush of water but 11 of those who perished survived for up to 14 days, waiting in vain for rescue.
It was one of the worst disasters in Scottish mining history but for the small mining communities in the Braes villages it was devastating and its impact has never been forgotten.
Within days of the disaster a fund had been established by the Provost of Falkirk – within a year it had raised over £60,000, the equivalent of well over £1m today.
A memorial plaque was installed at Redding Cross 22 years after the disaster and every year the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Scotland Free Colliers commemorate the tragedy when their annual parade stops there to pay their respects.
However, they are now planning a more modern tribute to the lost colliers, in the hope it will tell the story of the disaster to a new generation.
It is hoped it will be in place for the 100th anniversary of the disaster, next year.
Wullie Allardyce, grand master of the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Scotland free colliers, said: “We plan to turn the memorial into a living history, by telling the story of the disaster and how it unfolded, to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
“Our project is to install interactive storyboards, coal hutches, miner’s lamps and period statues, enclosed by feature walls and fencing relating to the disaster.”
The memorial will include a sculpture of a miner and of a mother holding a baby, waiting anxiously for news at the pit head.
They hope to raise £100,000 to cover the cost of the ambitious memorial although £38,000 – the cost of the main statues – will be paid for by a grant from Falkirk Council’s Community Choices.
On Monday, a group of Free Colliers joined Councillor Billy Buchanan to launch the fundraising campaign to support the project.
Mr Allardyce added: “We have been planning this for several years and then Covid put a stop to a lot of fundraising but we’d like to see it done for the 100th anniversary.
“We have quotations from various local companies to carry out different aspects of the project works.
“Any offers of help or donations towards the cost of the upgrade would be greatly appreciated.”
This week, Cllr Buchanan showed his support for the campaign by presenting a copy of Amanda M Barrie’s 1988 book, The Redding Pit Disaster to all of Falkirk Council’s schools and libraries.
The Redding Pit disaster
At 5am on Tuesday, September 25, 1923 an inrush of water flooded much of No. 23 pit.
As news of the disaster spread, huge crowds of anxious relatives gathered near the pit head waiting for news.
Teams of divers from Falkirk and beyond arrived to examine the flooded workings and after five hours, 21 men were rescued, emerging through a old shaft called the Gutter Hole.
On October 4, another five men were recovered alive and well, despite having been entombed for ten days.
But they were the last and by December – the 40th day of the rescue operation – the 40th body had been recovered.