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Miner refuses to leave comrades to perish in a flooded mine

Year 1898

Read by Suzanne Burns – Supporter, Royal Humane Society

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Blyth, Robert, Miner.

At 9 a.m. on the 11th March, 1898, the Auldhouseburn Colliery, Muirkirk, Ayrshire, became inundated, owing to a sudden inrush of water from an old working, which flooded the mine until it rose four feet above the door- heads, the main road to the pit bottom being full to the roof for a distance of about fifty feet.

There were forty-five men down the pit at the time. Of these three were drowned, twenty-six got out in safety, and the remaining sixteen were rescued the following morning, mainly through the self-sacrifice and heroism of Robert Blyth, who refused to ascend and leave his comrades to perish. With great presence of mind he turned back from the pit bottom, and having forced his way through the rising water, reached these men, who were attempting the impossible task of gaining the bottom of the shaft, and from his intimate knowledge of the workings kept them at a point above the level of the flood, where he cheered them on, and encouraged them to hope for deliverance. After being in this critical position for twenty-four hours, the water began to yield to the constant working of the pumps, which had been kept going, and all were enabled to reach the pit bottom, whence they were drawn to the surface.

Robert Gibson remained at his post at the pit bottom till the water reached his neck, and just before leaving a boy named John McGladrie floated forward on some wreckage; Gibson at once sprang forward, and at great risk caught the lad and dragged him to a higher level, eventually reaching the pit head safely.

The Silver Medal was voted to R. Blyth, and the Bronze Medal to R. Gibson.

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