David Andrew Brown GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 07/05/1900 Polbeth, Scotland.  d. 01/12/1977 West Calder, Midlothian, Scotland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 10/01/1947 West Calder, Midlothian, Scotland.

David Andrew Brown (1900-1977) was born on 7th May 1900 in Polbeth, Scotland, the third son of David and Janet Brown (nee McMorran). He had 5 sisters, and the family lived in West Calder where his father worked in the shale mines. His grandmother, Janet McMorran also lived with the family whilst David was a child. David attended Graveside School in West Calder, and on leaving education, he followed in his father’s footsteps and began working in the shale mines.

David A Brown GC

He married Annie Anderson (nee Cowan) and they went on to have five children – David, Anne, John, Janet and Alex. He spent his working life at Burngrange Shale Mine in West Calder, where the incident occurred on the night of Friday 10th January 1947.

He was working as an Overman when at around 8pm, firedamp ignited by an acetylene cap lamp exploded, starting fires which spread rapidly. Brown proceeded with a fireman to explore the narrow workings where men were trapped. At first, they made good progress, but increasingly dense smoke compelled them to withdraw. Brown then made another attempt, alone. He got as far as Number 3 Dockhead, where he shouted but got no response and could see no signs of life, smoke forcing him to withdraw again. The conditions were getting worse all the time and Overman Brown sent word explaining the position to the manager, who was dealing with the fires elsewhere, and asking for breathing apparatus. He then set out himself to find out the source of the smoke. He was met by members of the NFS and pleaded to be permitted the use of breathing apparatus so he and a trained member of the Burngrange Mines Rescue Team could make another attempt to get into the workings beyond Number 3 Dockhead. He made two more attempts with breathing apparatus but was forced back each time by the intense heat. It took 4 days to bring the fires under control and only then was it possible to send a rescue team beyond the fire area. 14 out of the 15 dead were found in Number 3 Dock.

David Brown was awarded the Edward Medal for his actions on 13th January 1948. He was invested with the Edward Medal at Buckingham Palace on 10th February 1948. He continued to work at Burngrange after the accident, and in 1971, he chose to exchange his medal for a George Cross. His EM was presented to West Calder Comprehensive School. David Brown passed away on 1st December 1977 in West Calder, and was buried in Burngrange Cemetery in a family grave. His GC and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal are held by the Brown family.





Marion Hebblethwaite – Image of David Brown GC.