David McWhirter EM

b. ?  d. ?

DATE OF EM ACTION: 08/07/1909 Newmains, Lanarkshire.

Little is known about the life of David McWhirter, a iron works employee in Newmains, Lanarkshire, other than his heroic actions on 8th July 1909 in the rescue of two steeplejacks despite no climbing abilities of his own.



On the 8th July, 1909, two steeplejacks, with an assistant, were engaged in fixing new lightning conductors to a chimney, about one hundred and eighty feet high, at the Coltness Iron Works, Newmains, Lanarkshire. The two steeplejacks, who were at the top of the chimney on a scaffold consisting of two planks, about nine inches broad, were affected by gas fumes from the chimney and one of them became unconscious and fell on the scaffold. The other, after tying his mate to the scaffold by a rope, was able to descend by a ladder to the ground, and received medical attention. Their assistant climbed the ladder, but was not sufficiently experienced to reach the scaffold.

There was not time to obtain the assistance of regular steeplejacks, but two men employed at the Iron Works volunteered — David McWhirter and William McLelland. They both ascended the ladder, got on to the narrow scaffold, and succeeded in placing the unconscious man in the “boatswain’s chair” used by the steeplejacks, and in lowering him safely to the ground. Neither of them had previously had experience of climbing chimneys, and, in addition to climbing a vertical ladder one hundred and eighty feet high, they had to deal with an unconscious man on a narrow open scaffold, and they also ran the risk of being overcome by the gas fumes.