James Erskine EM

b. ?  d. ?

DATE OF EM ACTION: 20/01/1917 Cowdenbeath Colliery, Cowdenbeith, Fife.

Very little is known about the life of miner James Erskine other than the events of 20th January 1917 in Cowdenbeath Colliery in Fife, Scotland.



On the 20th January, 1917, at about 10 a.m., while operations were being conducted for the widening of a shaft at the Cowdenbeath Colliery, Fife, a portion of the side of the shaft collapsed, throwing a workman named Newton down the mine to a scaffold about 90 feet below. Scott, McCafferty and Baird at once descended in a large bucket or kettle to attempt a rescue. The whole of the shaft below the point at which the fall had occurred was in a highly dangerous condition: stones and rubbish were continually falling, and there was constant danger of a further collapse. Newton was found, alive and conscious, buried beneath about 12 feet of debris and pinned by some fallen timber. The men worked continuously from 10.45 a.m. until 7 p.m. They were joined at 11 a.m. by Christie, and at 1.30 p.m. by Baird, both of whom remained at work with the others until 7 p.m. During the whole of this period all five men were in serious danger. At 12.45 Boyle descended in the kettle with two other men. While the kettle was descending a fall occurred, killing one of his companions and injuring another. Boyle drew the kettle to the side of the shaft until the fall was over, and then took the kettle again to the surface. He subsequently remained in charge of the kettle, exposed to constant danger, until 7 p.m. At 7 p.m., after 9 hours’ continuous and highly dangerous labour, the rescue party was relieved by other men. Unfortunately, Newton died at 8.30 p.m. Attempts to recover his body were then’postponed until the shaft could be worked with greater safety.