John McCabe GC (EM exchanger)

b. 06/12/1901 Longriggend, Lanarkshire. d. 29/01/1974 Caldercruix, Lanarkshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 09/07/1918 Stanrigg, Airdrie, Scotland

John McCabe (1901-1974) was born on 6th December 1901 in Longriggend, Lanarkshire, Scotland, the son of Joseph McCabe, a coalminer, and his wife Mary (nee McCue). The McCabe’s had eight children in all, 6 boys (James, Thomas, John, Joseph, Peter and Archie) and two girls (Morran and Catherine). Sadly, James McCabe was killed in action in the Great War in 1915 aged 17.

John McCabe GC

The children attended the local school and John left at the age of 14 to go down the pit joining his brothers Tommy and Joseph. John became a drawer at Stanrigg Colliery in Airdrie, when disaster struck on 9th July 1918.

On that particular day, there was an inrush of liquid moss. McCabe was with 5 other men at the bottom of shaft no. 3 when they were told that the moss had broken in. The other 5 men at once ascended the shaft and escaped, but McCabe, knowing there were men at the face a quarter of a mile away who might be cut off, returned to warn them. At this time he did not know where the break-in was, or whether the moss might not at any time fill the workings through which he returned, as in fact it did soon afterwards. He and the men he warned were ultimately collected and raised by another shift. He faced great and unknown danger, which could have been fatal, in order to enable others to escape. He is credited with saving 58 lives.

McCabe was awarded the Edward Medal (LG 13th June 1919), and returned down the pit shortly after the disaster. He also received a silver pocket watch from the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust. After his heroic deed, he was offered a scholarship to the University of his choice but he declined. His father asked if John’s brother Joseph could take his place but was informed that it had to be used for “the boy that done the deed”. He was an excellent athlete and a keen footballer and played for Workington Town in the old English Second Division whilst working down the pits. He later married Annie Dowdalls and had two sons, Joseph and John and a daughter called Mary. Tragically, John died of pneumonia at an early age, and Joseph died aged just 40 of a heart attack. John’s later life saw him involved in charity work for St Vincent de Paul, within St Patrick’s RC Church, Longriggend.

McCabe chose to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross, and attended the investiture on 27th February 1973. Sadly, McCabe passed away under a year later, on 29th January 1974 at Caldercruix, Lanarkshire. He was buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery, Airdrie. His medals are privately held.