SIXTY years ago, on September 18, 1959, 47 men went to work as usual in the Auchengeich Colliery north of Glasgow.

They descended into the pit at 6.30am, prepared for a long day ahead at the coal-face.

Sadly, none of them returned, after a devastating fire took hold underground.

Now, a man who lost his great-uncle in the disaster, has put together a poignant tribute to mark the 60th anniversary of the tragedy.

Harry Lycett-Nutt has spent months gathering together materials and photographs for the display at the Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch.

“The Auchengeich Colliery disaster claimed the lives of 47 men - leaving 41 wives without husbands and 76 children without fathers,” explains Harry, who is an estimator with East Dunbartonshire Council.

“The tragedy touched and blighted many mining communities in the surrounding area, including Kirkintilloch, Kilsyth, Condorrat, Chryston and Muirhead, among others.”

In fact, the Auchengeich disaster is one of Scotland’s worst mining tragedies.

Harry is being supported by the Auld Kirk Museum, East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture (EDLC) Trust and colleague Chris Price, whose father’s two cousins died in the tragedy, while another family member survived by pure chance.

“A fire that originated with one of the driving belts of a booster fan spread to wood props and laggings used as roof supports,” explains Harry.

“As the fire took hold, 48 men were travelling in the direction of the fire to the coal-face on the personnel train.

“Forty-seven of the men died within minutes from asphyxia due to poisoning by carbon monoxide. There was only one survivor.”

As news of the disaster started to spread around the local communities, hundreds of people descended on the pit to see if their loved ones were involved.

“As the hours passed it became clear it was a very serious incident indeed,” says Harry.

“The crowd’s worst fears were realised when the National Coal Board’s Scottish chairman Ronald Parker announced the mine had to be flooded in order to put out the fire.”

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All the men were later recovered and funerals were held. The youngest to die was George McEwan, who was only 20 years old and the oldest was Henry Clayton, who was 62.

Auchengeich Colliery - which first opened in 1908 - went back into full production, finally closing in 1965.

Councillor Billy Hendry, Convener of Place, Neighbourhood and Corporate Assets, said: “This will be a fascinating and poignant tribute to the men who lost their lives in one of the UK’s worst ever mining disasters.

“It might have been 60 years, but the tragedy still reverberates down the years in East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and beyond.”

Sandy Marshall, Chairman of EDLC Trust, added: “I want to express my appreciation to Harry, Chris, Irene McCafferty and Peter McCormack for their hard work and dedication to organise this display. I hope as many people as possible can go along to the Auld Kirk Museum to find out more and pay tribute to the many victims.”

A community event is held every year in memory of the miners who lost their lives in the Auchengeich Colliery disaster.

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This year marks the 60th anniversary and a service will be held on Sunday, September 15.

People are being invited to take part in a short memorial march at 12.30pm from the Pivot Centre (Glenmanor Avenue, Moodiesburn, G69 0DL) to the Auchengeich Miners Memorial Service - held at the special memorial near the Miners’ Club.

The exhibition will run until September 19 at Auld Kirk Museum.