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Donibristle disaster: Memorial to one of Fife’s worst mining disasters to be repaired ahead of 120th anniversary

Donibristle disaster
Mr McArthur next to the memorial cairn.

A memorial to eight men killed in one of Fife’s worst mining disasters will be repaired in time for its 120th anniversary.

A plaque bearing the names of those who died in the Donibristle disaster will be regilded free of charge before a poignant ceremony on August 26.

The memorial, near Cowdenbeath, was erected almost 25 years ago but much of the wording is no longer legible.

Donibristle disaster
The Donibristle Memorial near Cowdenbeath.

Local man Donald McArthur, who created the cairn on which the plaque stands, wanted it repaired in time for the memorial ceremony involving the descendants of the eight men.

Last October, the 65-year-old appealed for help to raise enough funds to refurbish it.

But after reading The Courier’s article, the Co-op stepped forward and offered to pay for the repairs.

Mr McArthur said he was absolutely delighted.

They were recovered three months after the disaster and brought to the surface.”

Donald McArthur.

“A lot of family members got in touch and all offered donations towards the refurbishment,” he said.

“The Co-op are going to do it as part of their work to support good causes in the community so I’ve suggested the families put their money towards a floral tribute to lay at the ceremony in August.”

Mr McArthur’s great-grandfather James McDonald was one of those killed in Donibristle Colliery in 1901.

He was part of a rescue team that made heroic efforts to free trapped miners William Forsyth, George Hutchison, David Campbell and Alexander Smith after the Mynheer seam was flooded by thousands of tonnes of water and moss.

He was joined by William Hynd, Thomas Rattray and Andrew Paterson in a vain bid to find the trapped men.

Ceremony to mark the Donibristle disaster

Mr McArthur built the cairn on the outskirts of Cowdenbeath, a mile south of the colliery at Mossmorran Moor.

A ceremony held there in 2001 marked the centenary of the disaster.

Family members from as far away as Canada plan to return for this year’s event.

“I’ve made arrangements for a commemorative service with people arriving between noon and 12.30pm,” Mr McArthur said.

“It’s the 120th anniversary and it also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original unveiling of the cairn.

“I’m over the moon to say we’ve double the amount of living relatives than we did at the original unveiling.”

Mr McArthur also hopes to borrow a ledger containing details about the men who were eventually recovered from the pit and taken to Cowdenbeath cemetery.

“They were recovered three months after the disaster and brought to the surface,” he said.

“I’m going to ask for a loan of the book – either that or get an extract copied so families can read it on the day.”

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