Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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 Newspaper account of the disaster at ARDEER

FEBRUARY 9th 1884.


Yesterday morning the works at Stevenston of the Nobels Explosive Co was the scene of a distressing and fatal occurrence. At about twenty minutes to nine o’clock No 7 Cartridge hut blew up. As many of our readers are aware the hut in which the cartridges are made up. are scattered among the sand hills a mile or so to the west of the town of Stevenston and a short distance from the beach between Stevenston burn and Irvine harbour.

There are thirty of these isolated huts and when the explosion took place it set fire to three of these structures which are simply composed of slabs of wood with tarpaulin roofs.

There are usually four girls employed in each of these huts and Mr McRoberts the manager states that yesterday morning fifteen girls in all were employed in them. In No 7 hut, that in which the explosion occurred the young woman employed were; ANN BRANNAN, MARY BRANNAN (sisters) MARY McADAM and RACHAEL ALLISON. The last named resided with her parents in Kilwinning and the others were resident in the village.

The force of the explosion was terrific as well may be imagined when it is stated that the huts were supposed to contain two and a half cwt. of dynamite each. Not a vestige of the hut remains to indicate its former presence and parts of the body of one of the girls was found over the boundary palisade towards the shore and probably not less than 150 yards from the scene of the explosion.

Three of the adjoining huts were set on fire but did not explode. Had it been gunpowder in place of dynamite that was in process of manufacture and packing, there would have been today a much more harrowing tale to tell. The huts burned and sad to tell in most cases the poor young creatures with them, all girls between the ages of 18 and 25.

In Hut No 5 two girls lost their lives; MARY ANN PETERS aged 19, Main St Stevenston and MARTHA MCALLISTER of Ardeer Square. 

In Hut No 6 the killed were ELIZABETH LOVE and MARTHA HAGGERTY

In Hut No 8 two were also burnt to death; ISABELLA LONGRIDGE of Stevenston and ISABELLA McCALL of New Square. In each rise death was probably instantaneous for the huts are probably not more than 15 feet square.


Rose Ann Murphy stated " I was at work in No 6 hut along with Martha Haggarty and Elizabeth Love making cartridges, I heard the explosion and the first thing after that I remember was the boards coming down. In a moment the hut was in flames. I do not know- how I got out of the hut. I remember crying ’ Martha ’ and seeing the flames all about her, after that 1 do not remember anything till I regained consciousness".

Mary Banks was working in No 5 hut, both arms are injured with the fire and her hair is singed, she states that she heard the explosion then the window came in on them the flames following. She rushed out and was saved. Jessie Craig gives a similar narrative.

The cause of the explosion has not yet been ascertained. It is just possible ,that there may have been some larking around amongst the girls and it is probable that some irregularity or other amongst them was committed. The manager had been round the huts shortly before and only twenty minutes previous to the explosion the foreman had been in hut No 7 and had found everything all right.

The admirable discipline which exists in the factory, its resources for dealing with an occurrence of the kind which took place yesterday morning and the courage and presence of mind of the manager and those immediately under him were evident from the speed with which the fire was extinguished and prevented from spreading.







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