Ewan McVicar visited P6/7, Miss Green’s class, Auchenraith Primary, Blantyre, on the 11th and 18th September, 2012. We wrote a new song about Annie Cosgrove, who was born in Blantyre about 1900. It was her singing of a song about the 1877 Blantyre coalmine explosion when over 200 men died that made that song famous. The new song was sung at a concert in Blantyre on 27th September, and added to the Collier Tracks website. The tune of the song is a slow version of Bobby Shafto.

Annie Cosgrove, do you know
Was born in Blantyre long ago
Sang a sad song of the coal
Sad Annie Cosgrove

It was about an accident
Down the pit the miners went
Around the world the news was sent
Sad Annie Cosgrove

Way down deep under the ground
The miners heard an explosive sound
Bits of people flew around
Sad Annie Cosgrove

All the women of Blantyre
Cried ‘Is it a bomb, is it a fire?’
The word went all round Lanarkshire
Sad Annie Cosgrove

Two hundred men or more
Stepped that day through death’s door
Wives and daughter sad and sore
Sad Annie Cosgrove

The men that survived must have been strong
Then somebody wrote a song
That Annie learned and sang along
Sad Annie Cosgrove

She sailed to Canada across the sea
There she worked busily
And sang her song to everybody
Sad Annie Cosgrove

She came home to live in Nitten
In a book the song was written
It got famous all around Britain
Sad Annie Cosgrove



The Blantyre Explosion

A tragic song of a young man killed in the coal pit and a young girl left lamenting.


By Clyde’s bonny banks as I sadly did wander,
Amang the pit heaps, as evening drew nigh,
I spied a fair maiden all dressed in deep mourning,
A weeping and wailing, with many a sigh.


I stepped up beside her, and thus I addressed her,
“Pray tell me, fair maid, of your trouble and pain.”
Sobbing and sighing, at last she did answer.
“Johnny Murphy, kind sir, was my true lover’s name.


“Twenty one years of age, full of youth and good looking,
To work down the mines of High Blantyre he came.
The wedding was fixed, all the guests were invited,
That calm summer’s evening young Johnny was slain.


“The explosion was heard, all the women and children
With pale anxious face made haste to the mine.
The news was made known, the hills rang with their mourning.
Two hundred and ten young miners were slain.


“Now children and wives, and sweethearts and parents,
That Blantyre explosion they’ll never forget.
And all you young miners who hear my sad story,
Shed a tear for the victims who’re laid to their rest."


On the 22nd October 1877 over two hundred miners were killed in a disaster at Dixon’s Colliery, High Blantyre, near Hamilton. This song was made about the tragedy. There is an annual march in Blantyre to commemorate the disaster.
There are other Scottish songs about mining disasters. ‘The Donibristle Moss Moran Disaster’ happened in Fife in 1901, and ‘The Auchengeich Disaster’ which happened as recently as 1957 near Stepps on the outskirts of Glasgow, were also commemorated in song.
The Irish name of the girl’s ‘true lover’ in ‘The Blantyre Explosion’ is not surprising. Many Irishmen came over to Scotland in the 19th Century to work in the pits and to dig the canals, and stayed to marry and raise families.  The singer Annie Cosgrove sang a different name for the lost love, Johnny MacPhee, and said she learned the song from from a relative of the girl who was to have married Johnny. A relative of Mrs Cosgrove’s husband was also killed in the explosion.’

This song was made in late 2013 by P6 David Livingstone Memorial Primary School, Blantyre, Scotland

 with songwriter Billy Stewart.


My Life In Song

  1. I was born in a cold dark room

In the year 1813

In a mill in Blantyre just down the road

From the age of 10 I carried a heavy load

Life was hard and life seemed always mean

Life was hard and life seemed always mean


  1. I worked 12 hour shifts in the mill

Then studied for 2 hours at school

I saved hard earned money because I had a plan

To study to be a doctor, a missionary man

And sail to Africa’s far coast x2


  1. My mission was to stop the slaver trade

And to spread the word about my God

But I became an explorer and searched this no man’s land

Found Victoria Falls a sight so very Grand

Then battled through this country’s savage ways x 2


  1. I fought my enemies across this mighty land

Amazed at the wonders that I found

But there is a single moment that folk remember most

When Dr.Stanley found me for they thought that I was lost

But did I know exactly where I was x2


  1. In the year 18 hundred and 73

As I knelt down in prayer

I passed away from this life my spirit now is free

My heart stayed in Africa beneath the Mvula tree

But my legend now lives on today x2



Play song here