Hundreds remember Glasgow factory blast tragedy

The memorial gardens beside what remains of the Stockline factory. Picture: Hemedia
The memorial gardens beside what remains of the Stockline factory. Picture: Hemedia
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Hundreds of people gathered at a memorial service yesterday to remember those killed in a gas explosion at a Glasgow 
factory ten years ago.

Nine people died in the blast at the city’s Stockline plastics 
factory in Maryhill and 33 others were seriously injured.

A build-up of leaking gas from corroded underground pipes was to blame for the disaster, which provoked a country-wide pipe replacement programme.

Victims’ families, community members, politicians including Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, and members of the emergency services attended the service at Maryhill Community Central Halls, near the former factory site.

A welcome address was given by Gary Gentles, the centre’s community development manager, followed by readings from Rev Paul McEwan, Brian Sweeney, the former chief officer of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service, Father Euan Marley and local MSP Patricia Ferguson.

Mr Sweeney paid tribute to the community spirit shown by Maryhill at the time of the incident and in the years that followed. He said the fact that the community had been “willing to do everything and anything that it could was a source of great inspiration”.

He said one colleague had told him that “Maryhill, in a smaller way, was Glasgow’s 9/11”.

“May 11, 2004 brought such terrible tragedy to our community,” he said.

“Four days of grief, shock, effort, pain, pride and humanity. A city coming together. Now, as we did then, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the city.”

Rev McEwan, who served in Maryhill at the time of the tragedy, said: “Our scars are an important part of who we are and they remind us of what we have gone through and survived. Our scars will always be with us but they don’t define us. We never forget but we can move on.”

His words were followed by a recital of the Seamus Heaney poem Funeral Rites by Father Marley, and Ms Ferguson’s reading of The Glory Of Life Is Love.

Singer Cathy Peattie led a rendition of the Beatles song Let It Be, before family members were invited forward to light a candle for each person who died.

The names of those killed were Margaret Brownlie, Annette Doyle, Peter Ferguson, Thomas McAulay, Stewart McColl, Tracey McErlane, Kenneth Murray, Tim Smith and Ann Trench.

Marie Murray, who lost her husband Kenny, 45, said: “Because of the tragedy, I lost my husband, my two daughters and son lost their dad, and he was robbed of the chance to see them grow up and his two grandchildren born.

“Kenny was a wonderful husband and a great dad, but also a loving son and brother.

“You cannot lose somebody like him without it being felt throughout the extended family and it is a loss we have to suffer every day, even now, ten years later.”

A public inquiry into the blast found ICL Plastics Ltd and subsidiary ICL Tech Ltd had not identified or understood the risks associated with the gas piping and that the disaster could have been avoided.

The companies were each fined £200,000.

The UK government later announced measures to strengthen gas safety on industrial sites, including the replacement of all buried metal pipework carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by 2015. Polyethylene pipes will be used instead.

Speaking before the service, Ms Ferguson said: “No-one should lose their life just because they went to work, but that is what happened here and in too many other situations in Scotland.

“It is important that we also recognise the work of the emergency services, particularly the fire and rescue services who worked tirelessly for four days in appalling conditions to rescue the injured and recover the dead.

“Also the community of Maryhill, which rallied round, providing support to the bereaved families and those who worked on the site of the explosion.’’

The £1 million investigation that followed the blast was the biggest of its kind ever undertaken by the Scottish authorities.

It emerged the explosion occurred in the basement, where gas leaking from a corroded join on a pipe carrying LPG to an oven on the first floor had collected. Experts said it may have been ignited by something as simple as a light being switched on.