Clarkston gas explosion: minute’s silence to mark 50th anniversary

A special service and a moment of silence are to be held this week, marking 50 years since the Clarkston gas explosion.

The Clarkston gas explosion killed 20 shoppers.

What was the Clarkston gas explosion?

On October 21, 1971, just before 3pm, a pocket of gas below a row of shops on Clarkston Toll erupted. The stores were destroyed, an overhead car park collapsed, 22 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured.

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Workers from the Scottish Gas Board were at the scene at the time of the incident, responding to complaints from shop staff about a smell of gas in the area.

Emergency services rushed to the scene, while workers from nearby shops and passers-by stopped to offer help. The search for survivors began.

Firemen check the debris of the collapsed shops after the Clarkston Toll gas explosion in October 1971.

It was described as Scotland’s “forgotten” disaster, and was the worst peace-time explosion in Scotland’s history.

What caused the Clarkston gas explosion and who was to blame?

Work to find out what had caused the incident started immediately. Workers dug down to the gas pipe and discovered a huge crack in the pipe, just feet below the ground.

It found was found that the pipe had insufficient support at the bottom. When traffic would pass above, the ground would shake, and the pipe, without the required support, would flex. That flexing, as well as corrosion of the pipe, caused it to crack.

The gas reached the large cellars underneath the shops. A spark ignited at the north end of the building - although the cause of the spark is not known - and the explosion followed.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry, which has been heavily criticised, lasted just four months and found that no-one was to blame for the incident.

What is being done to mark the anniversary?

East Renfrewshire Council will be marking the occasion on Thursday, with a special service at the memorial tree for the families of the victims and survivors.

A minute’s silence will also be held throughout the county at 2.50pm - the time of the explosion.

Greenbank Parish Church, St Aidan’s Scottish Episcopal Church, St Joseph’s RC Church and Willamwood Parish Church will be open to anyone for private prayer and reflection from 2pm until 4pm and then 6pm until 7pm.

What is East Renfrewshire Council saying?

East Renfrewshire Council's deputy provost, Councillor Betty Cunningham, said: “21 October 1971 was a dark day for the people of Clarkston and beyond.

“Many lives were lost and countless more were changed forever, so it is extremely important that the day is marked and we remember those who were lost.

“The commemoration at the memorial tree will give the families of victims and the survivors an opportunity to pay their respects and the minute's silence will allow everyone to stop in a moment of reflection.”