Templeton's Carpet factory disaster

On 1st November 1889, twenty-nine girls and women lost their lives after the collapse of Templeton’s Carpet Factory (also known as the ‘Greenhead disaster’) in the east end of Glasgow. Many others were injured, some seriously. A memorial garden paying tribute to the victims exists today and will this year undergo a renovation as part of a new heritage and learning centre that is being built. The team behind this project have been researching the disaster to better understand what happened and to honour the victims with the improvements they’ll be making. This led them to Scottish Bible Society as the archives at the University of Glasgow included Bibles given to the families of the victims with a special message of condolence.

When I was contacted by the project team to shed more light on this, I went straight to our annual reports which we have thankfully compiled and kept since the early 1800s. In the entry for the 1889 report was a reference to the disaster and that, “a memorial Bible with a suitable inscription was provided in the name of the Society” to victims and survivors. I met with the project team to show them this entry and as we looked through the annual report, their eyes lit up at the many recognisable church and family names recorded in the report for the east end of Glasgow. They were also delighted to piece together their jigsaw and photographed our report to include as part of the new heritage and learning centre.

Bible presented as a Token of Sympathy in connection with the Calamity at Greenhead, Glasgow

Courtesy of Stoddard Templeton Collection, University of Glasgow

As I spent some time looking and praying over the existing memorial garden, it struck me that not only did my predecessors working in the name of the Society devote the time and effort to offer the Word of God to those on our doorstep in a time of suffering and need, but there was also a time when vibrant communities supported and spread the work of the Society. For this I am grateful, because without their endeavour, many people in Scotland and around the world may not have had the opportunity to receive the Word of God and I would not be doing what I do today.

God sent me off on a task which is not what my day job normally consists of but he has reminded me how precious and powerful the Bible is. He interrupted my usual routine, made me investigate an event that just happens to share my own birthday (exactly 89 years before I was born), and said to me that those twenty-nine victims are gone but not forgotten.

Lawrence Sum
Director of Communications