John Blaikie - Carnegie Hero

Carnegie Hero Book

When I was carrying out the research for my 'Landmarks of Literacy' exhibition in 1999, I made enquiries at the Carnegie Birthpace Museum about my great-grandfather. My dad had told me that his grandpa was a hero, but we didn't know the details of the story behind it.

The Secretary of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, Bill Runciman kindly sent me an extract from the minutes of 1911.

When the exhibition was showing at the museum, the page of the illuminated Roll of Honour where John Blaikie's name appears was displayed, surrounded by my library drawings.

The names of over 6000 heroes are inscribed in the beautifully illustrated Roll of Honour, which is kept on permanent display at the Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Dunfermline.

The Hero Fund Trust was established in 1908, four years after its American counterpart, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, had been set up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As at 2001 the fund amounted to over £4.5 million.

JOHN BLAIKIE, railway porter, Polmont, on the 5th August 1911 risked his life in getting a barrow out of the way with the object of keeping the line clear when an express train was approaching. (Case 720).

This case was reported on the 18th August,1911 by Mr W.F. Jackson, General Manager of the North British Railway Company, Edinburgh. Mr Jackson also furnished an account of the occurrence and stated that the attention of the directors would be drawn to the conduct of porter John Blaikie.
On the 5th August 1911, a porter placed a large travelling box on a barrow improperly underneath the bridge that carries the public road over the railway line at Polmont station. The front single wheel of the barrow suddenly swung round and got over the edge of the platform. Blaikie, who was some distance away, observed the position of things. He rushed forward and got hold of the barrow, but had not sufficient strength to prevent it from falling on to the line. Knowing that an express from Glasgow to Edinburgh was signalled he jumped on to the line to try to get the barrow out of the way. He was followed by two other porters. The latter when they saw the express approaching, got on to the platform to save themselves. Blaikie, however, pluckily stuck to his post, and at great risk, managed to pull the barrow onto the 6 foot way clear of the express, with the exception of one of the trams, which was struck by the engine. The barrow was destroyed, a piece of wood from it striking Blaikie on the foot.
Mr Jackson, Manager of the N.B.R. Coy. states that Blaikie by his plucky action no doubt averted what might have been a very serious accident. He recalls the Wellingboro’ accident on the Midland Railway Company’s system, where, owing to a barrow falling on to the line in front of an express train under somewhat similar circumstances, a large number of passengers were killed. He adds that he will recommend the directors of the company to recognise Blaikie’s heroic action, but that it occured to him that that the trustees of the Carnegie Hero Fund would like to have the opportunity of considering whether they should also recognise the case.

The extract shown above is from the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust minutes of 1911 and it details the incident in which my great-grandfather was involved, which was subsequently recognised by the funds trustees. It is written in the "Boy's Own" style of the times.

Carnegie Hero medallion

Front and reverse sides of bronze medallion of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust.
The inscription on the front reads "He serves God best who nobly serves humanity".
The reverse side is inscribed "For heroic endeavour to save human life".

Page of Hero Book

Page from the first volume of the Roll of Honour featuring my great-grandfather's exploits. Derrick Barclay, the Curator of the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum put this page on display while my exhibition was at the museum.

Carnegie Libraries of Scotland: Architecture & History
Andrew Carnegie

The Carnegie Libraries

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His Scottish connections

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The first in the world

 American Libraries
A comparative study

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Edwardian architecture

J.R. Rhind in Glasgow

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 Inside the Libraries
Photographs from 1907

 Carnegie Hero
John Blaikie in 1911

Landmarks of Literacy


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