Monday, May 30, 2011

60 years after the Easington Pit Disaster

The above photograph was taken at Easington Colliery yesterday at a Ceremony of Remembrance held at the graves of miners who were killed in a local pit disaster 60 years ago. I was at the ceremony and at an earlier and packed Memorial Service held in the Parish Church, where the names of all those killed was read out. 81 were killed due to an explosion in the Duckbill District of the Five Quarter Seam and this was followed by the deaths of two of the rescue workers.

Another 895 men were working in other parts of the pit at the time and the official report into the disaster pointed out that if stone dusting had not taken place earlier then "the explosion might have acquired such violence that it would have spread beyond its actual confines and have caused one of the greatest disasters in mining history". Yet as it was, the explosion rushed through nine miles of roadway.

We all have our own way into the past. I was a 14 year old school boy and my father was in the pit when the explosion struck at 4.35am on 29 May 1951. He survived because he was working in a different seam to the one in which the explosion took place. He later helped with what he described as being "salvage work". The official report by the Chief Inspector of Mines states that tribute "must be paid to the large number of colliery workers who removed bodies, strengthened stoppings and cleared paths. Their work, though not so dangerous as that of the trained rescue teams, was arduous, unpleasant and not without strain, and I am glad to have the opportunity of recording sincere appreciation of their services". It was an overall experience which reinforced my father's loyalties. So yesterday I wore his old Durham NUM tie.

My father moved to Easington with his parents and five siblings when he was a three year old in 1912 just after coal was first drawn from its pit. He worked at the colliery between the ages of 14 and 65 and died in 1996 just three years after the pit was closed. Few people could have been so closely bound to its life as a mining colliery. The experience of its pit disaster happening roughly half-way through his life.

The photo of the young girl above comes from the this source.

Added 24 June : Also see here, here, here, here and here.

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