Marking 60 years since pit disaster

Glendene School pupils pictured taking part in the memorial event with David Loomes on the accordion.
Glendene School pupils pictured taking part in the memorial event with David Loomes on the accordion.

A COMMUNITY will gather to pay their respects to the scores of men who lost their lives in a pit disaster.

The 81 miners and two rescue workers who died in the 1951 Easington Colliery pit disaster will be remembered tomorrow, on the 60th anniversary of the tragedy.

A memorial service will be held at the Community Memorial Garden, at the former colliery pit site, off Seaside Lane, at 11am.

During the service, the garden will be blessed by the Bishop of Jarrow, The Right Reverend Mark Bryant.

An address will be given by Alan Cummings, secretary of the Easington branch of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Easington Colliery Band will accompany a procession to the Church of Ascension, in Seaside Lane, for 11.30am.

At 12.45pm, the congregation will proceed to a service at the miners’ mass grave site, at Easington Colliery Cemetery, in Crawlaw Road.

Floral tributes will be laid and a miner’s lamp will be unveiled.

The service will be followed by refreshments at Easington Colliery Club and Institute, in Seaside Lane.

Easington Colliery Parish Council chairman Angela Surtees’ husband John’s grandfather, Matthew White Surtees, and his uncle Hugh Bell Surtees lost their lives on that fateful day when a spark at the coalface ignited a pocket of gas, which led to the explosion.

Mrs Surtees said: “Even today, the events of the day are remembered by people, especially the families of the 83 who lost their lives.”

Youngsters from the village’s Glendene School and Community Arts College and Easington Colliery Primary School held a concert to mark the anniversary.

It featured an animated film made by the Glendene children, depicting the events of the tragedy, as well as traditional North East songs and clog-dancing.

Some of the children helped to make silk painted arts panels for a large banner that has been especially commissioned by Beamish Museum for the anniversary.

The children’s work will be on show at Easington Social Welfare Hall, in Seaside Lane, before the banner moves to Beamish Museum.

David Loomes, headteacher at Easington Colliery Primary School, said: “Our community is important to our children, and it is essential that they understand their heritage and the sacrifices their families made to keep the wheels of industry turning.”

A band called The Blue Bishops will be performing during a memorial concert at Easington Social Welfare Centre tomorrow, with doors opening at 6.45pm.

Entry is free, with donations to the centre.

For more information about the event, call (0191) 5270635.