Miners' union raises a toast to anniversary on the spot its founders first met

Market Tavern landlord Tony Lenaghan, DMA programme director Ross Forbes, executive member Barry Chambers, and DMA chairman Joe Whitworth.
Market Tavern landlord Tony Lenaghan, DMA programme director Ross Forbes, executive member Barry Chambers, and DMA chairman Joe Whitworth.

The Durham Miners’ Association marked the 148th anniversary of the union’s founding by returning to where it all began.

On November 20 1869, delegates from collieries on the Durham Coalfield met at the Market Tavern in Durham City, and established the DMA.

Within 40 years, the union had gained 200,000 members, organised to improve the lives of the people of our county, established the Durham Miners' Gala, and built its magnificent headquarters at Redhills.

In 2019, the DMA will celebrate its 150th anniversary, with plans already being formed to mark that occasion.

As the DMA builds for the future, with plans to secure the Gala and Redhills for the next generation, current Chairman Joe Whitworth, executive member Barry Chambers, and programme director Ross Forbes, joined landlord Tony Lenaghan at the Market Tavern – where prints of union banners adorn the walls – to mark the anniversary.

Joe said: “The delegates who met at the Market Tavern 148 years ago were working-class people with hopes for a better world, and a determination to unite in solidarity to make their own history.

"They are giants of the trade union movement, and we stand today on their shoulders.

“The DMA is determined to ensure that Redhills and the Gala thrive for the benefit of future generations.

"We are planning now for our 150th anniversary in 2019, and building a bid to restore the Miners’ Hall at Redhills.

“As the motto of the Durham Miners' says, ‘the past we inherit, the future we build’.”

Earlier this month, the DMA announced an ambitious plan to restore its 102-year-old Redhills headquarters, and establish it as a hub of heritage and culture for the Durham Coalfield.

Its council chamber - or Pitman's Parliament - is in poor repair and needs urgent conservation work.

Some of the county's banner groups and parish councils have already pre-booked their seats and now the offer is open to the public.

It is expected that the sponsorships will be in high demand and people are encouraged to book early.

Sponsors will have an inscribed, memorial brass pit token as placed on the seat of their choice and receive a keepsake copy.

All funds raised will go towards the restoration of the room.

The DMA has also established the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala, to help secure the future of the Big Meeting, founded in 1871.

The Big Meeting thrives as a celebration of socialism, solidarity and working-class pride and was attended by 200,000 people this year.

The DMA continues to provide a range of services to its members – former miners. The union also supports community and cultural activity, and regularly hosts events at Redhills.

For details of the sponsorships and to Take Your Seat in the Pitman’s Parliament, visit: www.redhillsdurham.org and for more information of the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala, and to become a ‘Marra’, visit: www.friendsofdurhamminersgala.org/join_us.

For more on the DMA, visit: durhamminers.org.