Jesmond Old Cemetery memorial restored for first coal miner MP

Members of Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery have been working for two years to raise more than £1,600 for the restoration of the Thomas Burt Memorial in the Newcastle cemetery

The memorial for North East pitman and MP Thomas Burt has been restored thanks to community efforts.

Members of Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery have been working for two years to raise more than £1,600 for the restoration of the Thomas Burt Memorial in the Newcastle cemetery.

Yesterday more than 70 people, including MP Ian Lavery, came together in Jesmond Old Cemetery for the blessing of the newly restored memorial for Thomas Burt, the first working miner to become an MP.

Ray Hayes, secretary of Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery, said it had been a fantastic day.

“It all started back in October 2011, we were conta

cted by Denis Murphy, secretary of Northumberland area of the National Union of Mineworkers, who asked if we heard about the memorial and if we could help him restore it,” said Mr Hayes.

“It took two years to get the money together. The memorial had been laid flat a few years ago and was in about three bits and covered in brambles.

“We had to put the three bits of stone together and a tree had gone into it, the roots had to be dug out.

“It was quite a bit of work to get it right,” he said.

With the support of the Northumberland National Union of Mineworkers, who donated £1,000, the city council’s Bereavement Department giving £200, Waitrose at Jesmond’s ‘Community Matters’ handing over £140.66 and a share of the Chronicle Wish campaign pot, members were able to get to work.

Their hard work paid off with a special blessing of the newly restored memorial in Jesmond Old Cemetery yesterday.

Rob Hawkins, the local Methodist Minister from Jesmond, conducted the ‘blessing’, and the Backworth Colliery Band played a number of North East mining tunes with the Heaton Voices choir singing a host of mining-related songs as part of the celebration.

Thomas Burt, born near Backworth, was the first working miner to become an MP when he won the seat for Morpeth as a Liberal in 1874. He held his position until retirement in 1918, by which time he had become ‘father’ of the House of Commons.

Mr Hayes said: “It was very satisfying because we have been going six years, the Friends group, and one of the things we wanted to do was make sure people who had contributed so much to the North East were not forgotten about so that was one of the big steps to doing that.

“What he did was great and it was great to see one of our stated aims come to fruition.

“It was wonderful to see one of our ideas come life and it really was a great celebration.

“There was a good sense of community and a great milestone for us in regards to what we wanted to achieve.”

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