A COMMUNITY came together yesterday to remember the victims of the West Stanley mining disaster.
A special service, on the 103rd anniversary of the West Stanley mining disaster when 168 men and boys lost their lives in a massive explosion, was held at the memorial to the tragedy with the foundations of a new school campus in the background.
And it was students of North Durham Academy, which is set to open next year, who gave up part of their half-term holiday to join locals and dignitaries including North Durham MP Kevan Jones to take part in the service.
A reading from 13-year-old Jonathan Hodgson explained how Year 8 students at the academy, which is currently on two sites until the campus is completed, explained how they had been learning about the history of their town of Stanley.
And minister Austin Johnson, minister of the nearby St Andrew’s Church, said: “This site was an important place in Stanley when the mine was here.
“It is appropriate that it will be an important place again when the Academy opens.
“The children who attend this new building will have life chances which those miners of 100 years ago did not have. It is important to remember the past, but also to look to the future, which the new Academy building represents.”
Students present at the service included Bethany Barnett, 13, and her sister Samantha, 14.
Their grandfather, Malcolm Martindale, helped to design the pit-wheel shaped memorial opened by former Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan on February 16, 1995.
Keegan’s own grandfather Frank was one of more than 30 men who survived the blast and risked his life by going to help others escape.
The service was organised by Inspired Spaces and Carillion, Durham County Council’s Building Schools for the Future partners.
Academy principal David Thornton said: “Some of the miners who died were 13 and 14, the same ages as the students who took part in this local history project, which helped to bring home to them the scale and human cost of the tragedy. As part of the work students have researched the West Stanley mining disaster and presented their findings to their classmates.
“ It has allowed students to further understand their local area and the specific links that the community and North Durham Academy have to the site.”
Mr Thornton said a number of artefacts, including a miner’s pick axe, had been discovered by workers building the academy and handed on to the school.