Young and old pack church for memorial service

THE 100th anniversary of one of the region’s worst mining disasters was marked at a church service.

Memorial service for the West Stanley pit disaster

THE 100th anniversary of one of the region's worst mining disasters was marked at a church service.

Young and old turned out in memory of the 168 people who perished in an explosion at the West Stanley Colliery, in County Durham, on February 16, 1909.

So many people attended Saturday’s service, at St Andrew’s Church, Stanley, that some stood in the aisles and others could not even fit in the building.

The moving event was led by the Right Reverend Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow. It was organised by local historians Jack Hair and Bob Drake and Mr Hair, of Mandela Close, Stanley, said it had been a very moving experience.

He said: “It was absolutely filled to capacity – there were people standing outside.

“It was a really, really moving service.

“There were relatives of people killed in the disaster there from all over the country.

“It was a service for the whole mining community and everybody was saying how wonderful it was. With it being 100 years on, it might be the last time it is remembered like this. In 10 or 20 years, there won’t be many miners still alive.”

Another service is to be held at the site of the tragedy, near to the town’s King’s Head playing fields, today at 3pm.

It will be held next to the pit wheel memorial to the dead which was opened in 1995 by former Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan, whose grandfather, Frank, was one of more than 30 men who survived the blast and risked their lives by trying to help others escape.

To coincide with the service, Mr Hair has arranged for the bells of St Andrews to ring 168 times, once for each person who died.


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