THE site of Britain’s third worst mining disaster will be remembered forever with the erection of memorial stones instigated by an Atherton man who spent 17 years working on the coal face at Leigh’s Parsonage Colliery.

Tony Hogan, ex-Parsonage National Union of Mineworkers’ branch vice-president, of Hillside Avenue, vowed one day there would be a proper on site memorial to victims of the Pretoria Pit disaster that happened just over a century ago.

The shortest day turned into the darkest day in Lancashire’s mining history when at 7.50am almost 102 years ago an explosion claimed the lives of 344 men and boys.

One of those men was 36-year-old John Austin, of Chequerbent – Tony Hogan’s great-grandfather.

Mr Hogan, aged 57, who also worked at Parkside Colliery, Newton-le-Willows, until its closure in 1993, said: “In 1968 there was an original memorial put there by the NUM but it became overgrown.

“Just over two years ago I knocked on Bolton West MP Julie Hilling’s door and asked her if we were going to do something significant to mark the disaster as near to the pit shafts as possible.”

Ms Hilling praised Mr Hogan's efforts.

“Tony has managed to source funding and help from Peel Holdings, the Co-Op Funeral Care, Abbey Funeral Care, the NUM Lancashire Area, Philip Harrison Ornamental Ironworks, Viridor Credit and Gerald Butler and Atherton Charity Cup committee,” she said.