MORE than 100 people have paid tribute to miners killed in one of worst mining disasters in Great Britain.
Three services took place today, Friday, on the anniversary of the Pretoria Pit disaster on December, 21 1910 to remember the 344 men and boys who lost their lives.
A ceremony near to the mine site on the edge of the Hulton Estate, off Newbrook Road, Atherton took place to dedicate two memorial stones, which are engraved with the names of the fallen miners.
Bolton West MP Julie Hilling led the ceremony, which involved a poem recital from Andrea Finney, who wrote Where’s Mi Dad, a poem about the tragedy, along with songs from Parkside Colliery Male Voice Choir.
Ms Hilling said: “I think it’s quite hard for us to imagine how the communities were so devastated, the communities of Westhoughton, Atherton and Daisy Hill. Some families lost all of the men in their family, not only husband but some a father and their son. It’s hard to imagine how cold and hungry people must have been. I think it’s so right that we remember people who worked to build our future.”
The memorial stones were placed after ex-miner Tony Hogan, from Atherton, whose great-grandfather John Austin was one of the victims of the mine, spent two years campaigning and fundraising for a lasting tribute.
He said: “My mum Eileen Hogan told me about aftermath of the disaster and I have done this for her. I always told her I would do something. It all started two years ago when I knocked on Ms Hilling’s door and they have been fully supportive since. I visit the site every day. I am so humble, I have told my children and grand-children about what happened — lest we forget.”
Clr Ryan Battersby, Mayor of Westhoughton, organised a service at 7.40am at the lone miner in Ditchfield Gardens where more than 30 people braved the cold.
St Bartholomew’s Church in Westhoughton, who has held a service for more than 20 years to remember those who died, also marked the historical event.
Clr Batterbsy said: “There’s not really a family in Westhoughton that isn’t touched by the disaster. It’s a tale that’s been past down generations which is why families continue to return every year to pay their respects.”
Mayor of Bolton Clr Guy Harkin, speaking at the memorial stones dedication, said the list of the names of the deceased are still names commonly found in Westhoughton, Daubhill and other areas of Bolton and Atherton. He said he hoped the stones would encourage schools to visit so youngsters could learn about Pretoria Pit.