People young and old came joined today to remember the men and boys who died in a tragic historic mining disaster.

The devastating Unity Brook Colliery Disaster happened in Kearsley in 1878 when a mine shaft explosion killed 43 people, some of them as young as 12.

Now, more than 150 years on the people of Kearsley across all ages came together to pay their respects at a moving ceremony held on Manchester Road.

The Bolton News:

A minute silence took place exactly at 13:07  which is when the disaster struck as per recovered pocket watch which is represented on the coal tub. Children from Spindle Point and St Stephen's school reading out the names of the 43 men and boys. 

The Bolton News: Unity Brook memorial service

Stephen Tonge co-lead of Kearsley Festival Group said: "Since we constructed the memorial in 2018, we have held a short service every year. It not only recognises the sacrifice by the Kearsley Miners but is a source of education for our present members of the community."

Cllr Tracey Wilkinson said: "Growing up in Kearsley I was unaware of the disaster which was located within walking distance of my family home.

"When I first heard about the project idea, I jumped at the chance of being involved in such an important part of our Kearsley history.

"It is so important for the history of our town to be passed down from generation to generation. The memorial not only helps us remember the 43 who lost their lives but educates our children."

Cllr Debbie Newall, of Kearsley, said: “It’s something that we always attend.

“It’s really very poignant when you look at the list of the names and there were 12- and 13-year-old boys who died with their fathers.”

The Bolton News: A memorial to the disaster stands on Manchester RoadA memorial to the disaster stands on Manchester Road (Image: Public)

She added: “But I think its great that they are remembered, that the community hasn’t forgotten and that we’ve got a permanent memorial to them.”

The service was led by Barry Price of St Stephen’s Church, with a minute’s silence at 1.07pm marking the time the disaster began.

The Bolton News: A historic Miner's Union bannerA historic Miner's Union banner (Image: Public)

The tragedy that struck in 1878 also showed the best of the mining community, when engineers from nearby pits arrived to offer help.

In one of the most striking scenes of the disaster, a nearby pub was used as a makeshift chapel of rest as bodies were pulled out of the rubble.

The Bolton News: Cllr Melanie Livesey attended the event with police officersCllr Melanie Livesey attended the event with police officers (Image: Public)

In the years since, people around Kearsley have worked hard to make sure that their departed sons’ memory endures.

The memorial to the men and boys killed in the disaster was put up on Manchester Road in 2018 and stands not far from where the colliery once stood.

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Since the memorial was put up, members of the Kearsley Festival Group have held an annual memorial service on the anniversary of the disaster on March 12 to remember the lives lost.

This year’s ceremony was attended by two school parties, with Kearsley councillors and police officers.

Cllr Newall said: “It was a great turnout, we had adults and children, but its especially good to see children turning out for it.

“Because they really show that its not been forgotten and then one day they’ll be taking their kids to the memorial, so that will show that they really haven’t been forgotten.”