THE community has paid its respects on the 107th anniversary of the Pretoria Pit disaster.

Services were held at memorials in Westhoughton and Atherton as people remembered the 344 men and boys who died in the underground explosion at Hulton Colliery on December 21, 1910.

The first memorial took place at the memorial in Ditchfield Garden, Westhoughton, where maroons were fired at 7.50am — the time the disaster occurred.

It was followed by a service at St Bartholomew's Church at 10am where wreaths were laid at the Pretoria Pit monument.

Cllr Samantha Watkin, mayor of Westhoughton, said: "It was touching to see so many in attendance at both the early morning service at Ditchfield Gardens and the church service afterwards.

"It makes me immensely proud that we as a town still commemorate such events that had a devastating impact on the local community.

"I think it is important that we never ever let what was the greatest mishap of this town disappear."

Cllr David Wilkinson said: "Westhoughton 107 years ago was a town of miners, mill workers, farms and a few other professions.

"This is part of the history of Westhoughton. When people start to forget the history you are in more trouble than you have ever been.

"Some people might have been woken up by the maroons in the morning but 107 years ago, four days before Christmas, there was a coffin in many homes and in some there were more.

"We remember the war dead from Westhoughton and the 344 who died at Pretoria Pit are just as important.

"We lost a generation in the First World War and we lost a generation in 1910."

Down the road in Over Hulton, an ex-miner called Tony Hogan discovered two metre sections of railway track in the ruins of the colliery.

Mr Hogan, who has been instrumental in looking after the Pretoria Pit memorial in Broadway, Atherton, approached Over Hulton Community Group chairman John Bullen.

The pair came up with the idea of using the tracks to add to the memorial.

They were taken to the blacksmith at the Astley Green Mining Museum who decided to create a mine cart to go with the tracks.

The display has been completed and was due to be installed yesterday at the memorial.

Mr Bullen said: "It is absolutely fantastic and the work that Tony has done on that memorial is just amazing. There were 344 people who were killed in 1910. This helps to keep their memories alive."