Honour our miners: Campaign to commemorate Burnley's deceased pit-workers

A campaign to honour Burnley's rich mining heritage with a memorial to the pit-workers who lost their lives doing "probably the worst job in the world" is gathering traction.

Wednesday, 11th April 2018, 12:00 pm
Updated Monday, 16th April 2018, 3:06 pm
Hapton Valley miners leaving the lamp room after collecting their lamps to go over to the surface drift.

Organised by the newly-formed Burnley Mining Memorial Fund, the campaign is aiming to raise £75,000 for a memorial in a prominent area of the town to pay tribute to well over 300 local miners - some as old as 80 and some as young as seven - who are recorded as having died whilst working on the Burnley Coalfield.

Key to Burnley's development in the 18th and 19th Centuries as the town emerged as one of the world's largest producers of cotton cloth during the Industrial Revolution, the mining industry was nevertheless perilously dangerous, with workers often losing their lives in gruesome circumstances, including explosions, roofs collapsing, being crushed by barrels, falling down shafts, being suffocated, getting entangled in machinery, and being scalded to death.

"It was probably the worst occupation in the world," said the Burnley-born ex-miner and mining historian, Jack Nadin (70). "It was dangerous: I did some research and got about 326 cases of people being killed, and that's only going back to the 1850s. There was no nice way of dying down the pits, so I wanted to record their names.

(From left:) Richard Sims, Phil Glover, Jack Nadin, and Sue Hawkins at the first meeting of the Burnley Mining Memorial Fund.

"It's very important to recognise the miners: Burnley was the biggest cotton manufacturing town in the world at one time and they couldn't manufacture cotton without coal, which was all produced locally," Jack added, pointing out that the Burnley Coalfield boasted 16 pits at its peak. "It's the town's heritage."

Formed on March 22nd this year on the 56th anniversary of a terrible explosion at Hapton Valley Colliery in 1962 in which 16 men were killed instantly and a further 16 were seriously injured, the Burnley Mining Memorial Fund have a first-hand appreciation of the miners' contribution to the storied past of an area where the earliest reference of a miner's death dates back to 1601.

With the Hapton Valley Colliery remaining in operation for a further 20 years after the explosion until 1982, Jack himself spent seven years between the ages of 16 and 23 working down the pit. When asked if the incident in which so many of his potential workmates had been killed just two years before he started had put him off he said: "Well, we didn't have much choice back then."

While the location for the proposed memorial has not yet been decided, the memorial fund group have been in contact with Burnley Borough Council to discuss potential options, with Jack saying that a memorial befitting Burnley's legacy is long overdue.

(From left:) Richard Sims, Phil Glover, Jack Nadin, and Sue Hawkins at the first meeting of the Burnley Mining Memorial Fund.

"I've always thought we've needed something like this," explained Jack, who is also urging people with relatives who died in the pits to get in touch for him to check his records. "The Council has backed us unanimously, so we're just waiting to hear back about potential locations. Because of its nature, it needs to be read.

"It needs to be prominent," he said.

For more information on the Burnley Mining Memorial Fund, head to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/192905974652293/about/.