Victims of Hapton pit tragedy remembered

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The tragic victims of the Hapton Valley pit disaster were remembered more than half a century on.

Former miners, families and local dignitaries gathered to remember the 19 men killed in the horrific accident which ripped through the Hapton colliery in March 1962.

Mourners gathered to pay their respects around the memorial stone in Burnley Cemetery 52 years on from the tragedy which was one of Burnley’s blackest days.

Around 70 people, including trustees Coun. Bob Clark and Archer Lee and members of Hapton Parish Council, were present at the solemn remembrance service.

A roll call of names of the miners who died in the disaster were read out before a minutes silence was held.

Prayers were offered for the families of the men who lost their lives and wreathes were laid by the memorial stone.

Ronnie Cheetham, whose uncle Ronnie Taylor was killed in the mine aged just 16, brought his Vespa scooter to the service which is painted with tributes to the dead and images of local miners.

The terrible accident occurred on the morning of March 22nd, 1962, at 9-45am when an explosion ripped through the 140-yard long Number 2 Union seam at the colliery.

Sixteen men were killed instantly and a further three died later from their injuries. A further 22 men were hurt in the blast. The disaster not only scarred the landscape but the lives of scores of families for many years to come.

Archer Lee who worked at Hapton Valley Pit for 22 years and was one of the first rescuers on the scene.

Speaking after the service, he said: “I was there on the day it happened. I carried one of the first men off the coal face. It was a terrible day

“It is very important to remember this disaster. But there are not many survivors left now.”

Former miner Coun. Bob Clark said: “It is overwhelming to see the people and the families paying their respects 52 years on.

“It is always a poignant occasion. They are gone, but not forgotten. We are determined to mark the occasion next year which will fall on the exact date that the disaster happened.”

The following men were killed in the disaster: Christopher Brown (55), Sampson Bullen (44), James Cummings (19), Robert Dunston (26), Stanley Faulkes (41), John Halstead (55), George Hartley (32), Raymond Howarth (20), Tom Isherwood (49), Donald McGoogan (28), Garry Pickles (22), John Robinson (24), Donald Rushton (33), Robert Shuttleworth (33), Ronnie Taylor (16), Benjamin Walsh (25), John Barritt (23), Joseph Forrest (17) and Peter Tinsley (16).