'Hundreds' gather to commemorate 70th anniversary of the Easington Colliery disaster
An Easington councillor spoke of his pride at the community turnout to commemorate the 70th anniversary of a historic pit disaster in the County Durham village.
County councillor Dave Boyes said ‘every family’ in and around Easington had been impacted in some way by the ‘cataclysmic’ event that took place on May 29, 1951, seventy years ago today.
The disaster claimed the lives of 81 miners and two rescue workers when a cutting machine ignited a gas pocket in one of the colliery seams.
It is considered one of the worst mining accidents to have ever occurred in the region and led to national recommendations being made by the mining inspectorate, along with reconstruction of the pit.
According to Cllr Boyes, something between a hundred and two hundred people lined the village streets to mark the commemorative event.
Tributes were first observed at the colliery’s community garden before attendees marched over to the communal grave in the colliery cemetery, where 72 of the recovered victims’ bodies were laid to rest decades ago.
"There was probably a couple of hundred people who attended between the two places," Cllr Boyes said.
Two commemorative benches were unveiled at the colliery’s community garden by relatives of those who died 70 years ago.
Cllr Boyes explained that, despite the restrictions on public gatherings brought on by Covid, the community was determined to be present and honour the memory of the 83 workers who died.
"I think what we did today did Easington proud, did the memory of the men who lost their lives proud,” he said.
“And we were absolutely delighted with the turnout – particularly, the number of families and relatives of the 83 men who died in 1951.
"Part of the reason we put on these events every 10 years is to honour the families, but also because in a decade’s time there aren’t going to be as many family members who’ve got a direct connection.
"I was pleased to see so many young people attending today. It's really important they understand what effect this event had on our community – and still has on our community.
"83 people dying in a place like Easington is cataclysmic – every family was affected in some way by it.”