Sunderland pitman is ready for challenge as he fights for colliery communities

Durham Miners' Association President Alan Mardghum.
Durham Miners' Association President Alan Mardghum.

A miner who rose through the ranks to become leader of the Durham Miners’ Association has said he is ready for the challenge to protect its heritage and future.

Alan Mardghum was born and raised in Southwick, attending High Southwick Infants and Juniors and then West Southwick Secondary School before serving an apprenticeship as a baker and then on to Monkwearmouth Colliery from 1997 until its closure in 1993.

Starting on the beltlines, he move into supplies before completing his training to work as a powerloader for 13 years.

The Sunderland AFC fan and great-grandfather became lodge secretary after Dave Hopper took up his post as the president of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) and Mr Mardghum has once again followed in his footsteps to become secretary president of the union.

The combined role comes after Alan Cummings, who had been secretary, and Joe Whitworth, its chairman, retired, and Mr Mardghum has said he has been humbled to take on the role from them.

Among his tasks will be to lead the future of Durham Miners’ Gala, which will this year reach its 135th anniversary on Saturday, July 13, and the regeneration of the DMA’s headquarters at Redhills in Durham, as well as ensure the former colliery communities are represented and supported.

The late Dave Hopper was a close friend of Alan Mardghum, who has taken on the role of secretary president of Durham Miners' Association.

The late Dave Hopper was a close friend of Alan Mardghum, who has taken on the role of secretary president of Durham Miners' Association.

He added: “Davey was a great friend of mine and he did a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances for the union and he and Dave Guy grew the gala from 30,000 to 250,000 in attendance now.

“To try and fill his shoes, it’s impossible to do that, but the honour is huge, and he is sadly missed, but I want to follow up what he created and he had a great knack of communicating with the mining communities, which are so closely knit.

“I want to re-establish those friendships and acquaintances with other unions and we are an international organisation and we want to further that.”

The DMA’s Redhills Appeal, which aims to preserve and expand the Pitman’s Parliament building in Durham and is working towards submitting a Heritage Lottery Fund application, and its Marra membership, are now at the forefront of his responsibilities.

I want to re-establish those friendships and acquaintances with other unions and we are an international organisation and we want to further that.

Alan Mardghum

“I think the big challenge is to keep that funding going,” he said, speaking from Redhills.

“We have got lots of assets, this building is an example, but we need to keep this going and there are also very different challenges, like getting out into the communities and really engaging with them because they are part of this organisation and they are the most important thing - the mining communities.”

The former welfare worker and probation officer, who served in Pennywell, Hendon and Sunderland city centre, said the DMA would continue to back those in need as they sought help when applying for PIP, ESA and Universal Credit, which he has deemed “an absolute disgrace” which has left some without funds for five weeks.

He added his thanks to organisations including Durham Constabulary, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, the North East Ambulance Service and Durham County Council for their support in ensuring the Big Meeting runs smoothly.

The Durham Miners' Gala will celebrate its 135th year this July.

The Durham Miners' Gala will celebrate its 135th year this July.

Redhills in Durham is the HQ of the Durham Miners' Association.

Redhills in Durham is the HQ of the Durham Miners' Association.