Well, after penning letters in the past praising all the hard work and effort that goes into the organisation of the Miners’ Gala, it is with sadness and regret that I cannot continue in the same vein.
As a former miner at New Herrington I, along with up to a 100 or more others, look forward to our annual get together at the local club to set off with the banner at 8am accompanied by our brass band. The people who attend the “meeting” are from not only Herrington but also the surrounding villages of Shiney Row, Penshaw and beyond, all wanting desperately to keep this tradition alive.
Ever since the big meeting started, and as far as I can remember, the banner has been accompanied out of the village in the morning and just as important, brought back with the band later in the afternoon and paraded up the main street where people young and old wait in anticipation to see the revellers, mainly in good spirit enjoying the occasion.
This is, I’m afraid, where the century old tradition came to a sad end. Not only did the band and banner not return home for all to see, the banner wasn’t even carried from the field in Durham, instead it was rolled up and carried under arm back to our buses as the band had to leave to get back. We have to have a band from Yorkshire as we can’t get a local one. The atmosphere throughout the day was a subdued one, due to the fact that we all knew the banner wasn’t to be paraded back through the village.
Having spoken to almost everyone over the course of the day it was made implicitly clear that certain things need to change.
Firstly, the banner being paraded with pride back “home” at the end of the day should never be compromised in the future. This means organising an alternative band who is interested in staying with us for the duration. This is an intrinsic part of the day. Also, I’m afraid that should future big meetings be organised in the
same way then the numbers will diminish and we will almost certainly see an end to the New Herrington Miners’ Banner at the Miners’ Gala.
The work that goes into organising this is time consuming and would not happen without certain people, Bob and Pat Melvin, so thank you from us all. Let’s get back to the traditional way of the big meeting and walk the banner out and bring it back home again, whatever this may take, it has to happen for the sake of keeping one of the greatest days in our calendar alive.