Pit pony Marley proves ‘mane’ attraction at South Shields Museum

Zoe Harvey (3) from South Shields with Marley a Pit Pony and his owner Lisa Walker, outside of South Shields Museum and Art Gallery. Picture by FRANK REID
Zoe Harvey (3) from South Shields with Marley a Pit Pony and his owner Lisa Walker, outside of South Shields Museum and Art Gallery. Picture by FRANK REID

A pint-sized attraction at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery gave visitors a bigger picture of the role played by animals in the mining industry.

Marley the Shetland pit pony was at the venue as part of its hugely popular King Coal exhibition.

Members of the public meet Marley outside South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

Members of the public meet Marley outside South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

He donned authentic pit pony tack outside the museum with his owner Lisa, who was also in historical costume, to tell people all about the lives of these amazing animals who worked so hard underground.

Cheryl McCarrick, event coordinator at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, said: “Marley and his owner Lisa, who herself has a mining background, gave people a real flavour of how these amazing animals worked in such difficult conditions.

“His visit is inspired by the current King Coal exhibition at the museum which people in the North East have really responded to, and ends on September 29.”

The King Coal exhibition, which explores the life and legacy of South Tyneside’s coal mining communities, has seen a huge rise in visitor numbers at the gallery. The display opened in May and in the space of six weeks the footfall to the museum has jumped by almost 3,000, compared to the same period last year.

Members ion the public Marley a Pit Pony outside of South Shields Museum and Art Gallery. Picture by FRANK REID

Members ion the public Marley a Pit Pony outside of South Shields Museum and Art Gallery. Picture by FRANK REID

Geoff Woodward, museum manager, said: “The reaction to this exhibition so far is remarkable, and really exciting. There has been huge interest in it right from the outset, and we’ve had very positive, often quite emotional, responses from visitors, both in person and online. King Coal marks 25 years since Westoe Colliery closed and 50 years since Whitburn Colliery shut down and there are a lot of people who vividly remember the industry. The displays of objects, pictures and film are striking a deep chord with them.”

One of the highlights of the exhibition is more than 20 paintings by renowned North East artist Bob Olley, who worked for 11 years at Whitburn Colliery, depicting men at work in various tableaux examining different aspects of the coal miner’s life.

As part of events taking place around the exhibition, free mining banner crafts are available for families in the museum from 11am – 4pm in the weekly summer holiday Tremendous Tuesdays events.

•King Coal: the life & legacy of South Tyneside’s coal mining communities runs until September 29. It’s open Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturdays 11am -4pm. Free entry, donations are welcome.