Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Centuries Do Not Lessen Pit Tragedy; JANUARY Will See the 150th Anniversary of One of the Region's Worst Pit Disasters. SONIA SHARMA Talks to People in a Community Determined to Make Sure the Tragedy Is Never Forgotten

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Centuries Do Not Lessen Pit Tragedy; JANUARY Will See the 150th Anniversary of One of the Region's Worst Pit Disasters. SONIA SHARMA Talks to People in a Community Determined to Make Sure the Tragedy Is Never Forgotten

Article excerpt

Byline: SONIA SHARMA

IT was one of the worst pit disasters in the history of the country. Boys as young as 10 were among the 204 people who died at Hester Pit, in New Hartley, Northumberland, 150 years ago.

The accident happened on January 16, 1862, when an engine beam broke and fell down the mine. The only shaft of the pit became blocked by debris, trapping the workers inside. By the time rescuers were able to get through, some six days later, the miners had suffocated.

The tragedy rocked the nation and devastated the tight-knit community of New Hartley.

Now a series of events have been planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the disaster. Dave Owens, whose great, great, great grandfather James Amour was among the dead, says it is important to keep the memory of the deceased miners alive. Mr Amour, 43, who was working as a back-overman, is said to have led a prayer meeting whilst trapped in the mine. His 14-year-old son, Richard, was also in the pit and perished alongside him.

Mr Owens, 55, of Cramlington, said: "When I was young, my grandad used to take me to Hartley to see the shaft and the memorial garden. Jim Amour has been known to the family for a long time.

"It's absolutely awful to think about how he and his son died, and what they had to go through.

"When the accident happened, the night-shift workers were still down the mine and the day shift were going down to relieve them. People were coming up in the cage when all of a sudden a beam broke and fell down the shaft.

"My understanding is that five men died instantly and 199 were trapped. The shaft was blocked, so they could not get out.

"Jim led a prayer meeting inside the pit as they waited to be rescued and tried to help the men. By the time the rescuers got through, it was too late.

"Afterwards, a note written by Jim was found in which he mentioned the fact they had a prayer meeting and that some of the men were extremely ill.

"When we think about it now, we can't imagine what it would have been like for the trapped miners. Their death was a great loss. Some people lost several members of their family.

"The disaster devastated Hartley and the surrounding communities. …

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