Trimdon Grange Colliery Disaster: 130 Years On Pt V

Trimdon Grange Colliery Disaster: 130 Years On Pt V

The mourning mother and her daughter at the miner's grave: are her arms too long?

Miner off to work - rather jauntily

The dramatic rescue

Hands clasped in friendship

First published in Features The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Editor

I WOULD guess that 50 or so people turned up for the impromptu ceremony to mark the 130th anniversary of the Trimdon Grange Colliery Disaster. There were the odd councillors, an MP and the BBC Look North TV people who produced a really good report with Skerne's atmospheric singing as the backdrop.

I, though, fell to looking at the monument. I've written a piece about it for Saturday's in-paper column and thought I'd put the four friezes on here in case anyone wants to see them.

Here's a bit of the column that's relevant and not too ridiculously overblown:

"Directly above lead singer John Burton's greying hair was a carving of a grieving mother beside her husbands gravestone being comforted by her young daughter. Even if the mother's arms are so unnaturally long that they could have reached down the 850ft to the seat of the explosion and plucked up her husband, it is a touching scene.

On the far side, there's a miner jauntily going off to work, pickaxe under his arm and lamp in his hand. Round the back, there's the drama of a miner helping his injured marrer be winched up the shaft to safety, and finally, facing me, are two hands clasped together. Beneath them is a scroll. Once it had the word friendship on it, but time has erased that word, too.

Down at grass level is the name of the sculptor: G Ryder and Sons of Bishop Auckland. In Kelloe churchyard a couple of miles away, where there is another mass grave from the disaster, Mr Ryder erected an identical memorial...

Two months after Trimdon Grange, Tudhoe went bang in identical circumstances, killing 37.

Just like in Trimdon, their fellow workmen and friends had a whip-round and as a token of sincere respect commissioned Mr Ryder to create an identical monument. It still stands, with its four identical friezes, in York Road Cemetery, Spennymoor.

Mr Ryder's career as the coalfield's stonemason of choice seems to have started in 1880 when he was commissioned to commemorate the 164 miners killed at Seaham in the first, and most deadly, disaster of that decade.

He didn't put any folksy mining friezes on the Seaham memorial. Instead, he carved an Old Testament phrase: "There is but a step between me and death."

In the Durham coalfield 130 years ago, that was terribly true.

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