THE TRIMDONS are a most confusing place. There are at least four Trimdons – Village, Colliery, Grange and Station – but there could be others – Old, New, Foundry – and no one really understands why Deaf Hill isn’t itself a Trimdon.

“Those asking for directions to Trimdon should be prepared for a long conversation,” said a council-produced guide to the area.

The Ordnance Survey map complicates matters further by only naming three Trimdons. They form a triangle. Down the bottom, you have Trimdon Village, or Old Trimdon, so called because the wonderful St Mary Magdalene church dates from 1146 but is probably on the site of an older Saxon establishment. It was here in 1020 that King Canute had his haircut – “trimmed” – and put on a clean coat – “donned” – so that he could walk barefoot from “Trimmed and Donned” to the shrine of St Cuthbert in Durham.

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Then, on the east point of the triangle, is Trimdon Colliery, or New Trimdon, so called because it grew up after 1840 when the first colliery was sunk there.

The west point of the triangle is Trimdon Grange, so called because when a colliery was sunk there in 1845, it clearly couldn’t be called “Trimdon Colliery” so it was named after a nearby farmhouse.

Finally, somewhere on the side of the triangle between Grange and Colliery is Trimdon Station. Somewhere, because when the railway to Hartlepool opened in 1846, the station was only a halt near the Trimdon Grange Colliery. The halt was between Rose Street and Galbraith Terrace next to a pub known as the “Swinging Sign”, presumably because its pubsign swung violently in a gale. When the Swinging Sign became associated as a railway stopping place, it changed its name to the grand-sounding Station Hotel, but everyone knew it as “the Duck” because that was the name of its landlord.

If that is not confusing enough, in 1851, a proper station was built a little bit to the east of the top side of our triangle, near Trimdon Colliery.

For a while, all Trimdon Colliery was known as “Trimdon Station”, but with local government running a divide down the main street, the Trimdon Station side of the road was in the Easington council district and the Trimdon Colliery side in the Sedgefield district, they became two separate places.

The Northern Echo: UNKNOWN PAPER: The original banner headline, courtesy of Robert Gilbert

UNKNOWN PAPER: The original banner headline, courtesy of Robert Gilbert

All of which is an attempt to locate the mine of Trimdon Colliery, which had its new banner blessed in Durham Cathedral during Saturday’s Miners’ Gala. The colliery, as it was sunk in 1840, is from the early phase of the Durham coalfield and although it didn’t employ huge numbers of men, it certainly killed plenty of them with its primitive technology.

For example, among the first to die were William Wilson, William Savage and Henry Wind, all 24. They were in the cage being lowered by a rope down the shaft while another cage full of coal tubs was being pulled up. They had got about halfway down – 15 fathoms, or 55 metres or 180ft – when the rope pulling the cage of tubs snapped. It flew off the drum at the pithead, knocking the engineman senseless.

With nothing to counterbalance them, the three men plummeted the 15 fathoms to the pit bottom where they were killed instantly.

Their inquest heard that the rope was only nine months old.

By sad coincidence, 12-year-old Joseph Wilson had been killed in a stonefall at the pit 18 months earlier – perhaps he and his namesake in the cage disaster were from the same family.

And the 12-year-old wasn’t the youngest to die at Trimdon Colliery: in three days before Christmas 1861, nine-year-old Thomas McRay was crushed by wagons at the pithead, and in July 1863, five-year-old Terence Murphy drowned in the pit pond – neither boy was a pit employee.

According to the Durham Mining Museum, in Trimdon Colliery’s 85 year existence, 53 men and boys were killed there.

It was in memory of such men that people marched behind the new Trimdon Colliery banner at the gala. Since Saturday, a local newspaper cutting has emerged which tells of the unfurling of the original banner on July 16, 1892, “without any special ceremony” in the union room at Trimdon Colliery.

The banner had cost more than £40 and had been made in Newcastle. It depicted the colliery agent, Thomas Watson, meeting three miners’ representatives: Edward O’Neil, local president, Thomas Walker, secretary, and John Cummings.

“Mr Watson is considered one of the ablest debators with deputations, and always bears a smile, and in arguments the men have little chance with him,” says the newspaper (which doesn’t seem to be The Northern Echo. “The deputation is standing before him and Walker, with pocketbook in hand, is asking the question: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question?’

“The scene is the agent’s office, and through the window can clearly be seen all the works about the pit.”

The banner was therefore ready to make its debut at the 22nd Durham Miners’ gala on July 23, 1892. It had been a tumultuous year for the coalfield. As the economy had boomed in the late 1880s, the miners had received a pay increase of more than 20 per cent. As the economy faltered in the early 1890s, the mineowners had tried to impose an almost equal pay cut, and for three months that spring, there was a strike which caused great hardship to the families. The Bishop of Durham negotiated a settlement which saw the men bitterly accept a ten per cent pay cut.

With morale low, the gala was poorly attended, and several bands stopped at the top of Old Elvet outside the courthouse and prison and played Auld Lang Syne in the hope that their comrades, who had been incarcerated for intimidation during the strike, could hear.

When Trimdon Colliery closed in 1925, the banner was redundant. The central scene was cut from it and auctioned to the family of Edward O’Neil who kept it in their attic for 90 years.

Just over a year ago, a committee was formed to recreate the banner. It raised £16,000, with the help of the Lottery, and on Saturday, it was seen in all its glory by hundreds of thousands of people for the first time.

The Northern Echo:

KEEPING on with the banner theme, in Memories 333 we had a picture of a parade in June 1987 in Burnhope. Even though it was raining, there were, we thought, some interesting faces on the front row – and lots of people had a go at guessing.

Bill Frostwick of Chester Moor had the fullest answer.

So from left to right we have David Guy, the late chairman of the Durham Miners’ Association, and one of the saviours of the gala; Michael Meacher, the MP for Oldham who became Environment Secretary; Peter Heathfield, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, a position he took up five days before the start of the 1984 strike; a man in a white coat no one could identify; Hilary Armstrong, now a baroness, who was elected as the MP for North West Durham on June 11, 1987, just days before this picture was taken; Eric Clark, Labour MP for Midlothian from 1992 to 2001.

The Northern Echo: COVER SHOT: Olive Bolam (nee Littlewood), right, and Nancy Clark (nee Anderson), left, at the 1954 Durham Miners' Gala

Olive Bolam (nee Littlewood), right, and Nancy Clark (nee Anderson), left, at the 1954 Durham Miners' Gala

LAST week’s front cover of Weekend Memories featured five young ladies progressing rather soberly up Old Elvet. On the right is Olive Bolam, of Willington. “She was as excited as anything when she saw the photograph,” says her husband, Norman.

She then worked at Morley’s factory in Langley Moor making men’s underwear where she’d become friends with Nancy “Annie” Anderson who is on the left of the line-up. Annie had moved on from men’s underwear to the Milk Marketing Board and the three girls in the middle are her friends from work.

The banner behind them is from Wooley, near Crook. “We succour the widows and orphans”, says the slogan below a picture of a fatherless family grieving in a cemetery. Wooley operated from the 1860s until the 1960s, and employed more than 500 men and boys for much of the 20th Century.

However, the girls are actually believed to be in the tail end of the Esh Winning parade.

Olive and Norman believe the picture was taken during the 71st gala held on July 17, 1954.

“It must be,” he says. “It was taken just before I knew her.

“I met her on the day I came back from my holidays – August 18, 1954 – and we got married in March 1957. I’d gone to Butlins in Ayr with my mates, 12 of us. We couldn’t dance but the redcoats made us get up and join in. On the day we got back, there was a bus from Willington taking people to the dance at Tubby Edward’s dancehall in Esh Winning, in the old miners’ hall, so I got the bus and I thought I would ask the first girl I saw to dance.”

There was a picturehouse downstairs in the old hall and Tubby’s was upstairs, with music by the Don Warner band.

“When I got in, the first girl I spotted was Olive and I asked her to dance,” says Norman, who worked underground at Brancepeth and Sunnybrow collieries.

With the confidence instilled by the redcoats, he literally swept her off her feet. He says: “I remember she said ‘you have a funny way of dancing. Every time you turn you go up on your ties. You are like a giant’. She was only 4ft 11, and she taught me to keep my feet on the ground.”