ONE of the heroes of the disaster at West Stanley Pit was former Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan’s grandfather.

Frank Keegan was one of more than 30 survivors of the explosion.

He was rescued initially but praised for his bravery after returning underground to help fellow pitmen escape.

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Today, his grandson is hailed a hero for his football, but he was happy to write a foreword in a book, Durham Mining Disasters, to mark his family heritage.

Mr Keegan said: “My father told me his father had been rescued after a major colliery disaster and then gone back down the pit with one of the search parties.

“They managed to get the other survivors and some pit ponies to safety.”

He added: “At the time, I thought it was just a story and there was no truth in it.

“When I was in Newcastle in the early Eighties, I was shown a picture of the survivors of the disaster that took place in the Burns Pit, at West Stanley, in 1909.

“Looking back at me from the image was my grandfather, Frank.

“There was no mistaking the strong resemblance between us except that he had a moustache.”

In 1995, while he was Magpies’ manager, Mr Keegan unveiled a colliery wheel in Chester Road, Stanley, to commemorate the disaster.