ONE of Crook’s most important collieries will be represented at the Durham Miner’s Gala with a banner for the first time in 50 years.

At its peak, the Hole In The Wall pit employed almost 300 people and in its 29 years of operation not one miner lost his life there.

But since its closure in 1964, the pit has been unrepresented at the annual celebration of County Durham’s mining heritage.

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Now volunteers and councillors have come together to ensure the pit’s banner will be flown high at the Miner’s Gala on Saturday, July 12.

Richard Hindmarsh worked at the pit for 16 years and he said it was vital its history is not forgotten.

He said: “It’s great for me that the banner will be flown for the Hole In The Wall again, a lot of men worked there together, we were like one big family, it will be good to remember them at the gala.”

The original banner made its last appearance at the gala in 1964 when, against the permission of the pit owners, the miners smuggled it to the parade on a bus.

Efforts were made to repair the banner some years ago, but in 2009 then district councillors Geoff Mowbray and Roger Ward arranged for a replica to be made.

Mr Mowbray died last year but Mr Ward said his friend would have wanted the banner to be carried at the gala.

He said: “It’s very sad Geoff won’t be there to see it but we will be carrying it in his memory as well as that of all the miners who worked at the pit, which is one of the biggest in Wear Valley.”

The Hole In The Wall opened in 1935 when it employed 38 people mining eight seams.

There were 269 employees when the pit closed on November 21, 1964.

Ray and John Williams used to work in the pit along with their brothers Brian and Eric, meaning there was always a queue for their bath at the end of a shift.

They would work in drift tunnels only 14 inches high filling tubs of coal during long lonely shifts.

Ray Williams said: “It was a barbaric place to work, only you and the rats down there and you often wouldn’t see another person for the whole shift.

“But there was a real sense of family among all the lads, we were in it together.”

Wetherspoon’s in Crook has arranged to transport the six people carrying the banner to and from the gala while Durham County Councillor Rob Yorke has organised for their insurance to be paid.