MEMORIES recently told of how a filthy photograph had been found by Carole Mason beneath the stage at Fishburn Miners’ Welfare Hall.

When the picture was cleaned off, it was found to show the unveiling of the Fishburn pit banner in 1959 – although Carole was amazed to spot a young lad peering at the photographer from underneath the banner.

The lad was Kevin Mason whom she would marry about a decade later.

Wes Gargett, from the Durham Mining Museum, has been in touch with more details about the Fishburn banner.

The pit was sunk in 1910 and became operational in 1913. The men must have had a banner but the first one isn’t recorded until 1947. It featured portraits of three great Labour luminaries: Keir Hardie, who founded the party; George Lansbury, who led it in the early 1930s, and Welsh mining leader AJ Cook.

This banner soon wore out.

“They were usually made by Tutills in London of silk,” says Wes, “and they got a lot of use at meetings, funerals, demonstrations and, of course, the Big Meeting. Bad weather could cause quite a bit of damage so they lasted, on average, 15 years.”

The Fishburn banner was replaced in 1959, and our photo shows it being unveiled by Will Paynter, the Welsh miner who had just been elected as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers. The banner shows the same three luminaries, although Hardie has lost the hat he was wearing in 1947.

The 1959 banner was still in existence when Fishburn pit closed in 1973. “When a banner was finished with, it was supposed to go to Redhills in Durham, the miners’ headquarters, and if another lodge was in need of a banner, or couldn’t afford their own one, they contacted Redhills who would release a banner,” says Wes. “This happened with Fishburn’s, and it went to New Herrington in Sunderland.”

New Herrington painted its name over Fishburn’s on the silk.

However, when Herrington closed in 1983 and the banner went back to Redhills and then was returned to Fishburn, who re-repainted their name onto it.

“Mostly they had the repainting done professionally, but some got the local painter in the blacksmiths shop to do it, and you can tell,” says Wes.

The 1959 banner is now in Fishburn working men’s club along with a third banner which was made in 2000. A fourth luminary, Durham County Council leader George "Mickey" Terrans who worked down Fishburn, was added to the new banner.