A MINER who started down a County Durham pit at the age of 14 is celebrating his 100th birthday today (Wednesday, December 16).

Born and bred in Trimdon Colliery, Anthony Greathead spent almost half a century as a pitman - taking voluntary redundancy only to make way for younger lads at a time when the mines were closing.

The father-of-three started out in 1929 after leaving school as a teenager and worked at Deafhill Colliery before moving to Trimdon Grange Colliery.

Following the closure of the Trimdon Grange pit, Mr Greathead spent three years on the area salvage team, reclaiming support and machinery for the then National Coal Board.

"When I look back one might say it's with a rose-tinted romance," said Mr Greathead. "It was dark but it was a good life because everybody knew they had to work for a living.

"There was nothing easy about it - just something which, if you were prepared to do and try, you were alright.

"It didn't do you any harm really and you thought you'd had it rough because the job wasn't very pleasant some times.

"There were good times and rough times. In the pit you were all mates."

As part of his working life in 1960, Mr Greathead took on the role of finance secretary for Trimdon Grange Miners' Lodge where he stayed in office for eight years - completing quarterly accounts with the help of his late wife Jane Ann.

He was also a delegate for Trimdon Village Working Man's Club.

After his retirement, Mr Greathead, who now lives in Trimdon Village, dedicated his time to gardening and writing.

But during the past six years, following a stroke, the grandfather-of-three has focused on the latter and keeps a daily journal where he analyses the news alongside newspaper cut outs and writes hymns, poems and songs.

His daughter Anne Robson, who lives in Canada, said: "He has amazing handwriting from the first word to the last and still has a thirst for knowledge.

"We are so proud of how he has kept his mind so busy and his sense of humour well developed."

National Union of Mineworkers general secretary for the North East area, Davie Hopper, congratulated Mr Greathead on his 'milestone' age.

"In my time I've never known a miner get to that age," he said. "It's pretty unique because of the conditions that they worked in.

"It was a very difficult job where accidents and fatalities were fairly regular.

"It's a great achievement and he must have had a strong constitution, it's remarkable."

The last deep coal mine in the country, Kellingley Colliery, in North Yorkshire, will close on Friday.