A STATUE is being unveiled to honour miners more than 40 years after a village pit closed.

One of the driving forces behind the memorial in Langley Park is the daughter of the last pitman to die at work in the colliery.

Christine Pringle was just two years old when her father, Eric Weighill, was killed at the age of 29 by a fall of stones while working in the Victoria Seam of Langley Park colliery in February 1971.

The mine closed four years later.

At 11am on Saturday a ten foot high statue of a miner will be unveiled in the village.

Mrs Pringle, a schoolteacher who still lives in Langley Park, is one of a five strong committee of women who formed the Langley Park Miners’ Memorial Group to raise funds for the statue.

The others, Julie Dixon, Donna Donaghy, Gwen Harvey and Denise Long, also had relatives who worked down the pit.

Mrs Pringle said: “The only reason for the village existing was for the mine, just like so many other villages in County Durham.

“ But it helps to understand the present if you know about the past.

“Other nearby villages have mining memorials to highlight their heritage, we thought Langley Park ought to have one too.”

Mrs Pringle was too young to properly remember her father when he died.

She said: “I grew up hearing stories about him, so it is as if I did know him.

“This memorial is honouring his memory and the memory of all the other miners who worked there, many more who died while working underground.

“It was dangerous and dirty work but the camaraderie was so strong.”

Group chairman Julia Dixon’s grandfather, Tommy Gardner, who also worked at Langley Park colliery, was jointly awarded the Daily Herald Heroism Medal in 1947 for rescuing a fellow miner trapped in the pit.

She said the local community had taken part in various fundraising events, while County Durham Community Foundation, Esh Parish Council, the Sir James Knott Trust and Durham County Council’s Area Action Partnership had also provided support.

The sculpture has been designed by Sunderland-based artist Mark Burns Cassell, working with metal fabricator and artist Ron Lawson from Fencehouses, near Sunderland.

Mr Burns Cassell also has strong connections with Langley Park colliery, where his maternal grandfather Jack Malone also worked underground for decades.

Mr Burns Cassell said: “I spent a lot of time in Langley Park with Jack and Jean, my grandparents.

“I have based some of the features of the miner on Jack, so it has been quite a poignant commission for me.”