A COMMUNITY has paid tribute to its industrial heritage and all those who lost their lives working at its steelworks.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the closure of Consett Steelworks, the town’s first memorial to the workers killed in industrial accidents during a near-140 year steelmaking history has been unveiled.

The Consett Steelworkers Memorial stands on the former industrial site, which has now been redeveloped with shops, businesses and green space.

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Former workers and civic dignitaries were joined at Saturday’s service by the families of those lost, including of 11 men who died in one the works’ darkest days.

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On July 1, 1950, when the works was still Consett Iron Company, a carbon monoxide leak saw 54 men rendered unconscious and 11 died.

The memorial honours those 11 – Richard Logan, 54, and Henry Tucker, 49, along with Arthur Briggs, 53, John S Craggs, 54, Francis Crawley, 30, Thomas C Easten, 45, Thomas Heslop, 32, Andrew A Kirby, 25, John Jeffrey, 46, Arnold W Ross, 54, Joseph E Humble, 44, who gave their lives trying to rescue their workmates.

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The Carnegie Hero Fund Trust recognises civilian heroism and supports those injured or dependants of people killed trying to save a life in peaceful pursuits.

A citation to the nine, from the Trust, reads: “The men on the night shift were about to commence work when there was an escape of carbon monoxide gas from an open gas seal on one of the blast furnaces.

“Two workmen were at the time employed in or near the furnace engine house, approximately 30 yards from the escape of gas, and were overcome.

“Other workmen, regardless of their own safety, went to their assistance when the alarm was given and in their efforts to remove the two men from the danger area nine of the rescuers lost their lives.

“Each of the nine widows was awarded a Memorial Certificate and a grant, together with a supplementary allowance.”

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The memorial was unveiled by Ernie Jeffrey, 92, whose father blast furnace man John Jeffrey, of Leadgate, was one of the nine.

He described it as ‘an honour and a privilege’ to officiate.

John O’Connor, chairman of the Project Genesis Trust, which was formed after the closure of the steelworks to redevelop the redundant 700 acre site for the good of a community devastated by its closure and the thousands of jobs that were lost.

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Describing himself as third-generation Consettonian and steel worker, he said: “This is a very special day for Consett.

“Not only is it the anniversary of 40 years since the closure of Consett steelworks.

“Remarkably, in 140 years of iron and steel making, this is the first ever memorial to the people who tragically lost their lives in that period.

“We specifically remember the 11 men killed on July 1, 1950 and extend a warm welcome to the families of those 11 men.”

Not every worker killed is named on the memorial, so a new page will be created on the Visit Consett website for families who wish to share the names, photographs and stories of their loved ones.

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