The Northern Echo's Stanley Burns Pit Disaster Memorial Appeal.
First published on Monday 03 March 2003:

Blair backs Echo campaign for tribute to mine victims

by Chris Webber

PRIME Minister Tony Blair has backed The Northern Echo's Stanley Burns Pit Disaster Memorial Appeal.

Mr Blair also made a special mention of former collier Bob Drake, of Stanley, County Durham, who tracked down the final resting places of each of the 168 men and boys who died in the 1909 explosion.

There was more good news for the campaign to mark the graves of 54 of the miners who lie in an unmarked burial trench when it emerged that Durham County Council is to contribute 200 to the project.

That money, together with a second anonymous cheque of 200 received by The Northern Echo and our sister paper, the Consett and Stanley Advertiser, puts the total amount raised to more than 1,400.

Mr Blair, MP for Sedgefield, County Durham, said: "I am pleased to give my support to the Stanley Pit Disaster Memorial Appeal and to congratulate The Northern Echo and the Consett and Stanley Advertiser on their campaign to provide a lasting tribute to those who died in this dreadful tragedy.

"Mining and miners, of course, have a special place in the history of the North-East, and a century ago mining was a very dangerous occupation.

"But what happened at West Stanley Burns Pit on February 16, 1909, marks it out as one of the worst disasters in our region's peace-time history.

"Nearly 100 years later, some idea of the devastating impact this tragedy had on the community of Stanley can still be felt by looking through the names of the 168 people who died that day.

"It reveals fathers, sons and brothers - as many as three members of the same family from the same home - who perished together.

"This also helps explain why so many were buried in unmarked mass graves. It's thanks to the painstaking work of Bob Drake that those buried in the burial trenches and in unmarked individual graves can now be identified."

Tears were shed last month as relatives of disaster victims joined the call for a memorial to mark the mass grave where many are buried.

Hundreds of people from as far afield as Leeds and Morpeth attended the Burns Pit Disaster exhibition, organised by The Northern Echo.

More than 500 was raised for the memorial appeal at the event at the Lamplight Arts Centre, Front Street, Stanley. To help the campaign, call Chris Webber on (01642) 513346.

Read more about the Stanely Pit Memorial campaign here.