Hopes rise for pit tragedy memorial’s restoration

Former miner Bill Miller at the memorial in Ince-in-Makerfield to the men and boys killed in two explosions at The Moss Pits, Ince, in September 1871

Former miner Bill Miller at the memorial in Ince-in-Makerfield to the men and boys killed in two explosions at The Moss Pits, Ince, in September 1871

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A FORMER collier’s campaign to refurbish a ‘forgotten’ Wigan colliery disaster memorial is gathering momentum.

Bill Miller has voiced concerns about the soot-blackened state of the statue that was put up to remember more than 70 men and boys who perished in two tragic explosions at Ince’s Moss Pit in the space of just one month.

Now the recently-retired vicar of Lower Ince-based St Mary’s Church is hoping to work with the council to have the structure sandblasted and, for the first time, to have the victims’ names included.

The Rev David Long first found the memorial in Ince Cemetery soon after moving to the vicarage next door in 1996. It immediately struck him as strange that the only inscription on it was to that of the coal owner in whose mine so many had died.

He is now strongly supporting ex-Moss Pit miner Bill’s call to have the memorial refurbished.

Rev Long, who has a keen interest in local history, said: “Sporadically over the years I made attempts to put this right by raising the funds to have the names of the 75 victims inscribed on the three vacant panels around the memorial. Unfortunately, I was unable to give the project enough time to achieve this - but the intention is still there.”

He said that now he had stepped down from church duties he was able to devote more time to research and has now uncovered the full list of the names of those who perished in the two explosions, of September 6 and September 20, 1871.

He has also been in contact with Ashton-based genealogist Stan Jones, who has researched the family histories of many of the victims and who has gathered together many pages of contemporary newspaper articles about the explosions, the recovery of the bodies over the following two years, and of the inquests which followed in the Railway Tavern in Spring View.

Rev Long said: “I was very pleased to see that the memorial is being talked about again and like Mr Miller, I feel that the Ince Moss disasters have not received the attention they might have over the years.

“But I would like to go a bit further than he suggests and ensure the names of those killed, and as much of their stories as may be uncovered, become more common knowledge.”