Golborne disaster will always stay with me

The tangled wreckage of the disaster which claimed 10 lives on 1979
The tangled wreckage of the disaster which claimed 10 lives on 1979

An ex-miner has described his horrific experiences of the Golborne pit disaster, ahead of its 38th anniversary next month.

Eric Foster said he will never fully get over what happened at the Golborne Colliery almost four decades ago.

On March 18 1979, an underground explosion ripped through the coal face at Golborne Colliery, sending a fireball shooting through its 1,800ft deep tunnels.

The blast was caused after a broken ventilation shaft led to a buildup of methane gas, which ignited after an electrical circuit test.

Three men were killed instantly. Seven more who were rescued later died in hospital, as a result of serious burns and lung injuries.

Only one man, 20-year-old apprentice Brian Rawsthorne, survived the accident.

An inquest held in October 1979 returned verdicts of death by misadventure on the victims.

Eric was working in a separate section of the colliery on the day of the disaster. He was one of the miners tasked with recovering the bodies of his fallen colleagues.

“I worked on the underground locomotives,” the 70-year-old said.

“I had to fetch them out, one after another. I went in for them. We had to move this huge girder that was stuck across the track.

“We didn’t realise another accident could easily have happened again when we were in there.”

Despite being unaware of the danger at the time, events took their toll very quickly.

Eric, now secretary of Golborne Ex-Miners, said: “I got on with the job, but I had apprehension about going back down again the following day.

“I can honestly say, without any shame, that it was the first time in my life I was frightened.”

Now, on the eve of the anniversary, events will take place towards the end of March to mark 38 years since the dreadful day which is forever etched in the town’s memory.

A musical evening with the Haydock Male Voice Choir, will take place at St Thomas’ Church on March 17.

A fishing match - organised by sole survivor, Brian - will then happen at The Cunneries in Ecclestone on March 18.

And the Golborne Ex-Miners’ efforts are using all proceeds from this year’s commemorations to look ahead to 2019, which will mark four decades since the disaster.

Plans for the 40th anniversary look set to require more preparation and funding than in previous years, due to the rising costs of funding the memorial march - which only takes place every five years.

“We now have to pay for traffic management, which is over £1,000, and we’ll have to pay for the choir and band, plus a donation to the Church, so it’s a tidy sum.”

In previous years, the remembrance services have been attended by high-profile dignitaries, including Andy Burnham and Yvonne Fovargue.

Despite many years passing since the disaster, Eric said he will never forget what happened.

“It all just comes back to you, and it’s like I’m in a dream when I think about it.

“When you talk to the families of those who died, that’s when you start feeling it. That’s when it hits home.”

For more information, contact Eric Foster on 01942 729587.