Sadness as service to commemorate mining disaster 110 years ago is cancelled

A memorial service for hundreds of men and boys killed in a mining disaster has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 7:00 am
Last year's service

December 21, 2020, will mark 100 years since the tragedy at Pretoria Pit, which is believed to have been the second worst mining accident in England of all time.

Every year on that date, a moving service is held at memorial stones on Broadway, in Atherton, to remember the 344 people who died.

But this year’s ceremony has been cancelled by organisers due to the restrictions on gatherings imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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Organiser Tony Hogan said: “It is after much debate I sadly announce that the 110th Pretoria Pit memorial service to be held on December 21,has been cancelled due to the current Covid restrictions.

“As many people know a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to get this organised and to that I am extremely grateful to all those involved.

“It’s so nice to see a great number of people, associations, schools, community groups and councillors who all leave memorial wreaths at the stones at our services on the anniversary every year, which is a touching and fitting tribute to the 344 miners who sadly lost their lives on this day. Should anyone wish to show their respects or would like to lay a wreath on the day, please be mindful of social distancing throughout the day.”

The service, which usually involves readings, prayers and music, is attended by scores of people each year, including dignitaries and the descendants of those involved in the disaster.

Pretoria Pit, based on the border of Atherton and Westhoughton, employed hundreds of people from across the area in its heyday. But disaster struck at 7.50am on December 21, 1910 when there was an underground explosion caused by a build-up of gas.

Of the 347 who went down no 3 Bank pit on that fateful day, only four came out alive, Sadly, one of those who survived would succumb to his injuries less than 24 hours after his rescue, while a second died of pneumonia a week later. Boys as young as 13 were killed and families in the area were devastated, with some losing several people in the disaster.

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