A day spent at Easington Colliery on the Durham Coast helping out at the National Trust’s stall at the annual miners’ picnic.
The picnic began with a parade through the old surface works, now transformed into a community nature reserve. I was fascinated by the banners that were carried proudly depicting the union or colliery, or reflecting political campaigns.
I hadn’t appreciated the painted or embroidered banners are in fact modern, often reflecting contemporary iconography. I guess original silk banners would be in such a delicate condition.
Easington Colliery was sunk in 1899 and closed in 1993 with the loss of 1,300 jobs. Tunnels extended up to four miles under the North Sea. Coal waste was carried by aerial ropeway to the beach and dumped into the sea. The coast is now a National Trust property and has been largely cleaned up.
Seventy years ago, in 1951, there was a major disaster at the pit when an underground explosion caused the death of 83 miners. The explosion occurred during a shift change when there were twice as many men down the pit.