Morley Main Colliery Disaster Commemoration

Yesterday I joined Mayor of Morley, Cllr Andy Dalton, members of the Morley Community Church and local residents, including family members of some of the 34 people who tragically died to commemorate, for the first time, the Morley Main Colliery Disaster 140 years ago. Joining the service at the National Coal Mining Museum included 91-year old Mrs Harding who’s grandfather was killed in the disaster. She only found out about the service on the radio yesterday morning but came along with her daughter to pay their respects.

In all this time there’s never been a proper commemoration of the disaster. It’s a real tribute to the dedication and hard work of Morley’s Mayor, Andy Dalton and the work by the Craft Group at Morley Elderly Action that this commemoration has finally taken place and a memorial banner has been created that will eventually find pride of place at Morley Town Hall.

It was a really moving service with the names read out of the 34 men and boys who died. One of the victims was a George Preston, who was 45 and a father of three – the same as me. He also lost his son, Noah in the disaster. Among the other victims were some boys as young as 14. Many men were married and left families, often with many children, without any source of income for the future.

The service also included the Ballad of a Miner’s Widow which was published some years after the disaster:

They came to call for me last Monday morning
When I was hanging washing on the line.
They looked down at their boots a lot and wouldn’t meet my eye.
And only said “You’re wanted at the mine”
I knew he was dead but funny, I could only think
How fresh the clothes would smell if it stayed fine

They carried all the bodies to the Royal
All laid in rows neatly as could be.
Some were burnt, some were crushed, some had only choked,
But none of them was very nice to see.
And it was only by the belt he always used to wear,
That I could tell which one belonged to me.

They’ll find some lying weasel for the inquest,
Or some poor lad who’s frightened for his place.
Who’ll claim he smelled tobacco just an hour or two before
And swear the men were smoking at the face.
For it only takes a single match to switch the owner’s blame
And some dead miner bears the whole disgrace

There will be enough insurance for the funeral
A proper place to rest, the least he’s due.
Some money from the parish or perhaps they’ll start a fund,
But after that I don’t know what we’ll do.
For I don’t supposed at twenty-nine I’ll find another man,
For younger widows they’ll be looking too.

And you’ll say it wasn’t such a big disaster,
It only made the papers for a day.
I’m sure the wives who’re weeping will find comfort in your news
So tell them that and then see what they say.
And ask them who’s to feed the children, where they’ll pay the rent,
And ask how much the owners mean to pay.

I hope that we will now be able to mark the disaster as part of an annual service and am looking forward to working alongside Morley Community Church and Mayor Dalton to put plans in place for future commemorations.

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Posted October 8th, 2012 by Ed