NEARLY 60 people gathered on Sunday to remember the 34 men and boys who lost their lives in Morley’s worst disaster.
A service was held at the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield, 140 years to the minute that a massive explosion ripped through Morley Main Colliery in Albert Road.
The explosion at 2pm on October 7, 1872 killed 34 men and boys, injured 30 more and killed 11 pit ponies.
Though the impact on the community was huge, members of Morley Community Church were shocked to learn recently there was no memorial of the disaster anywhere in town.
As a result they set about organising Sunday’s service which marked the anniversary and included the unveiling of a memorial tapestry sewn over many months by members of the Morley Elderly Action Craft Group.
The service held deep underground in the museum’s pit, included retired local miners, relatives of those who lost their lives, members of the craft group and invited guests including MP for Morley and Outwood Ed Balls.
Retired local miner Neil Brittlebank read the roll of the victims which included James Wood, the grandfather of 91-year-old Edith Hardy who was accompanied down to the coal face by the Mayor of Morley Coun Andy Dalton.
James Wood’s body was the last to be brought to the surface and he left a pregnant widow and four children.
Also attending was Mrs Karen Ellis whose great great grandfather was George Bell, 31, who perished in the disaster. He also left a widow and two children.
Coun Dalton recounted that the disaster killed 34 men and 11 pit ponies, that one quarter were teenagers and that some families were bereaved twice over.
In total 13 women lost their husbands, 50 children were left fatherless and five elderly dependents were left unsupported.
The memorial service was led by Ian Dring from the UK committee of the International Miners Mission who had travelled from the Midlands to take the service.
Other members of the Miners Mission had travelled from as far as Chelmsford and Oxford to take part.
Rev Captain Stephen Wright who is the minister of Morley Community Church and the Mayor’s chaplain said they had been amazed at the interest and response to the event and it has been a great privilege for the church to partner with so many people and organisations.
He said: “This was an awful disaster and the town has been able to come together to pay respect to the memory of those who perished.
“We have also been reminded our town of the great sacrifices made in previous generations during the course of their daily work. Hopefully the enormity of this disaster will now remain in the public memory for a long time to come”
The memorial tapestry displays the winding gear of Morley Main Colliery surrounded by the names and ages of all the victims.
Church members hope it can be used by local schools as part of their history studies before it is put on permanent display in Morley Town Hall.
As part of proceedings, Mrs Senior of King Street made a presentation of a safety lamp and patent documents devised by her great grandfather William Best.
William Best worked in the pit lamp room at the time of the disaster. He subsequently devised an improved safety lamp and went into production.
His company was later known as Hailwood and Ackroyd which was one of the major employers in the town for decades.