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Posts Tagged ‘Durham Miners Gala’

Mining Memories – By Roy Lambeth

I got to know Stephen Dent when I moved from my Primary School to Whinney Hill Secondary Modern School in Durham in September 1959.
During our trainspotting adventures, we regularly saw the Brandon Pit House Colliery steam loco pushing empty wagons up to the colliery.  One day at Easter 1960 we decided we would go to Pit House and ask if we could photograph the engine.
We caught the bus that came down Whitehouse Lane going to New Brancepeth.  The big destination ‘via’ screen on the bus had us confused as it went to places we had never heard of (and which we could not find on the map).  These were Aldin Grange, Auton Stile & Alum Waters.
We caught the bus up to New Brancepeth and walked up to Brandon Pit House Colliery.  When we got there we found that the steam engine had been replaced by a big ugly diesel (see my (PHOTO) on the Ushaw Moor Gallery Site).  The safety Office decided that we should be given a conducted tour of the site.  This to our amazement (I was just 11 years old), included an underground visit!  Seeing what the miners had to do put me off mining as an occupation.
At the end of the visit, Stephen walked home to Ushaw Moor, but I was offered a ride on the diesel down to Brandon, where I could catch a bus to Durham.
A few days later we went to Ushaw Moor Colliery and asked to look round.  This was freely given and we had another underground tour.  Ushaw Moor Colliery was much older than Brandon Pit House, and going down the shaft we could see all the brickwork.  They lowered us slowly so that our guide could explain what everything was for.  It was then that they told us Ushaw Moor Colliery was due to close in August 1960.
On the day of the 1960 Durham Miners Gala, I caught an early bus out to Ushaw Moor, photographed the Ushaw Moor Banner being paraded down to the railway Station for the last time and traveled in to the Durham Miners Gala on the special train from Ushaw Moor Station (SEE PHOTO).
Happy Days
Posted on Behalf of Roy Lambeth
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Mark Hudson – Year in a Mining Village

August 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Now and again we have the opportunity to do something a bit different on the memories site and this is one such occasion. I admire the work of author Mark Hudson and hold the opinion that his work can be compared favourably with that of Laurie Lee – of ‘Cider with Rosie’ fame. The subjects for treatment are different but Mark Hudson’s powers of expression are brilliant. I have explained once before on site that Mr Hudson has a connection with Ushaw Moor and that gives me all the more satisfaction when introducing a brief example of his fine work – his description of the Miners’ Gala – as follows:

Every year, on the second Saturday in July, the greater part of the population of that part of the world – up to a million people – would crowd up to the walls of the great cathedral, cramming the aisles so that it was impossible to move, for the service of the Durham Miners’ Gala – the so called Big Meeting. The bands of the three collieries at which most men had been killed during the course of the year would play as they marched into the cathedral – the booming of the bass drum, pounding with a funereal slowness, heard first in the distance, becoming louder and louder, then as it entered the cathedral, the droning and the grinding of the bass, swelling and filling the cavernous interior. Then the banners, draped in black, were carried up the aisle and placed on the high alter.

Up to the 1960s, Durham Big Meeting was bigger than Christmas. On that day, the most hardened capitalist could breath the atmosphere of socialism, could become giddy, drinking it from the very air. Early, early in the morning, the people of the city could hear a faint wheezing and a sighing carried on the still air of a high summer’s morning – the sound of the bands marching towards Durham – not plaintiff and heartfelt, as they played into the cathedral, but booming and crashing, triumphant and majestic along the country lanes. Then, all of a sudden, they were descending along their different routes into the centre of the city, and the air would be filled with the delirious cacophony of two hundred bands, each playing a different tune. The shops would all be boarded –up against the crushing and the pressing of the hundreds and thousands of onlookers crowded along the route. Down they marched towards the racecourse where the speeches would be held, past the County Hotel where the speakers – the most eminent socialist politicians of the day – and the union leaders, stood watching from the balcony, everyone smiling and waving in the great, reverberating bowl of sound. And over their heads swayed the great banners of the lodges, with their messages of hope: ‘Unity is strength’, ‘All men are brethren’, ‘The Future is in your hands!’ – the lodge officials marched solemnly before the banners, behind them the work – hardened faces of the miners in their cloth caps and blue serge suits, evincing a flinty – eyed pride on their annual day of glory.

Copyright Mark Hudson 1994

This extract was reproduced with the kind permission of Mark Hudson, from his book – Coming Back Brockens A Year in a Mining Village. The book was first published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape of Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London.

Submitted by Wilf Bell