Article date – 29 May 2018

A deeply moving choral homage to a terrible local colliery disaster is set to feature at Haydock Library 140 years on, as part of the award-winning Cultural Hubs, arts-in-libraries programme.


The concert, led by the Haydock Male Voice Choir, will commemorate the tragic disaster that occurred at the Wood Pit in Haydock on 7 June 1878 – considered one of the worst mining disasters in the Lancashire coalfield.

There are two performances on Saturday 2 June, Haydock Library at 5pm and 7pm.It is thought that flammable gases referred to as firedamp by miners, which build up as a natural by-product of coal, were released from a pocket in the coal seam. The ensuing explosion took the lives of 204 men and boys, and left 93 widows and 282 orphans.

Official records state that the explosion happened just before 11am. There were many incredible acts of bravery following the explosion, none more than the manager of the pit, John Turton. John descended the shaft immediately after the explosion working to ventilate the mine, saving the lives of at least 27 men and boys who were rescued from the poisonous effects of afterdamp – resultant gases of the explosion, primarily carbon monoxide.

In the wake of the tragedy, the grieving community showed great strength under very difficult circumstances to come together in support of each other. A fund was set up by Lord Derby which raised about £25,000 – roughly £2 million in today’s money.

Alan Gaskell, of the Haydock Male Voice Choir said: “This concert is really important to us as our choir was formed by miners from Haydock in 1923 and many of the members worked in the pit before it was closed. The concert provides us with an opportunity to pay our respects in song to all the men, families and friends who were affected by the disaster.”

Special commemorative events will also take place on the 140th anniversary of the disaster on Thursday 7 June. There will be a short rededication ceremony at the disaster’s memorial at St James the Great Church, Church Road, Haydock at 12:15pm.

Attendees will then gather at Haydock Library for an afternoon of commemorative events including a reading and performance by St Augustine’s Catholic High School Choir, a talk on Haydock’s mining heritage, an exhibition of archives from the borough’s collection and artefacts from the World of Glass.

Cultural Hubs, the nationally-renowned arts-in-libraries programme, is delivered by St Helens Council’s Library Service which is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.


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