Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of a mining disaster which occured in Lanarkshire, Scotland on September 18, 2009, killing 47 miners. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond MSP unveiled a bronze statue and a memorial garden in Moodiesburn on Sunday in front of a crowd of approximately 600.

At roughly 0700 BST on September 18, 1959, 47 men who were working in Auchengeich Collery in North Lanarkshire, Scotland were overcome by smoke as they were walking down to start work. They were subsequently killed after being trapped by a fire in the mine which prevented them from escaping. At the time, a decision had been made to flood the pit after attempts to rescue the men failed. Only one miner had managed to survive the blaze. It transpired that the fire was caused by an electrical fault 1,000 ft below the surface.

The tragedy…left barely a town, village or mining family in North Lanarkshire unaffected

First Minister Salmond unveiled a memorial garden and a bronze statue which had been placed to mark the 50th anniversary of the incident. The statue is one of a miner. A religious service was carried out from Bishop Joseph Devine. Tom Clarke, MP for Chryston and Bellshill, also attended the event. Memorial committee chairman Daniel Taylor read out the names of the late 47 people while another person was playing bagpipes in the background.

When the service came to a close, First Minister Salmond commented on the tragedy, saying “The tragedy at Auchengeich Colliery left barely a town, village or mining family in North Lanarkshire unaffected. Fifty years on, the memories of the fateful day which claimed the lives of so many husbands, fathers, brothers and sons endure and I am honoured to pay tribute to them. Scotland is fortunate enough to have been blessed with rich natural resources, from the abundant coal seams of the central belt to the oil and gas reserves off our shores and the emerging renewable energy sources we are just beginning to feel the benefits of. But we should never forget the human cost which has come with that. Just as the Piper Alpha tragedy more than two decades ago underlined the hazards of North Sea exploration, the Auchengeich disaster showed all too starkly the dangers and risks which miners all over Scotland took for granted as part of their job every time they descended the pits. The excellent work of the people of North Lanarkshire and Auchengeich Miners’ Welfare has provided this new memorial garden and magnificent bronze sculpture. Together, they are a truly fitting tribute to those 47 brave men who died in Auchengeich half a century ago.”

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