Moving tribute to disaster victims

Offering up a prayer: Father Stephen Dickinson pays tribute at the memorial to victims of pit disasters.

Offering up a prayer: Father Stephen Dickinson pays tribute at the memorial to victims of pit disasters.

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HUNDREDS are expected to turn out tomorrow for a moving ceremony to mark a special anniversary of one of Doncaster’s worst pit disasters.

Tomorrow will be exactly 80 years since 45 men and boys were killed in an underground explosion at Bentley Colliery.

Some of their descendants will be among the crowd at Arksey Cemetery when the Vicar of St Philip and St James Church, the Rev Stephen Dickinson, leads the annual service of remembrance.

The event also commemorates the death of seven miners in a paddy train crash at Bentley Colliery which happened on November 21, 1978.

The ceremony starts at noon with hymns, a blessing by the vicar, and a two minute silence after the names of all those killed are read out - along with the names of a dozen men who were awarded the Edward Medal for their courageous rescue work in 1931.

Armthorpe Elmfield Band will provide the music.

For the first time since he was elected MP for Doncaster North, Labour leader Ed Miliband will also make a speech at the event, before the service ends with Jerusalem.

Because it is the exact 80th anniversary of the first disaster, Mr Dickinson would like to see a bigger than usual turnout.

“I express the hope that many members of the community will turn up in good numbers because there continues to be a need for these commemorations in years to come. In my sermon I shall also remember modern mining tragedies, such as the ones in Wales and Kellingley earlier this year.”

Some of the grandchildren of the 1931 casualties still attend the annual ceremony, and many relatives of those who died in 1978 will probably be there.

A descendant of one of the former mine owners before Bentley was taken into public ownership has also indicated he plans to attend.

“I would like to stress it not a narrow Church of England service - it is ecumenical and all are welcome,” Mr Dickinson added.

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