We’ve done it!
More than a year the Doncaster Free Press launched our campaign backing plans for a permanent memorial to Doncaster’s miners, it has been confirmed that the monument will go ahead, and is due to be unveiled in the autumn of 2019.
Organisers of the appeal confirmed this week that the £131,461 needed to build the piece of art in memorial of the thousands who worked in the borough’s coal industry is now in place, following a crowdfunding bid
Our readers donations have played an important part in reaching the target, which means work on the memorial will now go ahead, with nationally renowned artist Laurence Edwards creating the work.
It will be given a permanent and prominent place in the town centre, with the planned site due to be at Clock Corner.
Free Press editor Nancy Fielder said: “We thought it was important to back this project to honour the memory of those miners who toiled underground to power our country for generations, and who created the wealth on which Doncaster is founded.
“Over the years, men lost their lives doing what was a dangerous job, and that should never be forgotten. This memorial will stand to remind future generations of that. It is great news that the scheme will go ahead and we’re proud to have helped achieve that goal.”
Individuals, businesses and organisations have been supporting through online pledges and donations at locations across the borough. An exhibition about the project in the summer attracted over 1,500 visitors.
Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, is contributing part of her allowance over her four year term to help make the statue a reality and ensuring that an important part of our borough’s history and community gets the recognition it deserves.
The memorial will feature recorded stories told by former miners telling of their time in the industry, that people will be able to hear.
It will be the first mining statue to be located in the town centre. Several former mining villages in the borough already have their own memorials.
Sculptor Mr Edwards has been commissioned to design the artwork and has met with hundreds of local people for feedback on how they would like the memorial to look.
He has sculpted portraits of people from the various mining communities in wax while they have told their stories. These have then been cast in bronze and will be a part of the memorial
He will start working on the mining statue in the new year and the finished piece of public art will be unveiled in autumn 2019.
There will be a total of 40 bronze busts of local people from mining communities in the sculpture. A total of 21 of these heads have already been created and Laurence Edwards was in Doncaster last week making six more portraits.
Another 13 heads are still to be chosen there is still a chance of being picked to be included in the sculpture.
Mayor Mrs Jones, said: “I am delighted that Doncaster will now have a permanent commemoration to its mining history and that the stories of our wonderful miners and their families will be heard by future generations.
“Thank you to everyone who has donated to our fundraising campaign to make the mining statue for Doncaster possible – and who have also shared our determination to ensure that the borough never forgets its proud mining heritage and the communities that grew up around it.”
“From the outset, I was committed to driving forward this important commemoration for Doncaster miners and I have pledged part of my allowance for my four year term of office to help make it happen.
“A mining statue for Doncaster will be a long lasting tribute to the thousands of hard working men and women, whose contribution to the growth and prosperity of the town must never be underestimated, and to those miners whose lives were tragically lost working in the gruelling conditions that many of us could never begin to imagine.
“During the course of the project, we have seen tremendous support from our local former miners and their families who have told us how proud they are that their stories will be told and that in years’ to come their grandchildren can point to the statue and say ‘that’s my grandad or grandma.’”
Keith Marshall’s mining career spanned 30 years – but it is not for him that he wants to see the mining memorial.
It is for his close friend and brother-in-law, and the beloved uncle, both of whom lost their lives mining for coal.
Keith, now aged 74, from Mexborough, started as a miner aged 15 and went on to work underground at the coal face. His is one of the faces that will feature on the mining memorial.
He said: “None of the jobs were pleasant – they were hard work in bad conditions. But we worked with great friends and great cameraderie.
“To me this is to remember those who died.
“Two people in my family died in the mines. My brother-in-law Billy Harrison died at Bullcroft colliery in 1964, and my uncle Herbert Marshall died at Bentley Colliery after the 1984 strike.
“Billy was only aged 20. I knew him at school, and I married his sister.
“He was doing a double shift when he died for the over time and would have finished if it had been just a single shift.
“He was moving coal off a lift so men could use it to get up to the surface – but he was struck by a runaway coal tub which had broken free.
“We always remember him. It would have been his birthday on November 17, and he would have been 75. It is people like Billy I want everyone to remember.
“I think it’s very important. Just a few days ago, I didn’t think they’d get the money for the memorial so it means so much to us that they money is there. It is something else to remember Billy by.
“When he was killed his wife was pregnant, and his son had not been born. This memorial is for people like him
Keith’s Uncle Herbert was in his 50s when he died. He started his working life as a driver for the Coop, later switching to work in the mines.
He was killed when two coal tubs collided when he was trying to separate them.
“This memorial will be something for their grandchildren to see. There are children who have never seen a piece of coal now. There is nothing about mining in the town centre at the moment. It is important we don’t forget. A lot of good men died.”
Stephen Hamilton, aged 67, from Mexborough, also remembers men who lost their lives working in the borough’s pits.
Stephen worked at Cadeby Colliery, near Denaby, from 1966 until 1980.
He left the industry after the death of a colleague in the late 1970s, Pat Rouane, from Conisbrough.
Pat was crushed in a roof fall underground doing the same job as Stephen did, but on a different shift., on a coal face which miners regarded as a difficult one.
Stephen said: “I was going in for a night shift when they brought Pat back up. I remember his arm flapping down from the stretcher. My heart was not in the job after that.
“I carried on for a bit, but then left to get a job elsewhere.
“But there was a wonderful mining community, with galas, clubs, and charity fundraisers. I had brothers, my father, uncles, cousins all working as miners. All my friends were miners. Some have died of industrial diseases. Now there are no mines. Once, the National Coal Board was the biggest employer in the area.”
Stephen is another of the heads who will be used as part of the memorial. His jobs included working as what was known as a ‘market man’, being sent to any part of the pit where he was needed.
He said: “I don’t want to see miners forgotten about. I think its important we have something in the town centre that we can look at.
“I’m so glad that we’ve done it – we’ve raised the money. It feels like Christmas and winning the lottery.”