When a lost deposit of Blue John stone was found at Treak Cliff Cavern in Castleton three years ago, former miner Peter Harrison couldn’t resist donning his overalls and heading into the cave to see the discovery for himself - despite being nearly 90.
It was typical of the craftsman and industry expert, who has died suddenly aged 89, and his enthusiasm and dedication to the work of his family, who have operated the cavern for more than 70 years, said his daughter Vicky.
“My dad’s passing has come as quite a shock,” said Vicky, who took over the running of Treak Cliff several years ago.
“He was still active and in reasonably good health for his years. He was enjoying a holiday in Austria when he felt unwell, fell and hit his head. He was rushed into hospital but unfortunately died.
“Dad was still going underground well into his 80s. He’d make the trek up the hill and accompany the miners underground to see the latest finds.”
The Harrison family have been involved in the Blue John industry for nearly a century, and as a child Peter would visit his grandfather William, a steeplejack, who had a holiday home in Castleton. Peter would accompany his relatives who worked at the caverns.
The family took on Treak Cliff in 1945 - Peter, then 19, became a Blue John miner and learned how to craft the stone into goblets and jewellery.
The discovery in 2013 was the legacy of an old miner who once told Peter about a deposit of Blue John he had found. The miner died before he could reveal the exact location, and it fell to Peter’s grandson John Turner to uncover the treasure 70 years on.
The grandfather’s advice was sought after. Peter offered his expertise when the biggest-ever private collection of the stone came to auction last year.
Peter was an active member of the Castleton community. He served as church warden, Parish Council Chairman, Castleton Historical Society trustee and a school governor and was a member of many clubs and societies.
“The whole village is sad and shocked at his sudden death,” said Vicky.
Peter leaves a wife Anne, daughters Vicky and Kay, and grandchildren John and Elizabeth.
The funeral will be at St Edmund’s Church, Castleton, at noon next Wednesday, August 3. Treak Cliff will be closed to visitors for the day.