THE end of the British deep coal mining industry was marked at a march and rally in Knottingley following Friday’s closure of Kellingley Colliery.
Former miners from across the UK joined ex-Kellingley workers on the march from Knottingley Town Hall to Kellingley Miners’ Scheme Social Club on Saturday. Knottingley Silver Band led more than 1,000 people on the march, which was organised by Lisa Cheney, 33, and Kirsten Sinclair, 48. Mrs Cheney, whose husband Rob, 40, was a miner at Kellingley for 12 years, said: “We planned a little march, which turned into a major event to support the miners. “We wanted to mark the end of an era for coal mining. It is just so sad that it’s the last pit. People are upset that it has come to this and it’s such a shame that there’s nothing we could have done to keep mining in this country.” Miss Sinclair’s partner Michael Ball, 53, started work at Kellingley aged 16 and clocked off for the final time yesterday. She said: “We were hoping people would come and share how they feel about the miners and also how they feel about the end of an era.”
Anne Scargill, the wife of former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Arthur Scargill, was at the march.
Mrs Scargill said: “It is a sad day today. Thousands of tonnes of coal are beneath our feet and they are shutting every mine and importing it from other countries. I bet other countries are laughing at us.”
Keith Poulson, branch secretary of the NUM’s Kellingley branch, was a miner for 39 years and worked at Kellingley for 27 years.
He said: “It is a tremendous turn out today. There are a lot of miners, a lot of support and a lot of charged emotions after yesterday’s closure of Kellingley Colliery.
“People feel disappointed that they have been let down. This country will continue to burn coal, about 40m to 50m tonnes every year. Why couldn’t it be British coal?”
Mr Poulson added: “We (the NUM) will be continuing to run surgeries to help lads out at least twice a week at Kellingley Club. They are still going to want help and assistance.”
Mr Poulson said he is set to receive just over £20,000 in redundancy and severance pay after 39 years working in the coal industry.
Pontefract, Normanton and Castleford Labour MP Yvette Cooper, said: “So many people who are here are from families that have worked in one pit or another over the years. There is that sense of showing our pride in the coalfields and showing our pride in the work that the miners have done over the generations.”
“We wanted to mark the end of an era for coal mining”Lisa Cheney
Nigel Kemp, 50, of Knottingley, a miner at Kellingley for 32 years, said: “It is a marvellous turnout. To see this support here today is a credit to the two ladies who have put this show on.”
Mr Kemp added: “Today for me is about meeting past friends and just to remember the coal industry. I have been asked to stop on to work with the team that will be capping the shaft. I will be stopping on for eight weeks and then I will be out looking for work.”
Father-of-two Gary Hughes, 47, worked as a loco driver at Kellingley for 15 years.
Mr Hughes, who has found work as a wagon driver for a tarmacing business in Bradford, said: “It’s sad. I feel for people, especially the young ones.
“They thought they were going get a lifetime career and it has been cut short.
“The lads that don’t know anything else, they are going to find it hard. I feel for them, it’s a very sad day.”