A POIGNANT pre-Christmas event - held annually to mark miners’ lives lost at work - saw hundreds gather to mark the 30th anniversary of Grimethorpe’s pit ceasing coal production.
The popular get-together, which was started by miner Jack Howell in the early-1990s, was taken on by Johnny Wood following the former’s death and last Thursday’s reunion saw scores pay their respects at the memorial outside St Luke’s Church in the village.
Grimethorpe, one of the deepest pits in Britain, was hit hard by the closure and was ranked as the country’s poorest village in 1994.
But this year’s memorial, given its anniversary, was better attended than ever and Johnny praised people for turning out in force.
He said: “It’s always a very important event for Grimethorpe - the pits should never be forgotten as they played a massive role in the area’s heritage.
“Wreaths were laid at the memorial to show our respect.
“What Grimethorpe went through shouldn’t be forgotten but the resilience of the community shone through.
“That’s why we all come together, year after year, to remember that, but this year was extra special given the anniversary.”
The two pits in the village - ‘Grimethorpe’ and ‘Ferrymoor’ - merged with ‘Riddings’ in 1967, which in turn merged with ‘South Kirkby’ in 1985.
Following similar mergers with ‘Houghton Main’ and ‘Dearne Valley’, employed 6,000 men at the time of its closure in May 1993, months after the final coal had been cut.
After the closure of the mines - and the knock-on impact of services which were used by miners closed - the village entered a period of decline.
Unemployment was above 50 per cent for much of the 1990s, and crime levels rocketed, said to be borne from residents’ reluctance to report issues to the police following the miners’ strikes.
Long-term deprivation was identified, sparking a period of regeneration, with much of the denser basic housing was demolished and replaced with new housing stock.
Those in attendance at last week’s ceremony included Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock - who laid a wreath and praised local residents’ resilience - and a performance was given by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
Ms Peacock added: “It was an honour to attend the poignant service with local residents to remember friends and local miners who are no longer with us.
“Our town powered the nation for decades - the people who served in our pits were the beating heart of the industry.
“To remember those who gave so much to keep our lights on is not only a duty, but it is a privilege.
‘This year we marked 30 years since Grimethorpe pit ceased production.
“A thank you to Johnny Wood, the Grimethorpe Colliery Band and the many miners who attended to pay their respects.”