THEY came to bury King Coal on the day miners became mourners.
Slowly they walked through the streets of the tightly-knit South Yorkshire community, their heads bowed in respect to the passing of an old friend.
Maltby Colliery - where men tolled for more than 100 years is gone. Dead and buried .
Hargreaves Services, which owns the pit, said it was no longer viable on safety, geological and financial grounds.
It closed on Friday with the loss of 540 jobs.
The parade included grown men in tears as the colliery band led them and their former colleagues from the pit gates to the cemetery.
The service of thanksgiving and prayer for the future concluded when a lump of coal was buried next to the memorial to 27 men, lost in an underground explosion in 1923.
They gathered in their hundreds - the mourners included families with children and pensioners on mobility scooters - all crowded around the memorial.
Rev Peter Craig-Wild told them: “This is inevitably a deeply sad occasion. We can’t help but think of the contribution that mining has made to this community, to parts of our country and, indeed, right across the world in the last 150 to 200 years.
“At this solemn moment stood here, we remember those who have worked in Maltby pit and those who have died in there working, particularly those who died in the pit disaster.”
For many the ceremony marked not just the death of Maltby colliery but the beginning of the end for coal in Britain.
During the 1980s in Yorkshire alone there were 56 pits employing 60,000 workers. Then came Margaret Thatcher’s closure programme.
In 1994 just 12 pits remained in the county and ten years after that there were just four.
Now with the closure of Maltby, just two remain. Kellingly in North Yorkshire and, South Yorkshire’s last remaining pit, Hatfield.
Maltby NUM representative Paul Arthur said: “What the future holds only time will tell. But with only two pits left in the whole of Yorkshire it looks bleak for us.”
Local MP Kevin Barron, who worked at the pit for 18 years, was equally downbeat. At least for the near future.
“I can see a time when we lose all the pits in Yorkshire,” he said.
“But only a fool would say that in 50 years time we won’t be mining again because there are rich reserves down there and it’s sad that we are letting it go.”
Less than 100 local people worked at the pit when it closed - the rest faced a daily commute after being transferred to Maltby when their former collieries closed.
But the area, which grew from a small village before the pit opened, to a town with 20,000 residents today, will, say some, be badly affected by its closure.
Mick Scrivens at Sizzlers Sandwich shop in Muglet Lane regularly received large orders from men at the pit.
He said: “I’d get orders for £60, £70 and even £80.
“Now they’re gone.”