BENTLEY REFLECTS ON ITS DARK DAYS

HUNDREDS of locals turned out to Arksey Cemetery on a crisp Autumn morning, for the annual service to commemorate the men who lost their lives in the two Bentley pit disasters of 1931 and 1978.

A respectful silence fell over those gathered as Rev Stephen Dickinson, Vicar of New Bentley and Arksey, read out the names of the 52 men who lost their lives underground.

On November 20, 1931, an explosion cost the lives of 45 men.

Almost to the day, disaster struck again, 47 years later – when an underground train came off the rails, taking the lives of seven men.

You could have heard a pin drop when Coun Tony Sockett read out the list of names of fallen miners.

Mr Dickinson, who has been officiating at the service for the past 12 years, told the assembled throng : "As the passing years succeed, and we look back in sorrow on the tragedies that have been, let us be resolved to work together with confidence and hope for a better and brighter future for our community and our children.

"Let this be our lasting tribute to those who died."

He said afterwards: "Today's attendance was very good – certainly much improved on that of recent years."

Mr Dickinson was assisted at the service by Peter Amos, Pastor of Bentley Methodist Church and the concluding blessing was given by Roman Catholic Priest Father Jim Kennedy.

Former Bentley miner and NUM member Terry Grainger said: "It was a very moving service, as it always is, and it was great to see so many people turn out.

"It was certainly a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives in the two disasters."

Speaking at the service, Doncaster's mayor Martin Winter said: "At a time when we're looking forward with such enthusiasm in Doncaster, I think it's so important for us to remember where we've come from and those who built the foundations of our proud communities.

"We're here today to remember the men who died in the two Bentley Colliery disasters, and the many thousands of men worldwide who have lost their lives whilst digging for coal.

"I think today is particularly poignant, because it marks the 75th anniversary of those 45 men who lost their lives in 1931 and of their brave colleagues who worked so hard to rescue the survivors and to recover the bodies of their friends and workmates who sadly died.

"A report at the time tells of a miner who escaped the blast and went back down the pit to help with the rescue effort only to find his own, badly injured son. Though he was able to help his son out, it was to be the last time he saw him alive.

"As those tragic events unfolded, reports described a silent crowd of 2,000 men and women, watching and waiting at the pithead.

"Now even though I come from Armthorpe mining stock and my own family has been touched by tragic mining accidents at Markham Main and Markham in Derbyshire, I can't start to imagine what that must have felt like – how people were able to endure the waiting, the fear and the pain.

"I don't think there can be many people who grew up in Doncaster, that didn't have family connections to the mining industry.

"Handed down memories remain… memories of a hard working, proud and close knit community – a community that looked after itself and its own people."

"The spirit that made our mining communities really special then is what makes them unique today.

"It's why we talk about discovering 'the spirit of Doncaster'; it's why the Borough of Doncaster can look forward to a brighter future; and it's why we should understand that there is more that binds us together than there is that drives us apart."