Sadness And Pride As A Community Remembers
Published Date: 24 September 2009
Pictures from the Video - Kirkintilloch Herald
THE 50th anniversary of the Auchengeich mining disaster is remembered with the unveiling of a new memorial.
SADNESS and pride – two words which sum up the feelings of a community changed forever by a tragedy half a century ago.
More than 600 people gathered in Moodiesburn on Sunday for the unveiling of a special memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the Auchengeich mining disaster.
As the wind swirled around the hushed crowd, the only sound was a lone voice reading out the names of 47 men who lost their lives in 1959 and a piper playing softly in the background.
It wasn't hard for anyone in attendance to remember or imagine that terrible day – and the hell beneath and above ground.
Special guests at the poignant service included Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP Tom Clarke, Celtic FC chief executive Peter Lawwell and Bishop Joseph Devine.
Music was provided by a Salvation Army ensemble and a choir made up of pupils from St Michael's and Glenmanor primary schools.
Memorial committee chairman Danny Taylor read out the names of the 47 miners who died in the disaster and those of six men who died in a previous tragedy at the Auchengeich Colliery in 1931.
The new memorial features a bronze statue of a miner as its centrepiece, with two rings of stones – one with the names of the 1931 victims, the other with the names of the 47 men who died in 1959.
Businessman Brian Dempsey, a strong supporter of the memorial committee, conducted proceedings admirably and thanked everyone for "honouring their memory with a respect and affection undiminished by the passage of time".
Guest of honour Alex Salmond was in awe of the "extraordinary turn-out" and paid tribute to residents – past and present.
He said: "The way the whole community came together was remarkable. Even in the darkest days of this community there were many heroes."
Mr Salmond described the new memorial as "truly magnificent" and said of the victims: "They will live long in our thoughts of the past and also in our prayers for the future."
A tribute was also read out from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, remembering the 41 women made widows in 1959 and the 76 children who lost their fathers.
He said: "My thoughts are with you all at this painful hour, most particularly with the widows and descendants of those brave men who died 50 years ago."
Wreaths were laid by relatives, former miners, special guests and members of the community.
The winners of a poetry competition from St Michael's and Glenmanor read out their haunting tributes to the men, before receiving prizes to warm applause.
Guest of honour Tom Clarke MP said: "It's been an enormous privilege to see how our two schools worked so well together."
Willie Doolan, representing Auchengeich Miners' Welfare, spoke of the "sadness and pride" felt by all.
He said: "Our community still carries the scars of the terrible price of coal – scars that will never fade and scars which will last, not only throughout our lifetimes, but also the lifetimes of those to be born into our community."
Folk singer Dick Gaughan brought the proceedings to a close with his rendition of the late MP Norman Buchan's song 'Auchengeich'.
Trees will now be planted beside the memorial and benches installed.
Irene Murphy, lost her dad – Andrew Docherty – in the 1959 disaster.
She was eight at the time and lived with her family in Waterside. Her brother was also working at 'the Geich' that day, but had not gone down into the pit.
Irene said: "The service was lovely and the statue is beautiful.
The kids reading out the poems were very moving. It brings it all back so strongly."
East Dunbartonshire Provost Eric Gotts said: "The new memorial is a very fitting monument to all those brave men. The whole service was a deeply moving experience."