On 18 March, 1979, a disaster occurred at Golborne Colliery in which 10 men lost their lives and another was seriously injured.
A build-up of methane gas in one of the tunnels caused a devastating explosion 1,800ft underground.
It was a terrible event which goes down in local history, remembered first hand by some still around today and the story passed down to the new generations.
Among the victims on that day were electricians who were attempting to mend ventilation fans which bosses knew weren’t working – sadly, one of the contributing factors which allowed a lethal build up of methane before the blast.
At the time, Golborne Colliery was one of 22 coal producing collieries in the Western area of the National Coal Board. 870 men worked there and it produced 9,000 tonnes of coal every single week.
The colliery had been in Golborne since the 1860s, and in August 1975 it was connected underground with the nearby Bickershaw Colliery. Later, coal winding operations for the two mines were moved to Bickershaw, which was also connected underground to Parsonage Colliery in Leigh.
The disaster occurred at 11.15am on the 18 March 1979. Three men were killed instantly, seven others died later in hospital. The victims in were:
- John T. Berry, development worker
- Colin Dallimore, electrician
- Desmond Edwards, 44, faceworker
- Patrick Grainey, 40, development worker
- Peter Grainey, 41, development worker, brother of Patrick.
- Raymond A. Hill, 33, development worker
- John McKenna, deputy
- Walter McPherson, 45, ventilation officer
- Brian Sherman, 23, electrician
- Bernard Trumble, 34, development worker
- Brian Rawsthorne, a 20-year-old apprentice from Garswood was seriously injured, but survived.
An inquest held in October 1979 returned verdicts of ‘death by misadventure’ on the victims.
The surviving apprentice, Brian Rawsthorne, told the inquest that the blast occurred when electrician Colin Dallimore, who had been working on a bank of switches, tested the circuit. This caused a “spark and a bang”.
Mr Rawsthorne said he was catapulted backwards by the force of the explosion.
In the days following the tragedy, the Mayor of Wigan launched an appeal fund for the dependents of the miners who died. In total, this raised £30,000.
When did Golborne Colliery close, and what is there now?
Golborne Colliery eventually closed in 1989. A memorial stone on Kid Glove Road, off High Street, marks the area where it once was. The wider area is known locally as ‘The Bonk’. The term draws on the Welsh term for bank or mound, and the name is thought to be a reference to the Welsh miners who moved to towns like Golborne to work in North West coal mines.
Following the closure of the colliery, there was a heavy loss of employment in the local area, affecting not only Golborne but people from nearby towns including Lowton, Abram and Ashton-in-Makerfield.
Today, some of the men who died in the disaster are remembered in the names of local streets, including the new ‘Edwards Trumble Meadow’ and ‘McPherson Place’ on the Rothwells Farm development – built on former Coal Board owned land.
They are also remembered by the Parkside Colliery Male Voice Choir, which has been singing locally since 1970. Each year, they hold special concerts to mark the anniversary of the disaster.
Do you have memories, or family stories about Golborne Colliery?
We’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below, or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org Similarly, if you have old pictures of the colliery, or some of the people who worked there, we’d love to take a look.