On Friday, November 7, Sir John Hall officially opened the modest but important Ashington Colliery heritage trail.
Ashington is now taking steps to become a modern 21st Century settlement, but sometimes in order to move forward, you need to look at your past.
That is where this project sits, it is a nod to the towns origin and historical development and is there for the benefit of older residents and former colliery workers as a basis for reflection, new residents and younger people who wish to learn about the history and heritage of the town and visitors who we hope to attract to South East Northumberland.
The idea for the trail came from my father, George Nichol. He was born in Ashington and brought up his family in the town. He wasn’t a miner. He started his working life as a colliery wages clerk and ended his time with British Coal as a highly respected senior auditor.
Dad was immensely proud to come from Ashington and was proud to work in the coal industry. He was appreciative of the opportunities given to him by British Coal and enjoyed the Ashington society which was created as a direct result of its mining origins.
He was saddened when he discovered that nothing existed to mark the site of the colliery which created the largest mining village in the world, so he set off on a crusade to right that wrong with his heritage trail idea.
Dad suddenly passed away in July 2013 at the relatively young age of 65 but in the two years before, he had done a huge amount of work in researching history, developing the project, soliciting support and forming a heritage group.
That group has assisted my sister and me in delivering Dad’s vision but none of this would have happened had it not been for the £24,500 funding package received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the additional £3,970 received from Northumberland County Council’s Community Chest. The Heritage Group are hugely grateful to both organisations for their confidence and support.
My family and I would like to thank Kit Miller, Dorothy Gilchrist, Mike Kirkup, Neil Taylor, John Freeman and Barry Mead, the other members of the Ashington Colliery Heritage Group, for helping us turn our Dad’s idea into reality.
The trail is important because after 26 years, something tangible finally marks the existence of Ashington Colliery on the site where it was located.
Until now, there has been no symbol of recognition, not even a pit tub, for the thousands of men, women and boys who worked in the colliery and created the town. Nor has there been any recognition of 200-plus people who lost their lives during the course of their work.
The determination of an individual and a group of people with a genuine passion for the town has now gone some way to righting this wrong and it should be a source of shame to those who during their time of power and influence, have previously dismissed or overlooked the colliery legacy.
The business of making a forward thinking, modern town is of utmost importance but it would be fitting tribute to the town’s past, if the current holders of power and influence could supplement our trail with a piece of public art or appropriate landmark, which acknowledges the town’s origins and celebrates the people who made Ashington.
Ashington Colliery Heritage Group