When coal was king, these were its queens

Woodhorn Museum marketing officer Deborah Tate with a photograph of her as 1982's Northumberland coal queen.
Woodhorn Museum marketing officer Deborah Tate with a photograph of her as 1982's Northumberland coal queen.
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AN exhibition about Northumberland’s so-called coal queens has opened.

Visitors to Woodhorn Museum at Ashington will be able to find out about the glamorous side of an industry not renowned for its glamour.

Memories of the Coal Queen, a touring exhibition put together by the West Yorkshire-based National Coal Mining Museum for England, is on until Sunday, April 10.

Competitions to find attractive young women to act as their pit villages’ answers to Miss World began well over 50 years ago in the north east and soon grew in popularity.

Between 1969 and 1983, they were so prestigious that a national coal queen was chosen.

Memories of the Coal Queens features interviews with former winners, photographs, clothing and a specially-recorded film.

The museum’s marketing officer, Deborah Tate, plays a part in the exhibition as she represented Northumberland in 1982’s national coal queen competition.

“My father had worked 47 years underground, starting at Woodhorn at the age of just 14, so I was very proud to represent him and the whole community,” said Deborah.

“You had to have a mining connection – father, brother, husband, or work for the National Coal Board yourself – to enter the competition.

“It’s strange now to be so closely involved with the mining heritage of the area, but I feel very privileged.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how our visitors enjoy the exhibition and finding out what they think about the competitions.”

There will be a series of activities to accompany the exhibition including treats for mums being handed out on Mothering Sunday weekend and craft sessions for children.

Visit www.experiencewoodhorn.com for more information.