150 years of mining set to be celebrated

A special milestone in the long and proud history of the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic will be celebrated this summer.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first picnic, and organisers are hoping thousands of visitors will help recognise the area’s mining heritage.

The first picnic was staged at Blyth Links in 1864, and to mark the occasion Woodhorn Museum will join forces with the Northumberland County Council and Northumberland National Union of Mineworkers on Saturday, June 14, to stage the biggest miners’ picnic for many years.

Prime ministers, leading politicians and union leaders – David Lloyd George to Tony Blair, Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone, as well as Arthur Scargill – have all rubbed shoulders with Northumberland miners and their families at the event.

NUM secretary and former Wansbeck MP Denis Murphy said: “The picnic is part of the mining folklore of Northumberland.

“It was a great day out to be enjoyed by miners and their families, yet it was also a massive demonstration of trade union strength and solidarity as well as downright pride so many people and communities had in being part of an industry that helped put the ‘Great’ into Britain.

“Sadly, the pits may all have gone but the spirit of the picnic still exists and we are delighted that in this milestone anniversary year people will get the chance to remember and celebrate with us, a tradition that meant so much to the miners of Northumberland.”

In recent years Woodhorn Museum has kept the picnic traditions alive with a day of music, dance and fun for local people and visitors alike, whilst the National Union of Mineworkers has continued to mark the day with a memorial service of commemoration.

This year both the service and a packed programme of entertainment and music will be staged at Woodhorn.

Woodhorn director Keith Merrin added: “We want everyone to come along on June 14, whether you have a mining connection, an interest in the history and traditions of the north east or simply want to experience a family fun day in our amazing historic colliery setting.”