Mining legacy will not be forgotten

Ian Lavery MP at the Northumberland Miners' Picnic at Woodhorn.'Picture by Jane Coltman
Ian Lavery MP at the Northumberland Miners' Picnic at Woodhorn.'Picture by Jane Coltman
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We lost another bit of old Ashington last week when the Institute in the aptly-named Institute Road was finally pulled down.

The ‘Tute’ had been closed for some time since the new leisure centre was opened, and although we knew the building had no future, like me, many local people were sad to see it knocked down, not just because of the sporting and social facilities it once provided, but because it represented a link with the town’s past that must never be forgotten.

Like other buildings in the town, the ‘Tute’ and its adjacent swimming baths owed their existence to the mining community who made Ashington the town it is today.

At a time when sporting, recreational and social facilities were few and far between it was the miners who made such an enormous contribution to seeing that there were places where people could go to enjoy their leisure time, whether or not they worked at the pits.

Not far away, the ‘Rec’ had fantastic sporting facilities, while the Hirst Welfare was the stomping ground of football stars of the future, such as Jackie Milburn, Jack and Bobby Charlton.

It was through weekly deductions from the wage packets of miners who could barely afford it that these amenities were provided.

The first hospital in the town and the mining school, which led to the development of Ashington Council, both benefited from the support of our mining community.

In the 1970s Wansbeck Council added to the facilities by opening the leisure centre, which not only expanded sporting opportunities, but brought celebrities and top sporting stars to Ashington. No other district in the north east enjoyed such a feast of music, drama and sporting entertainment at rock-bottom prices.

While buildings can be demolished, memories can never be erased and we must never forget the legacy our mining community has left behind it in Ashington.