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News Post Leader, Thursday, January 19, 2012

Alcan chiefs reject plea for stay of execution n From Page 1 the timing of the decision, and could it not be delayed? “I explained the challenging situation in south east Northumberland and the region and asked if they would consider extending the closure date to allow people to adapt and plan for the future. “But it was quite apparent that the decision would not change no matter what happened. They were unwilling to change it from day one. “It was a turning point for me. We understand clearly now that this company has closed the door on the future of the plant. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was extremely disappointed. “The chief executive, Jacynthe Côté, explained how good a workforce they had been, and she has basically made them unemployed.” The fight to save the smelter continues, however, and thousands of people have signed a petition, also to be found online at www. ipetitions.com/petition/ sosalcan/ Mr Lavery said: “We have to continue fighting and hoping that someone comes forward at the last minute. “The people who had expressed an interest in buying the smelter went quiet, but we will continue to campaign to keep the plant open, and the unions have asked me to present their petition to parliament, which I will do either next week or the week after.” He added: “I have to give credit to the union reps from GMB and Unite. They have been an absolute credit to the workforce.” Mr Campbell added: “It didn’t go very well and I’m disappointed, but we were half expecting it. “The company hasn’t been very forthcoming. “They didn’t want to sell the smelter – that was clear all along – and the government can’t make them sell it. It doesn’t look good.”

SERVICES HELD TO MARK 150th ANNIVERSARY OF TRAGEDY AT VILLAGE MINE By Tegan Chapman MONDAY marked the 150th anniversary of a mining disaster which left 204 men and boys dead. A community came together on the day to remember the lives lost at New Hartley Colliery, also known as the Hester Pit, on January 16, 1862, by holding memorial services, concerts and other events. The disaster unfolded after the beam of a pumping engine broke, sending tons of cast iron into its sole shaft, blocking any chance of escape for the miners below. Those not killed by the fall died of suffocation while trapped in the pit as rescuers were unable to reach them in time. On the anniversary itself, a service of remembrance was held at the pit head in the memorial garden. Dignitaries and ancestors of those who lost their lives in the disaster laid wreaths. Sylvia McDougle, of Simonside, Seaton Sluice, whose great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Brown, 25, and his brother Ralph, 15, both died in the disaster, was among those at the service on Sunday. Thomas left a widow called Martha and one-year-old baby son called Ralph. Thomas and the elder Ralph were two of four brothers employed at the pit. Sylvia said: “I grew up hearing the family’s stories about the disaster, and I wanted to be at the memorial service. It was an amazing turnout. “My great-great-great-grandfather and his brother both died, and their other two brothers only survived because they were working on another shift.” Seaton Valley Council vicechairman Susan Dungworth said: “This weekend’s activities in New Hartley have been fantastic, and I have felt immensely proud to be part of them. “The memorial concert on Friday, the remembrance service on Sunday and the pit head vigil on Monday have brought villagers of all ages together with descendants of the miners, historians, miners and local dignitaries to honour the dead, celebrate the present and look forward to the future. “The bits that stand

Hundreds turn out to remember lives lost in 1862 colliery disaster

out for me are the procession of banners on Sunday and the singing of the first school pupils in the silence of the frozen memorial garden on Monday morning. “The banners were carried by women and children who symbolised the women and children who rebuilt their lives and ensured the survival of the village itself. “I will never forget standing in the packed memorial hall, holding the newly blessed banner as the Ellington Brass Band played Robert Saint’s Gresford, the miners’ hymn, or returning to the packed hall after the vigil to see over 100 children and adults eating soup and sharing their stories. “It was a very special week-

end indeed for the village of New Hartley.” Seaton Valley Council has provided funding for a new memorial path, and Hartley county councillor Anita Romer gave £8,000 out of her small schemes fund towards the repair and renovation of the two circular structures at the pit heads in the memorial garden, and a new sandstone plaque to be placed in the front of one of the structures. Limited-edition glasses, a replica of those produced to commemorate the victims of the disaster fund in 1862, are being sold alongside a calendar to raise money to improve the memorial garden created around the old mine shaft.

Poet Keith Armstrong is putting out a book, Hartley Calamity, featuring writing produced in response to the tragedy, including work by pitman poet Joseph Skipsey, and it will be launched at an event at the Mining Institute in Newcastle next Thursday. Over the weekend, folk group Beeswing performed a concert at New Hartley Memorial Hall, Grimethorpe Colliery Brass Band performed at the Playhouse Whitley Bay and memorial services were held at St Alban’s Church and at New Hartley Memorial Hall, and a new memorial banner was unveiled. tegan.chapman@northeast-press.co.uk

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workers at Cramlington’s Peacocks store are facing uncertainty over their jobs as the fashion chain’s parent company looks set to go into administration. The Manor Walks store is one of more than 600 across the UK facing possible closure after bosses at the Cardiff-based chain announced on Monday that they planned to call in administrators. The board of the Peacock Group has been in talks with lenders over the restructuring of the business for some time. A spokesman for the chain said: “Unfortunately, these talks have now concluded, and no agreement has been reached. “However, discussions with other potential investors are ongoing. “To protect the business while discussions with such investors are progressed, the directors of the Peacock Group have filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator. “Existing management remain in place as an administrator has not been appointed.”

Monday’s memorial service in New Hartley and, below, the unveiling of the new Hester Pit banner on Sunday. Inset, Sylvia McDougle studies a list of those killed in the disaster.

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Peacocks in Cramlington.

Handbag stolen from car A HANDBAG has been stolen from a parked car. Thieves smashed the window of a Nissan Note in Morpeth’s Northbourne Avenue between 4pm last Thursday and 8am the day after. The bag contained a purse, cash and personal documents. The purse was later found and handed in to the police, but the cash and the rest of its contents were missing. Police inquiries are ongoing. Acting Inspector Dave Simpson, of Morpeth neighbourhood policing team, said: “Don’t leave anything of value in your car overnight and definitely not in plain view. “Thieves are looking for opportunities where valuables have been left in cars. They simply smash a window, grab whatever is inside and make off. It only takes seconds. “Help us to stop this kind of crime by removing everything from inside your car when you leave it parked up.”

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Hartley pit 2