Monday, 12 December 2011

Event - Dancers to remember mine disaster victims (High Green, Sheffield)

A GROUP of folk dancers, singers and musicians are planning to mark the 150th anniversary of a pit explosion in Sheffield that claimed the lives of six miners.

They are aiming to hold commemorative events and unveil a brass plaque in memory of the victims of the tragedy at Westwood Colliery in High Green.

The sword dance team are called Six Jolly Miners, taking their name from a song based on the dangers facing all mining communities and the bravery of miners - a song that can still be heard in the Black Bull in Ecclesfield at Christmas.

The song has a special resonance as the 150th anniversary approaches of the disaster on April 4, 1862 when an underground explosion at Westwood Colliery killed six miners. An inquest at the Salutation Inn in High Green concluded that miners had been working with candles instead of safety lamps.

Planning has started for an event at High Green Primary School on April 23 which will feature an exhibition, poetry, art and a re-enactment. The next day it is intended to unveil a brass plaque, listing the victims of the disaster, and to stage music and dance in High Green Miners’ Welfare.

The group, formed two years ago, is working with a new local history group and research assistant Julie Powell has uncovered information about the lives of the six colliers and their families and is trying to find out if they have any descendants still living in the area.

Six Jolly Miners celebrate the region’s mining heritage and perform at various events. They recently helped to raise £500 for a project to restore Grenoside’s only listed building, the Reading Room.

They currently have five dancers from Sheffield and two from Newcastle and work with ceilidh team the B Team, led by John and Vic Bowden.

Members are planning to dance in Northumberland next month to commemorate another mining disaster 150 years ago. But it was the Barnsley area, with coal seams stretching into Sheffield, that was renowned as the most dangerous in the country.

“As a group of performers, the team has come to appreciate what a great debt we owe to our coal mining ancestors and how mining disasters wrecked the lives of thousands of South Yorkshire families and devastated entire communities,” said a member of the dance team, Joe Dunn.

Joe lives in Grenoside and has retired as headteacher of Southey Green Primary School, where he enthused pupils about folk dancing.

‘We’re miners in name only, but we are sword dancers and if our performances cause people to reflect a while, all well and good. We shouldn’t forget them.”

Six Jolly Miners practise on a Tuesday night at the Burton Street Foundation in Hillsborough and are looking for recruits to learn a “vigorous” sword dance. They have male and female members.

One of their recent ambitions was to name one of their techniques for the locking of swords after fellow sword dancer Mike Steel, who died of cancer in the summer at the age of 58. They perfected the move in time for his daughter Emma’s wedding last month.

Visit or contact Joe Dunn on 2460463.


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