THOUSANDS of people watched as a new memorial to Allerton Bywater’s mining heritage was unveiled on Saturday.
The memorial, designed by Castleford artist Harry Malkin, paid tribute to the 86 men and boys who died at the village’s colliery throughout its history.
Leeds City Council leader and Kippax councillor Keith Wakefield, who officially unveiled the memorial, said: “The march was really emotional because it reminded everyone of the tradition of the village being part of the mining industry and there was a huge turn out.
“Those who were too old to march were on the streets, so there was a fantastic response from the people of Allerton Bywater, who are obviously still very proud of being a mining village.”
He added: “The unveiling ceremony was for me in particular one of the proudest days of my life because I know how much it means, all the sacrifices the village has made for the mining industry.
“I thought it was a tremendous tribute to the organisers and the whole of the village.
“It was a very moving day, there were quite a few breaking down on the day because of all the memories it brought to life.”
A parade of seven pit banners, including the return of the Allerton Silkstone NUM branch banner to the village for the first time in 20 years, along with banners from Kellingley Colliery and Women Against Pit Closures, was led by Kippax Brass Band from Brigshaw High School to the memorial on Beeston Drive, at the entrance to the millennium village, and about 30 metres from the entrance to the former colliery.
Ann Scargill was among those who attended the event, which also included a dedication from St Mary the Less Church vicar Rev Jean Sykes, and a reading of the names of all those killed at the colliery, which closed in 1992.
Clive Cowell, the last branch secretary of Allerton Silkstone NUM, said: “It was just absolutely fantastic. It was historic, it was emotional, there must have been about 2,000 people there.
“The streets were lined with people along the 1.1-mile march cheering and clapping. Everybody said it was just fitting for the day.
“Now people are coming from all over to see the memorial, and seeing it after dark when the lights come on at dusk, it changes its whole perspective and it’s absolutely beautiful.
“Harry Malkin has created a masterpiece that this village is proud of.”