Pretoria Pit Disaster

Wingates Brass Band   December 21, 2015   Comments Off on Pretoria Pit Disaster


The story of Wingates Band, shortly to enter its 144th year, has seen many wonderful triumphs, but major trauma too. By far the blackest chapter in the band’s long history came on 21st December 1910, when, of the 344 men and boys killed instantly in a massive underground explosion at Westhoughton’s Pretoria Pit, nine were playing and committee members of Wingates Temperance Band. In those days, most of the band’s musicians were coal miners, and the victims included the driving forces of band chairman and secretary. The remaining members of the band re-grouped, and played at numerous funerals for their former colleagues and other victims of the tragedy, many of whom were buried on Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1910.

Today sees the 105th anniversary of the darkest hour in the history of the Lancashire town of Westhoughton, when annual memorial services will again be held to remember those who perished in the third worst mining disaster in British history. As has been the case for many years, representatives of the current band will be present at these services to pay their respects to their forefathers who paid the ultimate price, an ever present risk of their arduous and dangerous jobs deep underground.

On the occasion of the centenary of the disaster in 2010, Wingates Band played a major role in the town’s multi-faceted commemorations, when a superbly-sculpted bronze statue of a coal miner, with a granite wall backdrop featuring the names of all 344 victims, was unveiled in the town centre. The band provided the music for an extremely poignant unveiling ceremony and at the service which followed in St Bartholomew’s Parish Church. In addition, the band perpetuated the memory of their forefathers who lost their lives by publishing a booklet entitled ‘Wingates Band and the Pretoria Pit Disaster’, and recording a CD album, ‘Perspectives of Pretoria’, copies of which are still available.

At the 2015 commemorative services, and in accordance with long-established tradition, representatives of the band will be amongst many laying wreaths in memory of the victims of the disaster.