THE tolling of the church bell could barely be heard above the sound of the strong winds buffeting the marquee. But the message was loud and clear nevertheless.
Each of the 168 chimes from the bell of St Andrew’s Church 100 yards away represented one of the men and boys killed in the Burns pit explosion at Stanley, County Durham.
At 3.45pm precisely yesterday – the time 100 years ago when the first muffled explosion was heard underground – St Andrew’s congregation members Bob Carr and George Trotter began ringing the bell. And in the marquee which enveloped the memorial in the shape of a pit wheel, a gathering of 300 remembered. They remembered and mourned those they had never met, but whom for many were distant relatives.
Such as Edward and Henry Manistre, aged 19 and 15 respectively, remembered by their great niece Pauline Oliver – whose grandfather Frederick Manistre survived the disaster.
Mrs Oliver, from "the other Stanley", Stanley Crook in south west Durham, said: "I felt as if I simply had to come here today to pay my respects. They were so young when their lives were taken."
The service was conducted by Father Joe Park of Stanley’s St Joseph’s RC Church who led the prayers. It had been organised by Derwentside District Council.