Monday, August 27, 2007

60th Anniversary of the August 1947 'William Pit tragedy', Whitehaven, Cumbria

John Lowrey and Joseph Ritson at the 2006 Veterans Day Commemorative Service at Whitehaven, Cumbria.

At 5.40 pm on Friday 15 August 1947 there was an explosion in a coal mine at the 'William Pit', Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria). As a result, 104 miners lost their lives, and according to information available in the County Archives, the dependents left without a breadwinner included 89 widows and 230 children. Strictly speaking, this particular explosion took place exactly two years after the end of the Second World War (the end of which was 15 August 1945). However, during the period I was collecting stories for the BBC "People's War" project the 1947 William Pit explosion was referred to in a number of the stories I posted.

In early 2007, a few months before the 60th Anniversary of 1947, Mr Will Tillotson, a BBC reporter with the BBC Radio Cumbria bus contacted me asking if I could provide them with details of anyone I knew who had memories of the tragedy that took place on 15 August 1947. The local BBC radio station wished to mark the 60th Anniversary of this particular explosion with several programmes looking at the event, including a 30 minute radio documentary. Apparently there were also plans to do a BBC television documentary by the 'Timewatch' team, but I subsequently heard this was shelved.

Although not everyone I asked wished to be interviewed, several of those who gave me information for stories I had posted to the BBC "People's War" website were interviewed by Will Tillotson and took part in the radio programme. These included Ray Devlin and John Lowrey, both of whom helped me with several "People's War" stories. Another researcher, Amanda Roberts from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada (who has recently written a book about the miners who died in the 1947 William Pit tragedy) was able to provide Will Tillotson and BBC Radio Cumbria with additional contacts for the documentary. Peter suggested I post this information to the 2WW Blog site, giving the link below in case anyone wished to read about or listen to the resultant documentary by Will Tillotson.

Click here for the BBC Radio Cumbria website commemorating the pit disaster.

Listen to a recording of John Lowery which I made with local historian Ray Devlin and Amanda Roberts.
You will need Real Player to play the recording.

[NB I have posted a separate story about John Lowrey and his pal Billy Lee MM to this 2WW Blog].


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