FORMER miners will make the 38th anniversary of an underground explosion at Golborne Colliery this March.

Ten men were killed and one other seriously injured on March 18, 1979 when the fireball shot 200 yards along a tunnel, which was around 1,800ft underground at the Wigan mine.

Initially, there were three deaths and eight injuries – and the injured men were taken to hospitals in the area with serious burns and lung injuries.

It is believed the blast was caused when a build-up of methane gas caught light.

Another 100 men working at the pit at the time of the explosion, which occurred at about 1.30am, were taken to safety, with many choosing to join the rescue efforts.

One of them, Frank Gormley, the son of the president of the National Union of Miners (NUM), Joe Gormley, drove a train to the seam face to help carry the dead and injured out of the mine.

Arrangements were being made to transport the injured – some of whom had burns on 90 per cent of their bodies – from local hospitals to the burns unit at Withington Hospital in Manchester.

Ambulance workers at Hindley and Wigan broke their strike to transport the injured to hospitals.

By April 2, the number of dead had risen to 10.

There was just one survivor, 20-year-old apprentice electrician, Brian Rawsthorne from Garswood. He was able to provide an account of the accident and it was revealed the blast occurred when an electrician, who had been working on a bank of switches, tested the circuit, causing a “spark and a bang”.

Two days after the explosion, it emerged that bosses at the pit knew of a ventilation fan that was out of order. This caused methane levels to build up at a much faster rate than normal.

However, an inquest held in October 1979 returned verdicts of death by misadventure on the victims. The survivor, Mr Rawsthorne, told the inquest he was catapulted backwards by the force of the explosion.

The colliery closed ten years later in 1989, leading to the loss of employment for a large proportion of Golborne’s population as well as people from nearby towns such as St Helens, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lowton and Abram.

n Ex-miners are marking the 38th anniversary of the disaster with a musical evening with the Haydock Male Voice Choir at Golborne St Thomas Church on Friday, March 17 at 7.30pm.

Admission is £5. Pay on the door.

n ST HELENS’ Ladies’ Choir will get in tune for a lunchtime concert at the United Reformed Church on King St on Wednesday, February 22.

Starting at 1pm, the performance will last approximately three quarters of an hour and is free to attend.

There will be a retiring collection in aid of the North West Air Ambulance Charity. Further details can be obtained on 01744 731639.