New statue unveiled at Auchengeich

A NEW statue has been erected marking the 50th anniversary of Scotland's worst pit disaster.

Tuesday, 8th June 2010, 6:49 pm

First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled a new life-sized bronze statue of a miner in the memorial gardens at Auchengeich Miners' Welfare last Friday.

It replaces the original statue that was stolen.

The First Minister was assisted at Friday's poignant ceremony by Councillor Tom Curley, Provost of North Lanarkshire.

The original statue was unveiled last September to mark the 50th anniversary of the Auchengeich mining disaster.

The tragedy claimed the lives of 47 men, including six from Condorrat - John Mulholland, John Muir, Patrick Harvey, Thomas Stokes, Alex Lang and Alexander Beattie. Kilsyth man Donald Weir also died in the disaster.

But within two months of the unveiling ceremony the statue was stolen.

Following a massive public outcry, North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire councils provided the 25,000 needed to replace the statue.

The new statue contains the latest tracking technology and will be continually monitored by police and council officials.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony on Friday, Provost Curley said: "When I was told about the theft my emotions were a mixture of sadness and disbelief."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The Auchengeich miner has been restored to its rightful place thanks to the determination of all those who were not beaten by this act of theft.

"I was privileged to unveil this poignant and fitting tribute to the memory of the 47 brave men who lost their lives at Auchengeich Colliery.

"I share the outrage and anger of the people in the local community who lost so many husbands, fathers, brothers and sons half a century ago, and who have suffered yet more heartache as a result of this senseless crime.

"The original sculptor by John McKenna was magnificent, so it is fantastic to be here again to unveil a replacement of this wonderful work of art.

"I would like to pay tribute to North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire councils, as well as the people of Auchengeich and Moodiesburn, for their resolution and commitment to turning this terrible theft into a positive event."

Auchengeich Memorial Committee chairman Danny Taylor said: "It's great to have it back in its place. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been worth it. A huge thanks goes to North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire councils and everyone who has supported us."

Businessman Brian Dempsey, a strong supporter of the memorial committee, conducted the proceedings at Friday ceremony.

Mr Dempsey said: "It's a very special day here at the 'Geich to be welcoming home your miner."