Good Morning everyone and thank you for attending Seaham Gala Day.
I must start by thanking Ray Sutherland and Joe McVeigh who have made Seaham’s Gala Day possible.
It has been immensely disappointing that due to Covid we have been unable to gather for the Durham Big Meeting which remains the largest celebration and festival of working-class solidarity in the Labour and Trade Union movement.
It is an honour and a privilege to be able to once again march behind the Seaham banners, and to be invited to speak.
The Terrace Green is a place for reflection.
We stand underneath the Cenotaph and Tommy, reminders of the men from this community who served our country in a time of crisis and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Our young men went to war with the values, comradeship and solidarity forged in the toil and unforgiving heat of the pit.
The life of a coal miner was hard and dangerous.
It was in these conditions that the values that shape our community today were developed – solidarity, fairness, equality and justice.
We do not walk on by when are neighbours are in trouble, we stand shoulder to shoulder and support each other.
And, our community embodied the values and messages of solidarity that we carry on these banners when Covid hit.
Donating and delivering food so that elderly and vulnerable people could shield.
A socially distant visit to a neighbour who would have been completely isolated.
Fundraising, thanking and supporting our incredible nurses and care staff who are at the epicentre in our fight against Covid.
The love and care, setting aside personal wants to meet the needs of the whole community is inspiring and restores faith that the principles which created our community remain as strong today as they did in the past.
Today is a celebration, commemoration and an opportunity to remember.
We owe a debt of honour and gratitude to the men who toiled in the darkness, so we could live in the light.
The coal from our community fuelled the industrial revolution that built Britain, it sustained our country through conflict and hardship in the 20th Century, and it provided the employment that created our Town.
The hammer blow for Seaham came to the Knack in 1988, Dawdon in 1991 and the Vane Tempest in 1993.
A town built on coal, living with the legacy of industrial disease and pollution faced an uncertain future following the closure of our principal source of employment.
But look at Seaham today.
The transformation has been nothing short of an economic and ecological miracle.
A coastline once pollute with industrial spoil is home to a heritage coast teaming with once lost wildlife and nature.
In front of us we have independent businesses flourishing, despite the difficulties of the past year.
We have an exceptional marina, home to a range of water sports and swimming clubs.
And Seaham is now home to the nations favourite outdoor artwork with Tommy.
Where once stood the Vane Tempest Colliery, we have East Shore Village, a settlement expanding and strengthening the Seaham community.
The Knack pit site is delivering opportunities – supporting our young people to meet their aspirations through education as the home of Seaham High School.
Dawdon pit is now Spectrum Business Park, a centre of enterprise, skills, and jobs with businesses like Castle Eden Brewery, cutting edge technology being developed at Vivarail, the UK’s only home-grown battery powered train manufacturer, and global brands like MRC Global and Biffa.
We have our challenges, but we should not underestimate the seismic achievements of previous decades.
However, this was all built on coal, and on the hardship of men and boys working underground in unimaginable conditions.
I would like to end by remembering the 164 people killed 141 years ago who paid the ultimate sacrifice in building our community.
141 years to the day, on Wednesday 8 September, our community will come together at Christchurch, in the shadow of the miner’s memorial to remember the boys and men who lost their lives – from the youngest miners aged just 14 years old
Thomas Henry Williams
To the oldest miners aged 71
There will be thousands of descendants of miners who were killed that day, including some of you standing here who will be unaware of an ancestor lost in this disaster.
In the Labour and Trade Union movement we promise to ‘Remember the dead, and fight for the living’.
We honour the struggles of our forefathers by building a better future for our children and grand-children.
I hope the whole community will take pride in our shared history, depicted on our banners and memorials, but more importantly, honour the values of solidarity, unity and strength needed to build a better town and a better future for the next generation.
Thank you to everyone who organised and participated in Seaham Gala, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the day.