The Colne Bridge mill fire commemoration.
Richard Heath , who is the brains behind the Commemoration events, writes:I
Following the church service on Saturday 10th Feb, many people have voiced their appreciation for a poignant and moving event marking the bicentenary of a disaster that took the lives of 17 young girls.
Whilst I truly value their comments I am keen to stress that all made possible through the mutual cooperation of many groups and individuals, the community of Kirkheaton and the many visitors who came from far and wide.
The service, which attracted nearly 200 people, was attended by the Mayor of Kirklees Cllr Christine Iredale and the Shadow Fire Minister, Karen Lee, Labour MP for Lincoln.
Karen Lee addressed the congregation and spoke of how fire safety has greatly improved over the years but added also that new lessons can be learned and improvements made. Cllr Iredale also gave an impassioned speech on the tragedy.
In the following week on Wednesday, the 14th, the precise date on which the anniversary fell, the Mayor held a minutes silence before the Council prior to the opening of business.
This occasion coincided that day with a ten strong candle lit vigil which took place at the former site of Atkinson’s mill. At exactly 5am, the lighted candles brought a comforting glow to a place as dark and lonely as it would have been on that same hour when the fire broke out 200 years ago.
Rev Ian Jones who led the Saturday service said that it would be difficult to name all those who had worked so hard to make this most memorable day, but he rightfully commended the Fire Service and the Service Band who made the occasion so special.
In the churchyard, wreaths were laid at the memorial by UNISON, and Huddersfield TUC. The Fire Service also placed one on the communal grave.
The large gravestone which bears each of the girls’ names alongside those of their parents was recently cleaned by Monumental Mason, Robert Morphet, who took great pride in making the inscriptions legible again.
As in many events, much credit is owed to those who were out of the glare of publicity.
Following the eleventh hour closure of the Beaumont Arms, caterers Tracey Sharp and Paula Priestley were drafted in and worked like Trojans early that morning to provide a freshly made buffet which was enjoyed by all.
Out in the field the conservation group CLEAR, which is a part of Community Links are working on a memorial garden on the canal towpath at Colne Bridge. This dedicated work will continue into the summer. Later in the year it will be complimented by an artwork created by the schoolchildren of Salendine Nook under the leadership of locally based, Artworks Creative Communities and Canal & River Trust.
On Saturday 17th Feb, the Colne Bridge mill fire commemoration week drew to a close with a supper and music at an enjoyable informal evening at the Royal & Ancient, Colne Bridge, courtesy of managers Craig Lloyd and Steve Jones. A plaque was unveiled by Roger Armitage of the Kirkheaton History Society.
I have no doubt that the memory of this commemoration will live on forever in the minds of those who attended. Come the Tricentenery, one hundred years’ from now, historians might look back in wonder of what was achieved by a small team backed up by great community.