FORMER WORKERS from Britain’s last deep coalmine gathered to watch the first of its two sets of winding gear being demolished yesterday.
The second is expected to come down in the new year.
For more than half a century, the winding gear of Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire dominated the surrounding area.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Chris Kitchen, who worked at Kellingley for 20 years, said the winding gear was “a symbol of a heritage that is being razed to the ground.”
He transferred to Kellingley in 1987 when his original colliery, Wheldale near Castleford, closed.
Mr Kitchen told the Star: “This was an industry that had a future. Now it has gone. Even if it starts again, it won’t be at Kellingley.”
Small groups of former miners looked on as the equipment was demolished.
One of them, Richard Dobrowolski, has a large tattoo of both winding gear structures on his leg.
He said: “It’s just a disgrace. I spent 34 years there. Kellingley was the only place I worked at and after seeing that happen, it’s very sad.
“You wouldn’t have expected that to happen when I first started at the pit. You thought you had it for life.
“Electricity — where we going to get it from? We’re talking electric cars, but how we are we going to charge them up?”
Fellow former miner Stewart Awde said: “It’s an emotional event. You can’t work with men for nearly 40 years and not be attached to them.
“It’s heartbreaking for the lads because it’s been there for 60, 70 years and it’s been a part of all our lives.
“Since the 1970s, when I started there, a lot of coal has come up that shaft, millions and millions of tons. It’s kept the economy going and the local power stations.”
Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire was a “super pit” and among the most modern in Britain.
The mine was the first in Europe to achieve production of one million tons of coal a year and employed more than 2,000 mineworkers in its heyday.
Work on sinking Kellingley — known as the “Big K” — began in 1958 and production started in 1965.
After surviving the Tories’ nationwide pit closures programme which followed the 1984-5 strike, the pit was privatised.
But the Tories’ abandonment of research into clean coal technology, which would have drastically reduced environmentally damaging emissions, sealed the fate of Britain’s remaining collieries.
Kellingley closed in December 2015, despite protests by thousands of campaigners.