Those of you with eagle eyes or who have visited the trail may have noticed the name of George Nichol on the entrance sign. A brief outline of the man and his role in the heritage trail is included below.
George was an Ashington lad, the son of a colliery surface worker and our Dad. Born in Seventh Avenue in 1947 he was schooled in Ashington, began his working life in Ashington and married an Ashington lass. He was employed by the coal board in its various forms for over 30 years, beginning in the 1960s as a clerk in the Wages Office at Ashington Colliery to eventually become a Senior Auditor.
Despite the fact that his work took him away from Ashington, he remained fiercely proud of his home town and the opportunities it had given him but in recent years George became disturbed by the changing nature of the town and was deeply saddened to discover that no physical reference or commemoration was in place to mark the entire reason for the town’s existence – ‘the pit’.
It was during an autumn walk in 2011, around the site of the former colliery site, that George realised that apart from a single unremarkable building which is now used as an industrial unit, nothing, not even the obligatory pit tub, indicated the existence of the pit which at its peak employed 5,500 men.
George came up with the idea that it would be possible to mark out a walking trail which would include some of the key areas and site of former buildings of the colliery. This would finally provide a marker and a medium for telling the history of an industry which contributed to the culture, wealth and prosperity of Ashington for 121 years.
So the Ashington Colliery Heritage project was born, with George working tirelessly to form a committee to help him in his aim and banging on the doors of anyone he felt could support the project. He also devised and conducted guided tours of the site to solicit support.
Sadly our Dad, George passed away in July 2013 before he could realise his vision. It was inconceivable for us not to go ahead with the project not only in his memory but also for the history and heritage of the town. In October 2013, we applied for and secured a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and with some additional funding from Northumberland County Council we were able to finance the project and set up a renewed committee to work in conjunction with Ashington High School to deliver George’s blueprint.
After months of hard work, we are at the point where the project will be delivered and a heritage trail (beginning on Booths Road, behind Aldi) of eleven information panels will be officially opened on the former colliery site which is now occupied by Wansbeck Business Park, in early November.
The panels and an accompanying web site, will tell the story of coal and the colliery and the contribution it made the culture, heritage, wealth and prosperity of the town which came to be known as the “largest mining village in the world’.
Our Dad wanted to provide a basis of reflection for former miners and their families. He also wanted to put something in place which enabled young people and newcomers to identify with the heritage of their community. It is the hope of the Ashington Colliery Heritage project and George’s family, that many people will take the time to walk George’s trail, visit the website and contribute to preserving the history of the town.