Council donation to commemorate children’s tragic deaths

A tragic accident which resulted in the death of three young children 125 years ago, has been recognised by North East Derbyshire District Council.

 On 16 March 1895, three friends aged just nine and 11 years old, died after falling through a frozen pond at Plumbley Colliery, in Eckington Woods.

Upon hearing the children’s screams, 23-year-old engineman Alfred Williamson jumped into the pond to try and rescue them, but also perished in the icy water.

After learning of the moving story and how the children didn’t have memorials, the council decided to donate £500 towards the cost of providing headstones for Percy Riley (9), Esther Ann Riley (11) and Rebecca Godson (9).

A further £100 donation also paid for Ireland Colliery Brass Band to perform at a special service on Sunday 15 March 2020 at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Eckington, commemorating the lives of the three children and Alfred.

Cllr Martin Thacker MBE, Leader of North East Derbyshire District Council, said: “This was a truly tragic accident, which was keenly felt by the community at the time.

“It’s only right that the children have permanent memorials to mark their short lives, and we are pleased that as a council we are able to give a donation towards this.”

Although Alfred had a headstone listing the names of the children, the youngsters lay in unmarked graves next to him.

It was only when Paul Burdett and Claire McLean of local history website Natural Eckington started researching the accident, that it was found the children didn’t have memorials of their own.

Eckington resident Stan Ryan bought three white crosses in 2007 and had them put in place, and Natural Eckington looked after them, but over the years they deteriorated.

Then in 2019 Natural Eckington, along with Margaret Fry and Eckington Town Team, got the ball rolling on getting three permanent memorials put in place, as well as getting Alfred Williamson's headstone cleaned.

Following talks with Gary Daynes of Daynes Monumental, Killamarsh, he offered to make and hand carve three headstones for the children and clean Alfred Williamson`s headstone too, and only charge for materials.

Paul Burdett, said: “The contribution NEDDC have made has turned a special commemorative event into an extra special event. 

“To have such a contribution, along with Ireland Colliery Brass Band and the Commemorative Service Booklets that Cllr Thacker has also had done for us, well it doesn't get any better and we can't thank NEDDC enough.”

Cllr Martin Thacker, added: “I would like to express appreciation to Paul and his team for all they have done to ensure the memories of the children are perpetuated.”

A gofundme page has been set up by Natural Eckington to help pay for the children’s headstones and clean up Alfred’s.

To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/plumbley-colliery-disaster-children


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