West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Years in Focus 1959

YEARS IN FOCUS
LOCAL NEWS AND EVENTS OF THE 1950s

PONTEFRACT IN 1959

11 December 1959
FOR DISCHARGED MINERS

''Its the best thing that has been done for us'', commented a man in a wheelchair, about the Social and Craft Centre for Disabled Miners - the first in the country - which was opened at Halfpenny Lane, Pontefract, on Saturday, by the Chairman of the National Coal Board and Vice-Chairman of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, Sir James Bowman.

Substantial grants have been made by the North Eastern Divisional Welfare Committee of the C.I.S.W.O. towards the cost of 7,112 for developing the centre from property which previously housed the Pontefract Miner's Welfare Institute, and towards the estimated running costs of over 4,500 a year. The building comprises a large concert hall, a kitchen, a woodwork and cabinet making room equipped with power tools, two smaller craft rooms and store room, and a lounge for reading and quiet activities.

The centre is open to any seriously disabled miner in the Yorkshire coalfield - there are 250 in the Pontefract area alone, and the first 100 members have been enrolled. For those who spend the day there, hot mid-day meals at a nominal charge of 1s. Travel grants are provided for those who travel by private or public transport; and a pick up service is run for members by the centre's own 13-seater omnibus.

For the opening ceremony, the main hall was decorated with Christmas trappings, and was filled with some 200 disabled miners and their wives and families. The president of the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of mineworkers and Chairman of the Trustees, Mr. J.R.A. Machen, described it as a ''unique and happy'' occasion. The miners, he said, did a tremendous job, and suffered tremendous injuries in doing it. ''We cannot do too much for them. They have, in a direct sense, laid down their lives for their country.'' He was proud that Yorkshire initiated a holiday scheme for paraplegic miners and their families - a lead which had been followed throughout the country.

The President of the National Union of Mineworkers and Chairman of the C.I.S.W.O., Mr. W.E. Jones, declared that he could not conceive of no better aim for welfare than to help paraplegic miners, as far as possible, to lead normal lives. He was glad that washing machines and television sets were being provided in their homes, where the C.I.S.W.O. was also helping in domestic rehabilitation. He expressed disappointment, however, that the Ministry of Health would not provide four-cylinder cars for paraplegic miners, as on long journeys, and at night, it was desirable that a member of the man's family should accompany him. For welfare work in Yorkshire next year, he added, 183,000 was to be allocated - the highest sum in any area in the country.

MADE A NEW LIFE

Sir James asserted that Yorkshire miners have an exemplary reputation for looking after their aged sick and injured, and ''when men are injured, we must not forget them".  He traced the growth of miners welfare work, from the provision of physical comforts to that of modern medical techniques, and added, "We are breaking new ground here".  He was delighted to see that there was also a Wives Section - "Thank God for a good wife when a man is injured".  Nationalisation, he declared, has made a "new social life and security" for those in the industry.

The Secretary of the Centre's Entertainment Committee, Mr. J. Marshall, presented tea-trays made by members to the national leaders and said that the centre would be a "milestone in Yorkshire mining welfare".

1959 INDEX


 

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