Replica unveiled for stolen Auchengeich mining statue

Image caption,
The statue replaces the original which was stolen last November

A new statue paying tribute to the men who lost their lives in one of Scotland's worst mining disasters has been unveiled.

It is an exact replica of the original memorial stolen just weeks after it was erected in Moodiesburn, North Lanarkshire, last year.

A total of 47 men died when a fire trapped them underground at the Auchengeich Colliery in 1959.

The replacement statue is fitted with a tracker and will be monitored by CCTV.

It was created by sculptor John McKenna using the original mould and depicts a bronze, life-sized miner with his head bowed.

The original £35,000 statue was unveiled last September on the 50th anniversary of the mining disaster.

Within weeks it was ripped from its mounting and disappeared.

Despite an extensive police investigation it was never recovered.

Unveiling the replacement in the memorial gardens at the Auchengeich Miners' Welfare, First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Today is about a community overcoming adversity.

"The Auchengeich miner has been restored to its rightful place thanks to the determination of all of those who were not beaten by this act of theft.

"I share the outrage and anger of the local community, who lost so many husbands, fathers brothers and sons half a century ago, and who have suffered yet more heartache as a result of this senseless crime."

He added: "The original sculpture by John McKenna was magnificent, so it is fantastic to be here again to unveil a replacement of this wonderful work of art."

Councillor Tom Curley, Provost of North Lanarkshire, said: "When I was told about the theft my emotions were a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

"This is something that should not have happened. This went beyond theft. This was playing with grief, a grief I shared.

"I am really delighted to be here today to welcome home your miner. This has been achieved by the hard work of lots of people and the co-operation and efforts of North Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire Councils."

The Auchengeich Colliery disaster was Scotland's worst mining disaster of the last century.

A total of 41 women were widowed and 76 children lost their fathers as a result of the tragedy.

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