Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mining disaster's memorial stolen

Auchengeich statue
The statue was unveiled in September by Alex Salmond

A statue paying tribute to the 47 men who died in one of Scotland's worst mining disasters has been stolen.

The £35,000 memorial, which depicts a miner with his head bowed, was unveiled at Auchengeich in September by First Minister Alex Salmond.

The six foot bronze statue was erected in Moodiesburn, near Glasgow, to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

A spokesman for the local miners' club said he was saddened and shocked at the theft so soon after the unveiling.

The men were killed after a fire trapped them underground at the Auchengeich Colliery in North Lanarkshire on 18 September 1959.

Only one miner who started the fateful shift survived the blaze, which was caused by an electrical fault 1,000ft below the surface.

A local man - whose father was killed in the tragedy - noticed the memorial was missing at about 0530 GMT on Thursday and alerted the police.

Everyone will be sickened by what has happened
Councillor William Hogg
North Lanarkshire Council

Superintendent Henry Campbell, of Cumbernauld Police office, said: "This crime has outraged the local community and we will do everything possible to trace those responsible and return the statue to its rightful place.

"A vehicle must have been used to transport it and I would appeal to anyone who was in the area anytime after midnight and noticed suspicious behaviour.

"I would also urge those responsible to think about what they have done and what impact this crime has had on the local community. Do the right thing and return it, or let someone know where it is."

The vice president of Auchengeich Miners' Welfare Club, Ian Lowe, who was down the pit on the day of the disaster, said: "I felt sick when I found out it had been stolen.

"I helped fight the fire 50 years ago and knew the men who lost their lives, and I was heavily involved in the first memorial which was put in place 25 years ago.

"It was never touched but this new memorial has only lasted two months."

'Mindless crime'

He added: "It is an absolute shame. It is like stealing from a grave.

"The families of those who died will be devastated."

Councillor William Hogg said: "I am absolutely shocked and disgusted by this mindless crime.

"The whole community in Auchengeich has worked very hard to create a beautiful memorial to the miners who lost their lives in Scotland's worst mining disaster, and everyone will be sickened by what has happened."

He added: "I would like to assure everyone that the council will do everything possible to ensure that the statue will be replaced. I would appeal to anyone with any information about this theft to contact Strathclyde Police immediately."

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