Elizabeth Roberts (front), Marion Beard, Jennifer Meharg, Col Meharg and Graham Bartholomew digging holes at Windy Gully cemetery where trees will be planted for those who died in the Mt Kembla mine disaster of 1902. PIcture: KIRK GILMOUR
Every year Mt Kembla people commemorate the 96 men and boys who died in Australia’s biggest industrial disaster.
In a first, this year a ‘‘living memorial’’ of trees will be planted at Windy Gully cemetery to commemorate the 112th anniversary of the Mt Kembla mine disaster of 1902.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery will plant the first tree on Sunday, August 3, from 11am. A tree will be planted for each disaster victim buried in the cemetery.
Mt Kembla Mining Heritage committee chairwoman Elizabeth Roberts said 33 trees will be planted this year.
‘‘We’re inviting families of those victims to take part in this ceremony. In the coming years we’ll plant more trees around the village for the rest of the disaster victims,’’ Ms Roberts said.
Two other events will be held on Sunday.
Mount Kembla School will hold a heritage display and fair with food stalls, rides, bargain baskets, a plant stall, petting zoo, face painting, entertainment, a book fair, photo display, raffle, guessing competition and children’sentertainment.
It will close about 4pm when the sun disappears over the escarpment.
Across the road, the Mt Kembla Heritage Centre will present the interpretive display ‘‘Thunder in a Cloudless Sky’’.
The annual 96 Candles Ceremony will begin the commemorations on Thursday, July 31, at Windy Gully cemetery from 6.30pm.
‘‘It’s always amazing to see so many people turn out for this event in the middle of winter in the chilly night air,’’ Ms Roberts said.
‘‘We’ll take a moment to reflect on how the 167 survivors coped in the following years.
‘‘In those days men didn’t talk much about how they reacted to the disaster and there was nothing in place to support them and their families.
‘‘As usual 96 candles will be lit for the 96 disaster victims and other miners of the world who’ve lost their lives in the course of their work.’’
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