Oaks Memorial Sculpture by Graham Ibbeson

Graham Ibbeson has produced a fitting work of art which serves as a lasting connection to the past as well as looking to the future. The central feature is the woman and child rushing to the colliery on hearing the explosion that was to shatter the lives of many on 12 December 1866. The woman’s expression is one which depicts that she already knows in her heart that her loved one is lost and the child knows of the mothers upset. Coal flows symbolically from the woman’s back depicting the backbone of the industry and the strength that it gave to Great Britain. The block on which the woman and child stand simply reads “Oaks Colliery Disaster 1866” although this could apply to all coal mining accidents. On one side of the block the coal cascading from the woman’s back lands above the miners head. The other side of the block depicts buildings and community with oak leaves and acorns on the floor.

The lower section consists of a collier laid on his side with a pick hacking away at the coal face which will become his grave his only light is that from a Stephenson lamp. The other side of the lower section has a relief which shows a child from 1860’s as a miner in the 1880’s whose daughter is a munitions worker in WW1 whose son is a ‘Bevin Boy’ in WW2 whose daughter is woman of the 1960’s whose son is a student in the 1980’s whose daughter is a woman of today with her son pointing toward the future.

At the top of the monument is a circle that can be seen symbolically to represent a winding wheel from a coal mine, the circle of life or when viewed as whole it is almost the medical female symbol but you can make your own mind up.

The casting in Bronze was completed before the 150th Anniversary of the disaster and with the help of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council it was erected in Barnsley and unveiled on May 7 2017 which marked the 150th anniversary of the laying in Parliament of the Report of The Oaks Colliery Explosion. The date also marked the 70th anniversary of the explosion at Barnsley Main (which is linked to the Oaks Colliery workings) which killed 9 miners in 1947.