Bleak Christmas

David Holding's

(Other Titles by this author Below)

Headshot David Holding.jpg

Image: Courtesy of the author.

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Above are four photographs from the website of 'The Bolton News' showing the memorial, the day of the explosion, a new pit truck, and fundraising efforts on behalf of the miners' families.

  • Bleak Christmas - coal dust
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  • David Holding
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  • Bleak Christmas - You are the jury
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  • David Holding
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  • Bleak Christmas - the Pretoria pit now
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  • David Holding
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"The title of the DVD was ‘Black Christmas’ but for the book
I’ve changed it to ‘Bleak Christmas’.

Bleak is better because it is usually a happy time… but it wasn’t.
You had coffins coming left right and centre right over Christmas…
so it was a bleak Christmas. And butchers were giving
away food it was so bad. How do you celebrate
where there’s 344 men and boys killed?"

"There are some people who believe that disasters and other tragedies are too emotive and personal to be the subject of debate, scrutiny and analysis. And, as such, they are best consigned to history.

Now, as an historian, I find it very difficult to share this belief. I firmly believe that it is only be revisiting past events that one is able to fully understand the lessons of history and move forward with confidence. We owe it to future generations to preserve the legacy that history offers us and to bear testimony to those who have gone before. It is to the memory of those men and youths who lost their lives in the Pretoria disaster that this film is dedicated."

David Holding, speaking as Historical Advisor in a Steve Looker/Reel Visions film.

The Pretoria Pit Disaster

How My Research Began

"Life comes to the miners out of their deaths, and death our of their lives" Mary Harris Jones (BrainyQuote)

My involvement with this particular event evolved from research I carried out into several past and more recent disasters and the government response to these as a legal project. Living within the area covered by the Wigan Coalfield, I was fortunate to have the benefit of many former miners and colliery managers who provided me with valuable information. In particular, I spoke at length to a former electrician who actually worked at the Pretoria Pit until its closure in 1934.


Whilst there are numerous books, articles and press reports covering this subject, “Bleak Christmas” provides an alternative approach to the topic. Having literally 'Ploughed Through' the entire Inquest and Home Office Reports of the disaster, this encouraged me to produce “Bleak Christmas” in a format which whilst accurately reflecting the findings in these two substantial reports, it is also presented in a format that captures the event in a sequential manner. The reader is taken on a journey through the the various stages of the event to capture the enormity of the disaster. The work culminates with an overview of the devastating social and economic input the disaster had the the local communities involved.


My overall aim in this work has been to provide readers with a readable yet balanced appraisal of the disaster, with sufficient evidence for them to arrive at their own conclusions regarding the disaster. My work does not diminish or undermine the views held by residents of the communities involved, who have to live with the memory of this devastating tragedy.

(c)Scott Martin Productions (C)Words Are Life

(C)The Unpublishables and (C)Everything Elsie

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