Before I launch into the gigs on offer this week, I would like to take a few moments to remember a tragedy, 85 years ago this Sunday, that affected the whole of the Wrexham area, and still echo's down the years in the minds and thoughts of the descendants of the victims.

In the early hours of the morning of September 22, 1934, there was an explosion in the Dennis Deep section of the Gresford Colliery. Despite all the valiant efforts of the rescue team over the next few days and weeks, 262 miners lost their lives in that terrible conflagration underground. Three of the rescuer workers also died and the final victim of the Gresford Disaster passed away a few months later, a total of 266 men.

These are the cold facts, but they tell only half the story. The pit, it turned out, had a very erratic safety record and high levels of firedamp (methane gas) had been recorded and ignored. The enquiry that followed used the words, "neglect", "incompetence", "inadequate ventilation" and "lack of monthly reports". However, most of the blame centred on the management and colliery manager, William Bonsall, was branded the "villain", so deflecting the wrath originally directed at the owners, including Henry Dyke Dennis, who had not employed a mining engineer to check safety in the pit since 1932. Bonsall was fined £140, with costs of £350 and most of the other charges made against the colliery company were either withdrawn or dropped. Part of the problem had been that the miners themselves, the only really worthwhile witnesses, were reluctant to appear in court to give testimony against their bosses, fearing this would result in their instant dismissal and being thrown on the dole to add to an already swollen labour market. Furthermore, they would also have been blacklisted by all the other mine owners from ever working in the industry again. Loyalty was a very one-sided affair in those days!

However, the disaster became a symbol that, eventually, resulted in better and safer working conditions in the coal mining industry throughout the UK but it came too late for the Gresford dead.

A brass band tune, Gresford (The Miners Hymn), was written by ex-Durham miner, Robert Saint, in the mid 1930s as a tribute and, in our own genre of music, folksinger and songwriter Ewan McColl penned the now iconic ballad, The Gresford Disaster, although the tally of victims mentioned, at 265, was one short of the eventual total. In more recent years the Ian Chesterman song, No More Disasters Tonight, written in 1973 when the colliery finally closed, was, for many years, played by resident band Offa at Wrexham Folk Club, on the opening night of the season in October, as an act of remembrance.

There are many words already written about this avoidable tragedy and, I suspect, that there will be many more in the future but, just like the millions now being remembered from the Somme and Passchendaele, we should never forget those brave, selfless men who died down the Gresford pit back on that bleak, September night in 1934.

So, when the clock strikes 11am this Sunday (September 22) and the restored Second World War air raid siren sounds from the Old Wrexham Fire Station, in the town, spare a minute of your life to reflect on those who lost there lives so many years ago down that dark and dangerous pit. As the late, great Ewan McColl put it, in his iconic song, The Gresford Disaster, it was "the terrible price that was paid" by your ancestors to keep the home fires burning.

Perhaps, fittingly, we should start this week's gig review at The Gresford Colliery Club, home to the remembrance garden and the emotive pit head winding wheel, the only tangible evidence left 85 years later. This Saturday (September 21) the club will pay their own tribute by commemorating the 85th anniversary with an evening of music and entertainment. Perhaps, more importantly, all money raised will go to Friends of Gresford Colliery Disaster Funds. The music will be provided by Duo Calan and, as is usual on these occasions, there will be a disco run by DJ Rigs for Gigs. Admission is just £3 on the door and, although this event is outside my usual remit in this column, the charity it supports more than justifies its inclusion.

Moving on to this week's live folk and acoustic gigs, we have, as mentioned in the last column, the next Soundbox promotion in Chester. At the usual venue of The Lock Keeper, Canalside, Frodsham Street, it features another legend, Chris Foster.

Chris was in the second wave of the folk revival, but his contribution has been mentioned, alongside that of his perhaps more well-known contemporaries, Nic Jones and Martin Carthy, as being just as important. This is a 7.30pm start and tickets, as usual, are obtainable via the website on or by phoning 01244 342468.

On Tuesday (September 24) at 8pm The Dragon's Breath Folk Club at Treuddyn Village Hall, near Mold has, as its guest, the Flat Irons with admission payable on the door. However, if I were to pick out a "big name" night, without being prejudicial to those other clubs mentioned, I would highly recommend The Hungry Horse, Acoustic, The Whitby Club, Ellesmere Port, Chester Road, Ellesmere Port on Thursday (September 26) at 8pm. The guest duo of Catherine Craig and Brian Willoughby are simply a class act. Catherine was, for many years, one of the most sought our backing singers in American country music before going solo and then teaming up with her partner, Brian, whose exploits are many. He is, without doubt, one of the greatest acoustic guitarists of his age warranting a full-page feature in the Guitarist magazine and his time with The Strawbs and, in his early career, as Mary Hopkins' guitarist are now legend. Go along and prepared to be both astounded and delighted. Phone John Owens for tickets on 0151 678 9902 but, be quick!!!

Finally, among the Parish Notices this week, are the trio Alden, Patterson and Dashwood at Gwaenysgor Village Hall, near Trelawnyd, Rhyl on Friday (September 27) at 7.30pm and the annual Llyn Acoustic Guitar Festival (September 27-29) with tickets for both events available on the appropriate websites.

More next week but, in the meantime, whatever you do and wherever you go, enjoy your music.

By D.C.M.