Canada 'Those men should be remembered:' Miners' memorial park proposed near Glace Bay

16:50  22 may  2017
16:50  22 may  2017 Source:   CBC

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Joanne Shepard holds a picture of her father, Fabian Young, at the site of the proposed park on Sixth Street in New Aberdeen, N.S. George Mortimer/CBC © CBC Joanne Shepard holds a picture of her father, Fabian Young, at the site of the proposed park on Sixth Street in New Aberdeen, N.S. George Mortimer/CBC

Almost 40 years after her father was killed in a coal mine explosion, a Nova Scotia woman wants to honour his memory and that of the others who were killed by building a park.

Miners' Memorial Park would be located near Joanne Shepard's childhood home in New Aberdeen, near Glace Bay. The mine site is just a few blocks away.

Twelve men died in the explosion in No. 26 colliery the morning of Feb. 24, 1979. Four others survived the explosion with severe burns. 

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Shepard said she's always wanted to do something to honour them and two community groups recently formed to revitalize the Glace Bay area.

"I thought maybe this is the time to go ahead and bring this idea forward," she said.

Shepard was 17 when her father, Fabian Young, was killed.

She found a small piece of municipally owned land located next to a basketball court and playground on Sixth Street.

Shepard said the park would include a monument with the names of the miners who died and those who survived the blast.

"It would also include a few benches and a garden and I would like to have some posts designed that would surround this memorial area with a miner's hat on top of it representing the 12 miners," she said.

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Sheldon Gouthro worked with Fabian Young at the mine. A portrait of Young hangs in the Glace Bay Miners Museum. George Mortimer/CBC: Sheldon Gouthro worked with Fabian Young at the mine.  © CBC Sheldon Gouthro worked with Fabian Young at the mine. 

'It was devastating'

Sheldon Gouthro worked with Young in No. 26 colliery and was working the night of the explosion.

"About 20 after four in the morning I got a call — I was in another section — that something happened in the wall. 

"We tried to get hold of the boys in there and nobody was answering so we decided to go in, and when we got in there it was devastating," he said.

"I came across four guys that were burnt really, really bad and screaming at us to get them out of there, and we got a little further under the brushing and that's where we started seeing the guys that were killed."

Gouthro said the idea of a memorial park is great.

"I think it's marvellous. Not that long ago, we were saying we should have something over here for those men," he said. "Those men should be remembered."

Petition circulating

Shepard has started a petition at a number of local stores, including Cletus' Corner Convenience in New Aberdeen.

Owner Cletus O'Neil said the response from customers has been positive.

"Everybody who looks at it is definitely for it. It's part of our heritage and we don't want to forget past miners," said O'Neil.

Shepard will take her petition to Cape Breton Regional Council to ask for support in renaming the land in memory of the miners.

She's also forming a non-profit group to raise the projected $100,000 cost of developing the park.

Shepard hopes the park will be ready in time for the 40th anniversary of the No. 26 mine explosion in February 2019.

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