Four life-size marble statues stand side-by-side on short granite pedestals above tapered sandstone bases. The figures, representing miners' leaders Forman, Patterson, Macdonald and Crawford are clothed in formal attire and hold either a scroll or book. They overlook a modern sculpture of a miner struggling with his load (DUDU14, qv)
Each of the leaders represented here played a pivotal role in either the formation or the managership of the Durham Miners Association in its early years (1869-74). It is not known whether they were present at the unveiling of the statues which were erected during their lifetime The marble figures formerly stood on the façade of the first Miners Hall (now a Bingo Hall) in nearby North Road which opened on 3rd June 1876. In 1915 the association moved its headquarters to the newly-erected red brick building at Redhills Lane.(6) At some point the statues were removed from North Road and installed on sandstone pedestals outside the entrance to the new Miners' Hall.
John Forman (1822/3-1900) Born at Allerton Burn, Northumberland. He moved from Northumberland to County Durham in the 1850s, working as a checkweighman at Grahamsley colliery in the district of Crook. One of the founding members of the Durham Miners Association, Forman was appointed an agent for the union and a member of the first executive committee. In 1874 he was made permanent chairman of the DMA. He is known to have played a key part in explosion investigations, developing a viable theory on the ignition of coal dust. Forman assisted in the rescue of men from the Seaham explosions of 1871 and 1880. (DUEA84 and DUEA67 q.v.)(2)
William Hammond Patterson (1847-96) Born in Durham, the son of a quarryman. He was involved in the founding of the Durham Miners Association in 1869 and made agent and vice-president in 1878. In the years 1872-1890 Patterson's position of financial secretary brought organisational and financial stability to the DMA. He was appointed general secretary of the organisation on the death of Crawford in 1890.(3)
Alexander Macdonald (1821-81) Born in Lanarkshire in 1821, he began work in the mines at the age of eight. In his twenties he attended Glasgow University, paying for his tuition from savings and by working in the mines in the summer months. He went on to become a mine manager and then a teacher. Some time in the 1850s Macdonald decided to devote his time to the improvement of miners' conditions. In 1856 he came to England to 'advocate a better Mines Act, true weighing, the education of the young, the restriction of the age to twelve years, the reduction of the working hours to eight in every twenty-four, the training of managers, the payment of wages weekly in the coin of the realm'. An advocate of strike action and parliamentary reforms, he lobbied Parliament to secure the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1860. This allowed the election of checkweighmen by the miners themselves and was intended to improve the inspection of pit safety measures. In November of 1863, the Miners' National Association was established with Macdonald appointed as president, a position he held until his death. Elected as Liberal MP for Stafford in 1874 and 1881, he continued to support improved conditions for miners in parliament.(4)
William Crawford (1833-90) Born in Northumberland, the son of a miner, Crawford worked in the pits at an early age. Later, an advocate of social reform, he became involved in trade union activity in his twenties. Appointed as one of the full-time agents of the Durham Miners Association soon after its formation in 1869 he was later made its general secretary, a position he held until his death in 1890.
He is credited with encouraging the rapid growth of the DMA membership in its early years. Under his leadership the organisation procured the abolition of the yearly bond (a legally bound agreement between colliery owner and miner which brought harsh terms to the employee). In 1885 he was elected MP for Mid-Durham.(5)
Incised in large Roman letters on granite pedestals: FORMAN / PATTERSON / MACDONALD / CRAWFORD
PMSA recording information