Tributes to loyal church servant and former Hapton miner

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A loving family man and former miner who helped to rescue survivors at the Hapton Valley Pit disaster has died suddenly at home.

Mr Arthur Yates Whittaker was due to work the following shift immediately after the infamous disaster when 19 miners were killed by a coal explosion at Hapton Valley Colliery on Thursday March 22nd, 1962, but was involved in the rescue efforts following the terrible incident.

He was a good fellow and a properly nice chap.

Daughter Andrea Wilkinson

The 71-year-old great-grandfather, who died suddenly at home in Winsford Walk, was also a long-serving and active member of St Mark’s Church, Rossendale Road, and for many years carried the cross at the Hapton Valley memorial service.

Married to his devoted wife Julia for 52 years, he was father to Andrea, Stephen, Ian, Helen, Gayle and the late Andrew. He also leaves 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Daughter Andrea paid tribute to her loving father.

She said: “My father was well-loved by everybody. He was a good fellow and a properly nice chap. He was devoted to his family and to the church. St Mark’s was like his second home.

“Dad’s death has been a shock because he was fit as a fiddle and never went to the doctor. He was always travelling around our homes visiting the grandchildren. We think he died from heart complications.

“Away from family and church he also liked his cars.”

Mr Whittaker was only a teenager when disaster struck at the pit and his family believe the incident shook him up and he only worked down the mines for a few years after.

Andrea added: “Dad didn’t really talk about the disaster much. I know he helped to get the people out. I don’t think he coped well with the aftermath and gave up after a few years.”

Mr Whittaker then went on to work as a bus driver for BCM before becoming a drayman for the Bass brewery.

But his service at St Mark’s where he was a master of ceremonies meant he was a well-known face to many. He served under ministers Alan Taylor, John Haigh and currently Peter Hapgood-Strickland.

His funeral will be held on Wednesday, August 31st, at St Mark’s Church at 10am followed by burial in Burnley Cemetery.