Miners celebrate raising of red flag at the `people's pit'

The miners of Tower Colliery who beat off all competition to buy back their pit were yesterday feted by a crowd of supporters almost 1,500-strong.

It was an emotional occasion; wellwishers from as far afield as Manchester and London travelled to the Cynon Valley in South Wales to take part in a victory march to the colliery where British Coal signs have been replaced with insignia proclaiming the pit's new owners - Goitre Tower Anthracite Limited. The message was reinforced by a banner declaring: "Tower Colliery - back in the hands of the workforce."

The colliery's National Union of Mineworkers' lodge banner took pride of place on the march along with the 239 men who had each contributed £8,000 to make the buy-out - the only all- employee deal in the industry's privatisation - a reality.

At the pithead, Anne Clwyd, Labour MP for the Cynon Valley, cut a red ribbon and declared: "The pit belongs to the men who work it. Today is better than 1947 when the industry was nationalised. Now it's a people's pit. The miners and the community have shown the way - when you are prepared to fight you can win."

Tyrone O'Sullivan, NUM lodge secretary and now a director of the new company, declared: "We've got the knowledge and the will to make Tower profitable and the profits will go back to the community through our wage-packets. We're going to make a success which others might well copy."

The Welsh flag was raised while the crowd sang "The Red Flag" - a reminder of the valley's radical history.

In 1831, ironworkers soaked a white cloth in calf's blood to raise the standard in Britain for the first time.

The celebrations give way today to the task of cutting coal. By the end of the week the miners aim to raise 9,000 tonnes - the first instalment of an annual target of 450,000 tonnes.