HALIFAX – Frank Cameron has acute memories of the Westray coal mine disaster and a benefit concert that followed it.
The New Glasgow native emceed a concert organized by others at the venerable Halifax Forum the day after the explosion in Plymouth on May 9, 1992. The concert raised funds for the families of the miners who were killed in the explosion.
“It was a long concert to raise money for the survivors,” he said. “It raised a lot of money.”
Many things have surfaced for Cameron while the 25th anniversary of the disaster was marked last month.
“It was so close to my home,” he said. “If I had been living in Pictou County for 20 or 30 years, I never would have taken on that job, knowing the history of those coal seams.”
Cameron referred to William Davis Miners’ Memorial Day, the annual day of remembrance observed on June 11 in Stellarton and other coal mining communities. Davis was a coal miner who was killed in a miners’ strike near New Waterford when the town’s water supply and electricity were shut down.
“It’s a terrible thing to say, what it took to change labour laws in Nova Scotia,” he said. “I thought at the time in 1992 how the mining practices hadn’t changed at all.”
Cameron said he was glad to host the concert and marvelled how musicians began contacting others once they received a call to participate.
“I thought of Valdi, who was there,” he said. “Valdi is very much a people person. He was in town anyway, saw the opportunity and jumped at the chance. A lot of Pictou County musicians came down too.”
Cameron said he understands the economic motivation for opening the Westray mine.
“I said to my mother, ‘I don’t know if this will work,’” he said. “Pictou County desperately needed the work. I remember what it was like when the Steelworks (railcar plant in Trenton) had a new contract. Everyone was spending money.”