The sound of bagpipes and the soft glow of candlelight broke through the stillness of Windy Gully cemetery on Sunday night as 250 people gathered to remember the Mt Kembla mine disaster.
Each year the 96 candles ceremony is held on the evening of the mine disaster anniversary, the 31st of July, to remember the 96 men and boys killed in 1902 and light a candle to their memory.
Mt Kembla Mining Heritage Inc chairperson Elizabeth Roberts said this year's theme was ‘frozen in time’, a reference to the pocket watch found on the body of disaster victim Frank Dungey, that stopped at 2.03pm, the time of the explosion.
Ms Roberts said the 96 candles ceremony was a poignant event that brought the community together.
"It is very important for the village of Mt Kembla that we remember what happened and tell the next generation," Ms Roberts said.
It’s important for people to understand how the community came together and supported each otherElizabeth Roberts
“It’s important for people to understand how the community came together and supported each other.”
The mine explosion decimated the male population of the village and left behind 33 widows and 120 fatherless children. She said there wasn't a family in the village that wasn't affected.
“The disaster had the largest loss of life in an industrial accident in Australia and is an important part of Australia’s history.
“Even though we have a lot of new people coming in to the village, people are very interested in what happened and the activities are a way of keeping the community together.”
The sombre ceremony was the last of a series of activities held on Sunday to mark 114 years since Australia's worst ever industrial disaster.
Another memorial service was held at the Soldiers' and Miners' Memorial Church in Mt Kembla on Sunday, a service that’s been held every year since 1902. In addition 33 memorial trees were planted for disaster victims buried in the graveyard, with another seven planted nearby in memory of soldiers killed 100 years ago in World War One. At Mt Kembla Public School an exhibit featuring pioneering families, mining history and historic photos were displayed in the old school building.
Visitors could also dress up in early 1900s period costume and have photos taken in the heritage photo booth, and enjoy outdoor food stalls and children’s activities.