“He was 14 years old.”
Few could help being moved as the four Bulli Public School students stood and read out the names of each man and boy killed 130 years ago when a huge explosion ripped through the colliery just up the hill from were we sat in the packed church.
Back then it was not uncommon for teenagers to work alongside their fathers in the pit, and so the names of the dead included some miners killed alongside two, or three, of their sons.
“Coal mining is in our blood,” said more than one speaker, from MP Ryan Park to musician James Stewart Keene, whose great-uncle died in the blast.
And despite huge changes to industry and economy, Bulli is still a town founded on coal. When 81 of its menfolk were lost, it made widows of 50 women, and left 150 children without a father, Black Diamond Districts Heritage Centre president Kerrie Anne Christian said. That, from a small town of about 2000 people.
Little wonder then that the disaster of March 23, 1887 still draws a crowd pushing 100 to its commemoration events.
Mr Keene was also part of a chorus urging that safety for those who do the dangerous work underground is paramount.
“This message isn’t just about coal mining,” he said. “It’s a message about today.”