Haswell, how the tragedy of one young man symbolises a community’s sense of loss

At the first stage of the walk to Helmsley in North Yorkshire in February 2024, I left Easington Lane to head down a long winding route known as Salter’s Lane. Clearly a road of medieval origin, Salter’s Lane strings three former pit villages in County Durham together, known as Haswell, Shotton Colliery and Wingate.

First along the line is Haswell. On entering the village, I noticed a bench was dedicated to the loss of a young man known as Logan. I later read that the boy was known as Logan Soakell and he had passed away in 2019 following a tragic motorcycle accident in the village after striking a telegraph pole. His friend, Brandon, who was with him at the time survived but suffered “life changing” head injuries.

Although neither of him were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, it was reported that Logan was not speeding, travelling at 37mph and it is not known what led him to lose control of the bike. It is quite clear from seeing the mural that the people of Haswell were devastated by the loss of this young man and the feeling on seeing this tribute to him has stuck with me ever since, because it tells us a great deal about the sense of community in the former pit villages of County Durham and its recent history.

Although the entire North East suffered existentially with the demise of its industrial base, especially so in Sunderland, it is often overlooked that the pit villages of County Durham have had the hardest experience. While Sunderland lost its shipbuilding and its mines, its general size, designation as a city and many other things to be proud of cushioned these wounds. However, for small villages such as Haswell who’s very existence and purpose was premised on a coal mining industry and community, they lost absolutely everything in the events of the 1980s.

Because of this, all this village has is its own community, or in other words, each other, to overcome this historical sense of loss. As a result, the inhabitants of Haswell feel a strong sense of solidarity for their own and the impact of losing a young man such as Logan is felt by all. Because of this, a great deal of emphasis is placed on his memory and this brings people together.

Similar gestures were also observable in the villages of Shotton Colliery and Wingate, whether it be a dedication to the NHS from the covid era, or even knitted covers for post boxes. Small and kind gestures are utilised to build a sense of community and hope amongst their populations.

In a village that has lost everything, the people mean everything.