Former pit boss who 'lived for mining' dies

SOUTH Kirkby Colliery's former pit manager George 'Fred' Hiller has died, aged 83.

Mr Hiller, who became Yorkshire's youngest qualified pit manager in the 1940s, passed away at his Hemsworth home on Station Road, following a battle against lung cancer.

Born in Glasshoughton in 1923, Mr Hiller attended Castleford Grammar School before starting work as an apprentice fitter at Glasshoughton Colliery aged 15.

His wife of 59 years, Freda, 81, described her husband as a "kind and generous man" who "lived for mining".

Mrs Hiller said: "Fred loved his job and would do anything for the men who worked for him.

"He was also a clever man who was always thinking of ways he could make more money for the pits.

"We loved each other very much and I'm sad we won't be able to celebrate our diamond wedding together."

After leaving school, Mr Hiller spent seven years studying at Whitwood Technical College where he trained for his manager's certificate.

Mrs Hiller said: "I helped Fred study when we were courting. While other couples were out dancing, we were usually stuck with our noses in a book.

"Fred lived for mining and he wanted to make a successful career out of it. I always did my best to help him achieve his goals."

Mr Hiller worked at a number of pits in West Yorkshire before being offered a job as an under-manager at Maypole Colliery in Leigh, Lancashire, in 1947.

He spent a decade working in Lancashire, during which time his only son, Peter, was born, before heading to Ellington Colliery in Northumberland in the late '50s. As manager at Ellington, Mr Hiller turned the failing colliery into a million-tonne pit.

After returning to Yorkshire in 1963, Mr Hiller and his family settled in Hemsworth after spending four years in Havercroft.

He worked at several pits in the Wakefield area, including South Kirkby, before retiring in 1987.

Mrs Hiller said: "Even in retirement Fred took great interest in the mines and loved it when people wanted to talk about mining.

"Even though his health worsened, which led to him being blind for the last few years, Fred always did his best to enjoy life and support our son who has Down's syndrome."

Mr Hiller's funeral took place yesterday at Castleford Parish Church.