Unlocking the Past: Stunning tapestry reflects vital work of Abermain mines rescue station

If you are a regular at Cessnock Library, you will have noticed a stunning new tapestry up on our walls.

If you are not a regular, pop your head in the door and have a look at this huge woven artwork called 'Rescue'.

Its story begins nearly 40 years ago when the Board of the South Maitland Mines Rescue Station at Abermain commissioned Mary and Larry Beeston to produce a tapestry reflecting the station's work.

The couple were well-known Hunter artists and were particularly renowned for their beautiful tapestries.

Mary Beeston designed the artwork and Larry did the weaving.

They spent an estimated 700 hours and 10 months working on the enormous tapestry, hand weaving the wool into a semi-abstract design depicting a collapsed tunnel and rescue workers searching through rubble for trapped miners.

The dramatic artwork perfectly reflected the vital work of the Rescue Station, who were mining accident first responders.

On August 15, 1983, after 57 years' operation, the Mines Rescue Station closed.

The large tapestry was donated to Cessnock City Council.

At the handover Mary Beeston said that she and her husband were grateful for the commission and hoped that the artwork would be meaningful to the community.

PRIDE OF PLACE: The tapestry, titled Rescue, once again hangs on the walls of Cessnock Library.

PRIDE OF PLACE: The tapestry, titled Rescue, once again hangs on the walls of Cessnock Library.

The tapestry stayed on display in the library for many years.

Later the council gave permission for the artwork to hang in the Abermain School of Arts, but they remained caretakers of the tapestry.

It has now returned to the library, been thoroughly cleaned and is up on the wall for everyone to enjoy.

In a sense, the tapestry has come home.

Larry Beeston died in 2001 and Mary four months later.

Their art lives on as a powerful legacy of their creative vision and life partnership.

Other significant artworks by Larry and Mary Beeston are held in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery and in the Great Hall, University of Newcastle.

  • Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library. Email her on kimberly.osullivan@cessnock.nsw.gov.au.

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