JIM Watkins remembers all to well the fateful day when 45 of his colleagues were killed in the Six Bells colliery disaster.

Today the 78-year-old makes a desperate plea to readers to help raise the £100,000 for a new memorial in their honour.

Former miner Mr Watkins from Abertillery, was 29 when the explosion ripped the colliery on June 28, 1960.

It was a tragedy that will stick in the minds of villagers for generations to come as almost every family in the area lost a loved one.

Plans are underway to build a 20 metre high statue of a miner on a plinth that will cost £100,000, but so far only £32,000 has been secured by Communities First.

With less than a year to go until its planned unveiling on the disaster's 50th anniversary, time is running out.

The current stone memorial has deteriorated and it is hoped the new statue on the former colliery will be a lasting tribute to the men who died.

Mr Watkins was working in another part of the colliery at the time of the explosion, which killed some of his close friends.

He remembers being told to go to the surface where he heard the tragic news and he has attended a memorial service every year since to remember his former colleagues.

Mr Watkins is calling for people and organisations to donate to the project.

He said: "It's so important the money is found because they were my workmates, my close friends, and this way they will always be remembered."

Six Bells Communities First co-ordinator Mair Sheen said she was confident they would reach their target in time despite still needing £68,000.

"We are hopeful we will reach £100,000 in time for the anniversary and are currently applying for more grants."

Applications are being assessed by Silent Valley, the Heads of the Valleys Public Art Strategy and the Holistic Area Regeneration Plan.

So far funding has come from a £25,000 grant from the Heads of the Valleys Public Art Strategy, Abertillery and Llanhilleth Community Council and money from Communities First.

Following public consultation the design is being finalised by sculptor Sebastien Boyesen, who made the Chartist Man in Blackwood.