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Tuesday, 1 November 2016


During the NUM strike, I was at mine engineer school in Doncaster learning the mysteries of winning and working minerals. Every Sunday night I'd drive from my Suffolk home up the A1 and every Friday afternoon come back down South the same way. During the week I lived in a small mining village some 3,000' above the galleries of the Yorkshire Main and when they were shotblasting downstairs your pint on the pub table quivered slightly. I really do remember the people there - the ex pit deputies and NCB engineers who taught me, the ex miners and Sheffield steelworkers with whom I drank and bantered, and the kindness of ordinary Yorkshire folk with great affection. They had great qualities in spades - tenacity, toughness, humour in the face of adversity, loyalty and selflessness. 

I don't think any of them thought the strike would succeed, but they did it nonetheless out of pride and bloody-minded stubbornness. They were up for violence, conflict, damage and with a real hatred for 'scab' drivers and workers, who were at very real risk of death or serious injury. In the event the police, equally up for violence, soaked up much of the anger. 

My sympathies are for the humiliation of families of strikers for whom all benefit payments were suspended - we watched the charitable handout of loaves of mothers pride and tins of beans to women with tears running down their faces from the humiliation of it but with heads up and eyes open daring any to challenge them. You won't believe how broke they were - really really broke. 

My contempt to this day, my loathing, is still reserved for the scum who travelled in to the area to buy the miners' cars for a fraction of their value. The sellers didn't have the money to fill the tanks, and they drove them until they were empty then sold them. To reptiles with a wad of notes and a 5 gallon can.

It was all a sort of Ragnarok. For the miners, the end of 200 years of industry and employment. For plod, the end of mass unaccountable violence; that police charge at Orgreave marked the ending of cop thuggery just as Omdurman marked the last serious use of cavalry in war. The old Friday night rituals of drunk fighting miners being given a good kicking in the van by plod - nothing personal - in a traditional Yorkshire way was ending.   

It was a willing fight on both sides. There's no point in an enquiry.


JuliaM said...

You couldn't save a bit of that contempt for the likes of Scargill, who did very nicely out of those poor housewives eating beans on toast?

mikebravo said...

On of the things about the strike that I remember (I was 22-23 at the time) was hearing about the pigs, holidaying in Barbados and sending postcards to the miners, saying thanks for the overtime dosh.

As you say, no point in an enquiry. It would just stoke up more anger and hatred with no gain.

Demetrius said...

An enquiry might usefully look at Scargill's property dealings in the period. When Gormley retired the NUM needed a good ringmaster, McGahey might have done a lot better. Instead they voted in a tight rope walker who did not have a head for heights. I was in the area a the time and was astounded at the cock-ups, corruption and incompetence of the miner's leaders.

Anonymous said...

Scargill, has echoes of Bliar about him and yes via his oratory he could summon up lust, a wherewithal in his fellow men for doing idiot deeds.

Scargill, cared not one iota about the lives of the coal miners, he was a megalomaniac calculating Socialist scumbag who loved power for it's own sake and hated the Thatcher government with a pent up fury, his mind driven insane in hatred.

When the Nottingham and Derbyshire lads refused to join in with their Yorkie and Welsh/Scots union members, sundered and hopelessly the big mines of the Notts/Derby coalfields output was key, thus the strike was doomed to fail. And yet Scargill, in his infinite arrogance, his utter contempt for duty, an obligation to the members of his union - called it [a strike] anyway and thus, the NUM was doomed through their own hands and by the man they for some unknown reason the miners implicitly trusted. More fool them.

Having said that, Scargill was right all along and Thatcher mendaciously misled the British public, she used some bogus pretexts; "inefficiency" and even put about commenced the chimera of 'global warming' anti fossil fuel propaganda to get her way and honestly speaking - among and between Scargill and Thatcher who was it who became the greatest sinner, Thatcher probably? The closure of the mines was a social disaster that still scars the Yorkshire area and those scars, still fester are still unhealed. It could have been done more slowly, it could have been done not at all in certain areas - like the Belgian, French and Germans did - who subsidized their miners and ever so subtly ran down their coal mining areas, because lets face who the hell would go down a mine these days, ask the kids around Askern, Kellingley, Lofthouse, Temple Newsam - "no chance!".

On Orgreave - but so what?

Maybe, it did become a test of strength, coppers versus the football hooligans of the north and as per, like the Romans versus the Hun or Visigoths, the organized forces usually do best but plod [as did the Roman legions occasionally] did also get a kicking - a draw was a fair result.


.......other than another bonanza for the ambulance chasers think on that - those fucking bastards may they burn for eternity.

Inquiry... what the hell for.........MORE grandstanding for Lav MPs and particularly that utter wanker, and arch twat Andy Burnham [remember he was the health secretary during his brief cameth the Mid Staffs trust 1200 deaths on his watch and he moved heaven and earth to cover it up!!].........or do these [Orgreave] people just like being taken for a ride -


Anonymous said...

There was a route out of the strike but neither side were prepared to take it.

As with Iraq and Libya the government of the day had no plan for these communities going forward. With the birth of Incapacity Benefit an entire generation were thrown on the scrapheap. Jobless figures would never again reflect the reality of grown men being stripped of their dignity.

They deserve an enquiry - on how the working class in England were treated just before politician's came out with things like: "the English, as a race, are not worth saving."


Mr Ecks said...

If the Miners had been without that socioalist turd Scargill I would have been on their side.

But the evil of socialism is never a good cause.

anon 2 said...

Goodness Raedwald - you've just made me get all up to date!

Being a Barnsley lass - born and partly bred - I knew the area you're all on about back betimes. You see, when I was at school Roy Mason had the largest Labour majority in the country; and, from what I now read, he held that seat for longer than I knew. But there was also what I later came to understand as a strong Communist contingent there; and I was too young really to fathom the workings of it all.

I left, but not before I'd worked in hospitals and seen how miners suffered from their work and conditions. And I knew about the wives who wo-manned the pit-head on payday, taking charge of their husband's wages: so as to save what was necessary for the family, but also to allow the men an evening at the pub.

And when the false Thatcher piece of work turned on them, others also showed me how thoughtless and ignorant they could be about what I began to recognise as the 'real world'.

Regardless, then, I retain admiration and deep affinities for what I know of the goodness, kindness ---- and the intelligence ---- of Yorkshire folk. Exploited they were, back then, but they were also a large part of the heart and backbone of England. Indeed, it might be an interesting exercise to parallel our national decline with the demise of the mining culture, and the traditions of such genuine folk.

But an official enquiry by the idiots who presently run our world? They couldn't begin to understand what a coal mine, let alone a Yorkshireman, is.

P.S. Raedwald that's 'Mother's Pride' - tha knaws.
Oh ... and Johnny Cash chimed a sympathetic sort of echo from across the pond - "16 Tons":
PPS - Ravenscar might contribute more, I'd guess and hope ...

Poisonedchalice said...

The other thing that ended at that time was the regular winter blackouts. Candles in the cupboard anyone? And you're right, an enquiry would be counter productive.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

@Poisonedchalice: I suspect the winter blackouts may be returning soon, but for quite different reasons this time.

Radders is right; an enquiry would serve no purpose and have no result except to unleash the ambulance-chasers.

James Higham said...


Anonymous said...

God bless Margaret Thatcher, who stood up to the miners. The coal industry in Britain was already fucked. If the intransigence of the miners themselves wasn't the problem, then the post-Aberfan laws weighed heavy on the disposal of wastes, and it got way cheaper to import the stuff from far around the world than to produce it here.

I disliked those miners, whose strikes turned off the electricity when me and mine needed it, and my grandmother died cold and afraid in the dark. I hated the ones who killed the taxi driver with a slab chucked off a bridge. I am contemptuous the bastards who always struck when the country was at war and my father was in the firing line.

But my particular hatred is reserved for the one bastard who beat up his 8-year old son because the kid snivelled when his Dad had no money for beer while he was on strike. We sat in twos in the school, and I was horrified when my desk-mate turned up black and blue. He was used to it, he said. I fucking wasn't, and much more than a half-century later I'm still fucking not.

Michael said...

"But my particular hatred is reserved for the one bastard who beat up his 8-year old son because the kid snivelled when his Dad had no money for beer while he was on strike. We sat in twos in the school, and I was horrified when my desk-mate turned up black and blue. He was used to it, he said. I fucking wasn't, and much more than a half-century later I'm still fucking not."

Spoken with a mouthful of teeth, Anon!

Rick Deane said...

I am from Barnsley & I knew of the horrendous back injuries miners would get, my father was a doctor not far from Barnsley Main Pit ( the biggest coal seam in Europe). I remember the strikes & that comb over arsehole Scargill who didn't lose any money from this - I remember the motorway convoys of police & trucks with wire mesh protections on their windscreens FFS I'm English what had this country become.
So Maggie destroyed the lives of many thousands of people living in the mining villages of S Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire etc- we have 400yrs supply of coal. Germany, under Angela Merkel is closing all nuclear power stations & building lignite fired power stations whereas we are paying the French/ Chinese stupid amounts of money for their outdated nuclear power stns when we have all this coal which has a much higher calorific value then lignite & if the govt & stupid arseholes will bother to learn about fracking & how safe & clean it is - we've got 100's of years of cheap energy & yet the stupid idiots are ruining my country with wind turbines. We have coal & gas to last us many hundreds of years & our idiot politicians believe the lobbyists & not the people of our once great nation

anon 2 said...

Mr. Deane - Tha's reight! :) ... despite the ongoing :( :( .
As they often sed, "It'll not change now while t'moon changes."

Anonymous said...

My Dad was a miner (in the South Durham field) and was adamant I was not to follow him down the pit. Instead, I joined the British Army. In 1974 I had my leave to get married cancelled under the Mitary Aid to the Civil Ministries operation. Often working 7 days on the trot, 3 with electricity and 4 with candlelight (and no heating), I was torn between 2 camps - the family's mining tradition and what I considered a Marxist plot to destabilize the government. It worked that time. Heath was unprepared for the country's acquiescence to the NUM for the sake of 7 day a week power. Thatcher has been stigmatized for destroying the mining industry, though Wilson and Benn before her closed more pits than ever did on her watch. I wasn't the only squaddie with mining relatives and was told that when Scargill called his strike he refused to allow the crews, who maintained the machinery to prevent the pits from flooding, from remaining on site. The result was that those pits which weren't listed for closure had to, because the pits were flooded and the machinery to prevent it were under water. Some may remember Scargill declaring he would not live under a Tory government and took his family to the worker's paradise of East Germany, which some said had been secretly funding him for some time. He lasted weeks before returning to the UK, probably finding that the East German government no longer considered him useful. Recent events have shown that he is more of a capitalist than anyone in the government he despised. By the way, my brother was a Police officer and I had to lend him items from my uniform whenever we went home to family occasions. He was employed on the miners strike and related stories which never made the media, such as Police giving their food rations to miners families and a charity football match between the Police and striking miners to raise funds for a striking miner's child who needed an operation and which allowed it to be done privately (and sooner). Despite all the media being informed, no one turned up to report it, presumably because no one got their heads kicked in. Scargill and the NUM declined to contribute. After all this time, like Hillsbrough, memories and evidence will be selective and for what? The aggrieved and upset will remain traumatised, right up until the compensation cheque clears.