• The Miners’ Strike – 25 Years On

    by  • April 11, 2009 • personal, Publishing • 6 Comments

    I come from a long, long line of coal miners (certainly on one side of my family – there’s some strange blood on the other, to be sure). Coal dust is in my veins, as it is in the area where I grew up in the English Midlands. The houses round here used to be black with the coal embedded in the brick from centuries of the stuff being transported from the mines. The landscape was apocalyptic – slag heaps rising to the sky, and palls of smoke from where the seams underground had caught alight.

    Against the grim outside world, there was a powerful sense of community. The miners existed alongside death and disability on a daily basis, and lived life to the full whenever they came back into the light. I remember pubs packed with thick-armed, tattooed men, downing pints of bitter and singing raucously, the wives joining their husbands on Saturday nights for singalongs and dancing at the working men’s club, the tall tales, the ghost stories and underground mythologies, and most of all the laughter that bound everyone together.

    It’s all gone now. In the early 1980s, the Conservative Government decided to break the back of the troublesome miners’ union and close the pits, including my local ones. The ensuing strike was furious and hard-fought. It tore apart families, villages, friends. Eventually the union lost and the mines were closed. No one round here has forgotten it. Children are told tales of the wicked witch Margaret Thatcher who threw all the men on to the poverty line, brought depression and suicide, left families hungry and killed off the villages. Killed the communities dead.

    On the one hand, it’s better round here now. The slag heaps are gone, replaced by green parks and forests. The houses are clean. Work has gradually crept back, but only after years of pain. But that sense of community was gone. The pubs all seem strangely empty to me. Not enough laughter, not enough joy in living. I miss that old world.

    A friend of mine, David Bell, has written a book about the strike – The Dirty Thirty – Heroes of the Miners’ Strike (Five Leaves). It celebrates the struggle of the thirty Leicestershire miners who showed great courage in standing up for their beliefs and coming out on strike when many around them argued against it.

    dirty-30-cover-3-2009

    Dave interviews the surviving members of The Dirty Thirty, and also talks to the womens’ support group. On the blurb, Tony Benn says this book “is of the greatest importance”. You can order it directly from Dave and get it signed or pick it up from Amazon, Borders and Waterstones.

    About

    6 Responses to The Miners’ Strike – 25 Years On

    1. disrepdog
      April 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm

      Saw an article on the news about a month ago on 25 years since the stirkes. The depth of feeling still felt by those involved was intense. It put me in mind of how war veterans talk about WWII. And rightly so, whole communities devastated like that…

      Being a southerner I can remember it all on the news but was far removed from the reality. I do remember the violence of the strikes though. Hope the book does well, such history should not be forgotten.

    2. George Jones
      April 13, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      I agree we should never forget.
      It’s a shame our so called Labour party seems to have done.
      I remember campaigning in my local college to raise funds.
      Will never forget the arguments and how the Christian group tried to stop us.
      Thatcher has a lot to answer for.

    3. April 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm

      Being born in the late 80s I never witness the strikes, but I did grow up experiencing the impact. My family weren’t miners but moved to the area just before the strikes and experienced them as both outsiders and as part of the community. People (Conservatives) who argue it was for the best back down when I loudly correct their view on what ex-mining villages are now like (at least my home one), and what Thatcher did.

      I’m possibly too excited at the prospect of being able to write, and deliver, a ‘blame’ speech of Thatcher(‘s rhetoric) as part of my degree.

    4. George Jones
      April 22, 2009 at 3:10 am

      I can understand wanting to correct conservatives, I do it every chance I get.
      Just annoys me that our so called “Labour government” doesn’t do it often enough.

    5. Carrie
      October 14, 2009 at 11:39 am

      Many of my family were part of The Dirty Thirty (including my father), and love to hear of their tales. It is a strong part of my history, infact I was conceived during the strike!! I am proud that my dad, my uncles and my granddad were part of such a wonderful thing

    6. October 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm

      You should be proud, Carrie.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *